Advocates for International Drive paving protest today - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Advocates for International Drive paving protest today

image from a previous protest by residents in favor of paving the road. (Source: WMBF News) image from a previous protest by residents in favor of paving the road. (Source: WMBF News)

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Described by a South Carolina congressman as "obstructionists" instead of "environmentalists," the Coastal Conservation League is once again head-to-head with International Drive area residents and Horry County.  Residents who favor paving International Drive protested Wednesday to get a message across.  That protest was at 10 a.m. morning until noon at Coastal Conservation League's headquarters in Georgetown,SC.

Just last week, a judge ruled in favor of the International Drive residents and Horry County to move forward with the paving project, but the CCL has filed a motion for reconsideration in the administrative law court.  The paving is part of the 2006 Riding on a Penny road improvement plan.  International Drive paving, the 707 widening project and SC-31 extension were all stalled by the same group, CCL.  After two years, the others were finished, but International Drive is still untouched.

International Drive residents who are fed up with their dirt road access say they're protesting CCL's delay tactics again for a paving project they badly need.  WMBF News reporter Meredith Helline spoke with one advocate for the project who said they need their voices heard.

"We think the one thing, that the community, the public, everyone needs to know. We need to open the windows, open the doors, shine the lights in on what these people are doing and how they operate - the tactics they use to delay important projects like this," Bill Beidleman said.

CCL representative Nancy Cave told WMBF News they're filing the motion for reconsideration because they want more clarity of the judge's decision.  Cave said CCL could work something out with the county if bear tunnels were put back on the discussion table.  Other environmental reasons for their pavement rejection include water quality concerns.  When asked about the International Drive resident's access to faster routes if the road is paved, she said there is no data to prove paving will give residents faster routes.

"So if they've basically failed in all their arguments to the court, and the court has found a need for the road, then what's their argument behind it?" Beidleman wondered.

The judge who ruled to more forward with the pavement plans agreed with International Drive residents and Horry County.  Reasons to pave the road are for faster drive times for residents to hospitals and other emergency outlets, quicker response times for law enforcement and firefighters as well as an additional evacuation route.

To Beidleman, access to a faster roadway is personal.  His wife recently suffered a heart attack.  

"[She] had a heart attack, she had a quadruple bypass, she has a couple of stints...what if I would need to get her to an emergency facility? Right now, I'd have to take Highway 90, 22, 17 to Grand Strand Emergency...would take me about 25 to 30 minutes," Beidleman said.  He added he could reach Grand Strand Emergency in 10 to 12 minutes if a paved International Drive was there.

He said CCL should be accountable when an emergency happens and nobody can respond quick enough for help.  Some residents believe the delay has gone far enough and on for long enough, and that it's time for government officials to become involved.

Horry County's spokesperson, Lisa Bourcier, said the county has until July 28 to respond to that motion for reconsideration.  She said by August 29, the county can expect the judge to rule on that reconsideration.  By September 28, a possible filing of an appeal to the South Carolina Court of Appeals.
If that happens, it add a couple of more years to the project.

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