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Highway 90 neighbors voice concern over latest rezoning request

Published: Jul. 7, 2021 at 8:15 PM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - Ahead of a public hearing for a rezoning request, Highway 90 and its residents continue to grapple with worsening traffic and fears of inadequate infrastructure to handle the growth.

On Thursday, Horry County Planning Commission will invite members of the public to discuss a plot of land situated in Tilly Swamp. A request submitted to the county asks that the 55 acres of mostly hayfield be rezoned in order to support 121 proposed single-family homes.

Some residents that live nearby said they don’t mind new neighbors, but the highway and surrounding infrastructure needs to catch up first before more move in.

A big concern for Tilly Swamp resident Amelia Wood is where the entrance and exit points would be, according to the plans submitted in the application made by Great Southern Homes.

One is charted to feed into Highway 90, across the way from Old Highway 90. The other entry point connects with Bear Bluff Road.

RELATED COVERAGE | ‘It’s a small road going badly’: Hwy 90 grows despite need for infrastructure

As our previous investigation revealed, Highway 90 is near capacity between SC-22 and US-501, where well over 14,000 cars are estimated to travel in a given day.

Wood feared the number of people are outpacing the level of traffic safety and emergency response services available to the community.

“We want to love our neighbors, but we also want our new neighbors to be safe just as much as we want to be safe,” she said.

Hay farmer Jimmy Thomas has owned property in Tilly Swamp for well over thirty years. It directly neighbors the proposed new neighborhood, off of Bear Bluff Road.

“It’s narrow; it’s not built for heavy traffic,” Thomas said about the side connecting road. “The traffic on 90 has gotten just ridiculous in the past three, four years, and it’s just getting worse with more development and more people.”

The planning commission will be meeting for a public hearing on the possible rezoning at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. The commission will take a vote on whether or not to recommend it before passing it on to Horry County Council.

District 10 Councilman Danny Hardee said it’s going to take state help to widen and improve Highway 90. The project has been quoted as costing roughly $500 million, which is why county leaders say it hasn’t happened yet. Hardee said he’s not in favor of any more building until plans get in place to help the traffic.

“I can’t support it knowing that what’s already permitted will double the capacity of what that road should hold,” Hardee said. “Unless something drastically changes, my plans are now is not to support it.”

The applicant for the rezoning, Great Southern Homes, said they’ve worked with county staff to leave a buffer for a future right-of-way for the possible widening of Highway 90.

Jesse Bray, the land manager for Great Southern Homes, said Horry County lacks hundreds of homes to satisfy the current needs for buyers. Meanwhile, interest to buy the farmland in order to keep it that way “has not been there.”

“No one has bought it to use it as its existing use. So the market is telling us that,” Bray explained.

Bray said they will be coordinating a traffic study with SCDOT which will help inform what improvements, if any, will need to be made in order to develop the neighborhood.

Meanwhile, Wood is working with another area resident, Tammy Baker, who launched a petition for a moratorium on rezoning on the highway. It’s received over 500 signatures.

“Until we get the additional services we need,” Wood said. “Fire safety, traffic improvements; so those are the things that we need to have improved before we welcome more neighbors.”

Hardee said a moratorium might need to happen until concerns with Highway 90 are answered.

“That’s not something I want to see, but if we have to do it, we have to do it,” he said.

Hardee said a community meeting will be hosted on July 15 at 7 p.m. at Tilly Swamp Church.

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