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Tensions flare as planning commission considers thousands of new homes along Hwy. 707

Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 6:47 AM EST|Updated: Dec. 3, 2021 at 6:51 AM EST
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - Sparks flew Thursday night at the Horry County Planning Commission as leaders consider a proposal to bring thousands of new homes to the Burgess community.

The proposal calls for a mix of homes, cottages and apartments along Highway 707 near St. James High School.

Altogether, they’d fit nearly 10,000 people in 4,000 new homes, all on 700 acres of land that is currently woods and wetlands.

Tensions were high in the planning commission meeting. Ultimately, the engineer asked for a vote on the project to be deferred, and it appears there’s still plenty of questions left to be answered before a groundbreaking is set.

“We’re not rocket scientists, but we know, ‘hey, something is wrong with the project,’” said Burgess resident Gloria Lance.

Lance considers herself an original Burgessite. She was born in Burgess 71 years ago, grew up there, and lives there now.

For her entire life, her property has backed up to a forest. Plans for Bumgardner Tract, a 4,000-unit housing district along Highway 707, would change that.

“We think this plan is beginning to meet what the Burgess community envisioned,” said project engineer Walter Warren.

The plan calls for a commercial layer right along Highway 707 on either side of St. James High School, then a layer of rental cottages and apartments. Single-family homes and an active adult community would be constructed further off the highway.

The project would bring thousands of new people to Burgess, and for a project of this size, several planning commissioners feel the current proposal lacks detail.

“Right now, you’re asking us to vote on a yellow blob that shows absolutely nothing,” said planning commissioner Chuck Rhome.

The engineering firm submitted a rendering that shows what the area could look like, but with no definitive layout for the new homes or phasing schedule.

The tentative build out would take roughly ten years, and Warren believes they could have 1,500 to 2,000 homes complete in the next five years.

Lance’s concern is all the possible traffic on the small road she’s lived on for decades.

“With a possibility of let’s say two cars per unit coming on Freewoods Road, and there’s no improvement,” said Lance.

For others, it’s flooding.

“There is flooding that exists now,” said another Burgess resident, who had a petition with hundreds of signatures against the project. “It needs to be fixed before it becomes a bigger problem in the future.”

Warren asked the commission to defer the vote, saying the firm just wanted to open the dialogue about the idea for feedback from them and from the community to hear what the biggest concerns are.

“Continue to evolve this,” said Warren. “If it goes to vote in January, if it goes to vote in February, whenever it’s ready to take it to vote, we’ll take it to vote.”

There will be a community meeting about the project on Wednesday, Dec. 8 at 4:00 p.m. at the South Strand Recreation Center.

Thomas & Hutton engineering will be there with maps and renderings to address questions one-on-one with community members.

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