Horry County residents push for stricter regulations to protect wetlands from development

Published: Mar. 8, 2022 at 6:54 PM EST
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - Some residents say stricter regulations are needed to keep developers from disturbing the area’s wetlands in Horry County.

This comes after one report found Horry County has lost 20% of its wetlands in just the last 25 years.

Horry County leaders say they’re taking the safety of the wetlands very seriously, so much so, they’re looking into ways to protect the natural areas further.

On Tuesday morning, the Horry county Infrastructure and Regulation Committee discussed recommendations that would establish wetland protections in major residential developments

Planning Director David Jordan outlined different ways the county can incorporate additional wetland protections into its land development regulations.

Part of the minimum recommendation is not to allow wetlands to be part of developers’ plat, or plans, in lots for major residential sub-divisions.

One idea is to require wetlands to be platted near a neighborhood’s open space/common area and not on the lot.

An alternative is to establish a minimum 30-foot, undisturbed wetland buffer along the perimeter of certain wetlands areas, where development won’t touch it.

Proposals for the Horry County Land Development Regulations
Proposals for the Horry County Land Development Regulations(Horry County)

Horry County Rising President April O’Leary has been pushing for the county to enforce more regulations to protect the wetlands.

Federal and state governments do regulate wetlands.

Based on what she and many of her neighbors are seeing, O’Leary says additional regulations like buffer zones are needed in the county. This is why she says wetlands be excluded from all build-able areas and not altered at all for future construction projects in the county.

“What’s happening now is developers are actually platting their lots within the wetlands and there’s no substantial buffer. As a result of that, individual property owners are encroaching on these areas, degrading the wetlands, but also without the buffer we’re not actually reducing the flooding. We’re removing our flood storage,” O’Leary said.

No actions were taken on this matter Tuesday. But it gave county leaders an opportunity to discuss ways they can address some concerns about the wetlands potentially being altered in the future.

Councilmember Bill Howard says there have always been protections on wetlands in place and they’re committed to ensuring they’re even safer.

“The wetlands have always been protected by DHEC, the state and Horry County,” Howard said. “It’s very important to protect those because it’s our resource for our stormwater, heavy rain, the wetlands adsorb all that.”

He referred to an ordinance the county passed that prevents developers from calculating wetlands into their developable property.

“We did that in the CFA zoning, that way they can only calculate on the high uplands to build their properties on,” Howard said.

O’Leary says the issue surrounding those changes-that particular CFA zoning regulation applies to areas in the flood zone.

“It does not give any protections for zones outside of the flood zones,” O’Leary said.

The discussions aren’t over yet.

The committee is expected to review a proposed ordinance outlining the wetlands recommendations during a future meeting.

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