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WMBF Investigates: Horry County neighborhood road closure causing concerns

Published: Jun. 15, 2022 at 7:10 PM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Nestled between Highway 17 Bypass and Highway 17 Business, Deerfield Plantation has been a desirable place to live for several decades in Horry County.

Over the last 30 years, the neighborhood has grown.

“We picked our home in Deerfield because we liked the community, a fairly large community,” said Chris Sartin, who’s lived in Deerfield for just over a year.

A crucial part of Sartin’s journey in and out of his neighborhood involves getting on Colony Drive. Recently, however, Sartin learned that access to the road would soon be cut off. That’s when he reached out to WMBF Investigates.

Starting July 1, the homeowners association Sartin belongs to says they’re shutting down Colony Drive, a private road owned by Deerfield LLC, until further notice.

“We put that sign up I believe the latter part of May,” said Mike Couture, owner of Myrtle Beach Reality and the manager for several different HOA’s in Deerfield.

Couture says various HOA’s partially fund the maintenance and upkeep of the roads in Deerfield. The problem, though, is only 240 homeowners pay to take care of Colony Drive, but the road gets a lot more traffic than just those who live on it.

“If only the 240 people who pay for that road use that road, we would have no problem,” said Couture. “But the problem is now we have these other 50 homeowners’ associations driving over the top of that road, yet not paying a nickel towards it, and now our life expectancy [of the road] has gone from 20 years down to 4 or 5 years.”

The condition of Colony Drive is why Couture says closing the road is necessary, and homeowners agree that something needs to be done.

“I mean potholes is a wrong term for them,” said Sartin. “People were actually throwing bricks in them and loose gravel just to fill them up.”

Potholes and travel concerns aside, we found another problem: The county isn’t happy about the signs.

“There’s nothing I can do about it,” said Gary Loftus, District 4 representative of Horry County Council.

Looking closely at the sign announcing Colony Drive’s closure, the email for Loftus is actually the first listed. It’s followed by emails for the county administrator, engineer and the planning commission department head for Horry County.

WMBF News asked Couture why county emails were included on the sign.

“Again, because they don’t think they have any responsibility to this, and we feel they have every responsibility to this,” he said. “They had the ability during the planning stages to address our issues, that they were made well aware of prior to all of this. Not only for monetary reasons for us, but also for public safety issues.”

And that’s something Sartin says he’s most worried about.

“If you block that street down there, that’s our only other means of egress, out of this end of the neighborhood and it’s really big back here,” he said. “How are we going to get services in here, how are we going to get fire rescue police to come back here and take care of whatever needs taking care of?”

Couture told us he gave the county more than a 30-day notice about the closure for safety purposes.

We asked Loftus about the impact the closure might have on homeowners, but he said his hands are tied since the road is not a county road.

“I think he just wants to point at somebody so he doesn’t get the emails,” the councilman said.

The other names listed on the sign wouldn’t comment at all. Instead, WMBF News was sent the following statement from a county spokesperson that was also sent to each homeowner in Deerfield.

“A sign/notice was recently posted by private individuals indicating that some portion of Colony Drive will be closed to thru traffic beginning July 1, 2022 for maintenance and repairs. To be clear, Horry County is not undertaking any maintenance or repairs, and is in no way responsible for any closure of Colony Drive. Colony Drive is a private road that is not maintained by Horry County, and it is unclear why these individuals are urging property owners to contact Horry County officials and staff. In fact, Horry County is prohibited from expending public funds for repair of private roads under the laws and Constitution of the State of South Carolina.

As a private roadway, the right to travel and utilize Colony Drive for ingress and egress is determined by private agreements and easements that convey with the purchase of property within Deerfield. It is suggested that anyone who may be impacted by the potential closure of Colony Drive contact those responsible for the sign/notice (Mike Couture, 843-238-5185 dfr1@frontier.com), their HOA, or a private attorney who can advise as to how best to protect the rights you may have to utilize Colony Drive.”

WMBF News also reached out to Deerfield LLC, who is listed under Horry County land records as the owner of Colony Drive. As of this publication, we have not heard back.

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