Final debate for Imagine 2040 centers on where to conserve land in Horry County

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CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – As Horry County tries to finalize its comprehensive plan for the next two decades, environmentalists and developers disagree on what should be considered scenic and conservation land.

Several environmentalists told Horry County Council at Tuesday night’s meeting that they support Imagine 2040.

“We worked on this for over a year,” said Al Jordan, president of the Greater Burgess Community Association.

“For the first time, the comprehensive plan addresses minimizing flood impacts,” said April O’Leary, a member of the Horry County Rising group.

The comprehensive plan limits development on scenic and conservation land. That land would make up about 38% of the county.

Some in construction and development said that’s too much.

“The areas that were painted with that brush went far beyond just the limits of flooding from Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Florence,” said Steve Powell, president of Venture Engineering.

“The construction/development industry homegrown is one of our top industries and should be cultivated, not discouraged,” said Benjy Hardee, president of A.O. Hardee & Son Inc.

Imagine 2040 says scenic and conservation land shouldn’t be subdivided into lots of less than five acres for development.

County planning director David Schwerd says since the county can’t survey every single piece of land, engineers can help planners see if all that land must be conserved.

“They may be able to go out and delineate that there are no wetlands or that their wetlands are limited to a certain areas of the property,” Schwerd said. “We don’t have that information until they provide that to us.”

Imagine 2040 also says any development of scenic and conservation land should protect environmentally sensitive areas, water quality and address public safety.

Schwerd says conserving land could help developers sell property, while protecting communities from floods and wildfires.

“If they want to protect wetlands on their site, if they want to address those sustainable development criteria, they can reduce their lot widths down to a more manageable 50- to 60-foot lot, which is what most of the national builders are looking for,” he said.

Imagine 2040 estimates Horry County’s population will grow by about 275,000 people in the next 20 years. The majority of that growth is expected in the county’s unincorporated areas.

Council delayed a final vote on Imagine 2040 on Tuesday and it will host a workshop before trying to pass the plan again.

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