CMC to present new $100M hospital plans after SCDNR proposed environmental concerns

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CAROLINA FOREST, S.C. (WBTW) – Conway Medical Center will introduce new plans for a project that could bring hundreds of jobs to Horry County, and also raises environmental concerns.

The Horry County Planning Commission was originally set to discuss rezoning over 350 acres in Carolina Forest during Thursday’s meeting at 5:30 p.m. However, they have requested a deferral.

Conway Medical Center Chief Financial Officer, Brian Argo released teh following statement:

Since receiving concerns from County staff, we have worked diligently toward solutions to the potential conflicts identified. We were made aware of concerns regarding smoke from adjacent property burns, access gate locations and wetland impacts. We scheduled and attended multiple meetings with County staff and their consultants for the adjacent proposed wetland mitigation bank to collectively work on solutions to these concerns. Through this work we have quickly produced and distributed a new conceptual site plan for the proposed new hospital facility. While we feel that this new plan addresses the concerns expressed by County staff, we acknowledge that there are additional concerns expressed by SCDNR that we have been unable to address due to time constraints. Therefore, we feel that this deferral will allow us additional time to communicate with SCDNR and discuss their concerns. We also hope to further develop our concepts for the property to provide a clearer understanding of this project and its relation to the community and lives that it will serve.”

Right now, Conway Medical Center wants to purchase 358 acres of land to build a brand-new hospital. However, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) asked the county to deny the rezoning request, raising wetland, wildlife and burning concerns.

“We think there is a lot of room on that property,” Argo said. We plan on leaving a lot of that property in its natural state. Over 200 acres in its natural state to accomplish this, and create a nice buffer between the property of concern that SCDNR has identified.”

During Thursday night’s meeting, CMC will present updated plans they hope will check the boxes for project approval. After SCDNR raised environmental concerns, architects and engineers working with CMC relocated original plans 5,000 feet.

The new blueprint has the hospital building further away from potential hazards mentioned by SCDNR officials. While Conway Medical center would be buying 358 acres, the chief financial officer says they would only be building on approximately 30 to 40 acres.

If plans are approved, CMC said it would be one of the only “lead” certified in the state, meeting an environmentally high standard in design.

“We have reached out to several hospitals in California and gotten some feedback from them because those hospitals have had smoke and wildfires in the past, and we would be implementing systems that would help us mitigate any potential concerns,” Argo said.

Hospital leaders say Carolina Forest is the best location for their proposed plans because of the quick community growth and it’s close location to several schools.

If the rezoning request gets denied, that would not mean the land would necessarily go untouched. The area is zoned residential, which means hundreds of homes could be built at any time, according to Argo.

“To reiterate, I think it’s important to understand that property is zoned residential. What that means is that you would have 500-700 households in this property tomorrow that would not have to seek any approval which would take all 150 buildable acres and put houses on it,” Argo said.

The new hospital would be a full-service facility. Fifty beds that are unused at CMC’s current hospital would be transferred to the new Carolina Forest location.

SCDNR’s David Lucas tells News13, “the rezoning approval is up to the planning commission to make the best decision they can based on the information and feedback provided and their 2040 Comprehensive Plan.”

A timeline is early to project, but if approved, the chief financial advisor says CMC would like to have their Carolina Forest location open by 2024.

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