HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — Plans for a new hospital in Carolina Forest are drawing opposition from conservationists and some would-be neighbors who say its location is a bad idea.

News13 previously reported about the wildfire concerns associated with Conway Medical Center’s proposed facility, and now concerns are being raised about the potential financial impacts on infrastructure projects in Horry County.

The site of the planned 50-bed hospital is off of International Drive — inside the gates used to block traffic during prescribed burns at neighboring preserves.

The hospital would border a county-owned “Mitigation Bank,” or land used to release “credits” to offset environmental impacts of future infrastructure projects.

Conservationist Trapper Fowler said a hospital would limit burning.

“It would be a smoke-sensitive area, a critical smoke-sensitive area, so you would not be able to send smoke towards it,” Fowler said.

Horry County bought the land for the “Mitigation Bank” five years ago. It’s 3,700 acres along International Drive. The cost was $13 million.

Fowler said the entire county would pay for any burn restrictions that lead to a pause in “credit” release.

“That’ll be a waste of taxpayer money,” Fowler said.

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources told Conway Medical Center last year it would buy the land from the hospital system if plans shifted.

News13 reached out to the hospital system for comment, which decided to use the same statement as last month, stating the hospital “has and will continue to work with local and state leaders as well as community members to mitigate concerns over prescribed burns and wildfires.”

Conway Medical Center said it would use natural wetlands, the latest HVAC systems and a loop road with sprinklers to mitigate the wildfire risk and smoke infiltration.

“That doesn’t protect the people on their way to and from,” Fowler said. “That doesn’t protect the people in the parking lot. It sure doesn’t protect the surrounding community.”

Brian Pugsley would live right next to the proposed hospital. Flooding and wildfire impacts are his top concerns.

“The whole thing to me doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” Pugsley said.

He said hospital and county leadership aren’t listening.

“I’ve called the CEO and never got a return phone call,” he said. “I don’t know if we have an audience that’s going to listen.”

Conway Medical Center just needs county approval of its rezoning request before it could start building.

Horry County Councilman Dennis DiSabato, who represents the district where the proposed hospital would be, said “I don’t really have a comment on that issue.”

📲 Download the News13 app to stay updated on the go.
📧 Sign up for WBTW email alerts to have breaking news sent to your inbox.
💻 Find today’s top stories on WBTW.com for the Grand Strand and Pee Dee.

* * *

Manny Martinez is the weekend evening anchor and a reporter at News13. Manny is from Chicago. He graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in broadcast journalism. Follow Manny on Twitter and read more of his work here.