GEORGETOWN, S.C. — Citizens groups are ready to take legal action against the Georgetown County Planning Commission over its failure to update the county’s comprehensive plan, which is required at least every 10 years under the South Carolina Local Government Comprehensive Planning Enabling Act.
In a letter sent Tuesday to the planning commission, Preserve Murrells Inlet, Inc., Keep It Green, Inc., and the League of Women Voters of Georgetown County indicated their intent to file an action in Circuit Court seeking a writ of mandamus, or a court order, if the planning commission does not demonstrate that it has an ambitious plan for completing the required update by September 17.
According to the letter, several elements within the existing comprehensive plan are more than 10 years out of date and haphazardly prepared. For instance, the Transportation Element has not been updated since September 2008 and the Land Use Element was given a minor update in 2015 which contained outdated data.
What’s more, the Comprehensive Planning Enabling Act was amended last year to include a Resiliency Element that considers the impacts of flooding, high water, and natural hazards on communities. The groups say such considerations are needed as the county and its residents face increasing flooding and intense weather events, loss of flood buffering wetlands and trees, and increasing impervious surfaces.
“Georgetown County’s comprehensive plan is out of date and was prepared in a piecemeal and disjointed fashion. We hope that the planning commission will make diligent efforts to engage the public in a robust update that accounts for the significant challenges facing the county and its residents,” said South Carolina Environmental Law Project attorney Amy Armstrong, who wrote the letter on behalf of the groups.
Based on public planning commission meetings and communications with the planning staff, the groups say the commission does not appear to be taking any steps in preparation of a new plan despite the requirement under state law and citizens’ demonstrated demand.
Cindy Ranck Person, the chairman of Keep It Green, said, “Over the past two years, Keep It Green and other citizens groups have made considerable effort to work with county officials to ascertain the county’s strategy for updating the comprehensive land use plan and incorporating meaningful public input. Despite offering the county every opportunity, we have been frustrated by the county’s failure to follow through with mandatory obligations which are long overdue or to even provide a solid strategy.”
Leon Rice, the president of Preserve Murrells Inlet, said, “Without an updated comprehensive plan with meaningful public input, the county has no plan for the future. Preserve Murrells Inlet believes that the vast majority of residents and voters on the Waccamaw Neck want no more high-density housing development, small businesses rather than big box commercial, and protection of the environment and the remaining green spaces remaining along the Neck. These goals should be paramount and set out in the land use section of the 10-year plan for the Neck.”
Linda Cimadon, management team leader of the League of Women Voters of Georgetown County, said, “A comprehensive development plan is needed as each area in Georgetown County has an effect on other areas for miles around. Piecemealing a plan, is NOT a plan. Plans need to enhance the integrity of the area and benefit all and not just a few. We’ve seen this happen all too often in other areas where we’ve raised up one area at the expense of another. We love our county. With no updated planning, a moratorium on building is a reasonable consideration until the updates that address the needs of our community are complete. We all want progress, but at what costs?”
Amy Armstrong, Esquire
South Carolina Environmental Law Project
firstname.lastname@example.org or (843) 527-0078
The South Carolina Environmental Law Project is a nonprofit public interest law firm. We use our legal expertise to protect land, water, and communities across South Carolina.
Preserve Murrells Inlet, Inc., a 501(c)(4) non-profit community service organization whose mission is to preserve the ecological health of the inlet and the character of our historic fishing village.
Keep It Green, Inc., (KIG) is a SC nonprofit corporation that represents thousands of citizens of the Waccamaw Neck who are committed to protecting and preserving the land, quality of life, and natural character of our community. One way we do this is by monitoring compliance with land use law and procedure.
The League of Women Voters, a membership organization, conducts action and advocacy and is a nonprofit 501(c)(4) corporation. The goal of the League of Women Voters is to empower citizens to shape better communities worldwide.