November 28, 2022

Charles Swenson, Coastal Observer

Size of wetlands buffer left for debate as plan advances

A plan for protecting Georgetown County’s natural resources no longer calls for a minimum 50-foot buffer between wetlands and development.

“We’ve had input from both sides,” said Matt Millwood, the senior planner who compiled six drafts of the plan this year. “We don’t want to put a number in that.”

Instead, a minimum buffer will be defined when the planning staff starts work on a wetlands ordinance, one of the measures called for in the update to the natural resources element of the county’s comprehensive plan.

State law mandates that local governments adopt a comprehensive plan with 10 elements that cover topics such as natural resources, housing, land use and transportation. The land-use element gets the most attention because it establishes the legal basis for the zoning ordinance.

Last year, the county put a revision to the land-use element on hold as it sought a way to get more public input. A survey conducted as part of that process found 96 percent of respondents rated natural resources as the county’s most important feature and over 80 percent favor stronger protection through the zoning regulations.

The Planning Commission held a public hearing on the natural resources plan last month, but deferred a vote in order to get more input from the rural areas of the county. The planning staff sent information about the plan to 10 people it identified as stakeholders and to churches. It held a workshop in the Choppee community.

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