Opposition to IMAGINE 2040 and Bear Paw Rezoning on Behalf of Our Rivers

Horry County Council

Together we speak for our rivers and everyone who relies on them for fishable, swimmable, drinkable water! Tell County Council you are opposed to these two ordinances that threaten our rivers!

We have composed a letter (see below) that you can add your name to add your voice to this issue! Thank you for protecting clean water and our rivers!

Petition by
Executive Director
Conway, South Carolina
Sponsored by

To: Horry County Council
From: [Your Name]

Re: IMAGINE 2040 (Ord. 54-19) and Bear Paw Rezoning (Ord. 56-19)

To the Horry County Council:

Winyah Rivers and the Waccamaw Riverkeeper represent the voices of our rivers and the citizens of Horry County who rely on our rivers for fishable, swimmable, drinkable water. This letter is on behalf of all those voices as well as all those listed below as signers to this letter. On behalf our rivers, we first want to commend the steering committee of the IMAGINE 2040 Plan. The dedication of the committee – and our county – to sustaining and enhancing quality of life for Horry County citizens through a diverse and well-balanced vision statement has not gone unnoticed. Access to our rivers, promotion of ecotourism, flood mitigation, conservation of our natural habitats, litter reduction, water quality protections, and stormwater education are all integral to protecting the rivers we all cherish.

On behalf of our rivers, we also want to express our opposition to the proposed revisions to the policy guidance for Scenic and Conservation Areas (items 6 & 7 on page 11.19). Scenic and Conservation areas serve many roles for protecting clean water in our county. Maintaining these areas help protect clean water through filtration, flood mitigation, and stormwater runoff reduction. The proposed revisions to the policy guidance for Scenic and Conservation Areas could lead to increased development in areas previously identified for conservation which leads to increased impervious surfaces and the subsequent negative impacts on water quality. Increased turbidity, bacteria, and other pollutants are all a result of increased development. These pollutants make our beautiful rivers unsafe for recreation, fishing, and drinking water.

A prime example of how this language could impact development is the current rezoning proposal for the Bear Paw tract on Old Highway 90. Though identified as Scenic and Conservation, this tract is proposed for residential development which could negatively impact the natural processes protecting our communities from flooding. The Envision 2025 plan and its land use map were used to prevent development of the Bear tracts last year recognizing that conservation of natural spaces is important to the survival of our county. This decision was once more upheld by the Planning Commission through their recommendation to Council for disapproval of the Bear Paw rezoning this summer. Your decision to approve the rezoning for 2nd reading is the first step down a dangerous path for Horry County.

The current language of the IMAGINE 2040 plan would provide Planning Commission and County Council the flexibility to approve plans for rezoning that have strong potential to negatively impact our natural habitats. Examining rezoning requests within the Scenic and Conservation areas at the parcel level does not account for watershed-based long-term planning that protects the floodplain and mitigates the impacts of flooding on people and properties. While one parcel may seem appropriate for rezoning, impacts on nearby parcels and even those far downstream are not considered. With a county still reeling from flooding that occurred nearly a year ago, we need to consider how these parcels are connected and the cumulative benefit of the Scenic and Conservation area.

On behalf of our rivers, we are opposed to the rezoning of Bear Paw. With increased focus on development along the Highway 90 corridor, the identified conservation areas could be severely impacted and fragmented through the use of these provisions. The establishment of Scenic and Conservation areas in the Land Use map helps our county make informed decisions about what areas serve that role and need to be protected.

We still believe the IMAGINE 2040 Plan is a strong plan but we are concerned that these provisions will allow for more flexibility to rezone for development in areas that should be protected. While we have been assured that the approval of IMAGINE 2040 will be followed with revised rezoning criteria for developing in Scenic and Conservation areas, we know the Bear Paw rezoning is one ordinance that could go through before those criteria are in place. That single rezoning could cause a cascade effect leading to increased development in an area recognized for its ecological importance.

The comprehensive plan needs to be adhered to in order for it to be effective in meeting the vision statement of the plan. We are not opposed to development but we support development in a strategic and sustainable fashion. Development in and around environmentally sensitive and scenic areas is neither sustainable nor strategic, but irresponsible and dangerous. And while those new residents may not see the impacts, they will surely be felt downstream by other Horry County residents.

On behalf of our rivers, we implore the Horry County Council to keep this in mind while reviewing the plan and also during this and future rezoning hearings. We ask that Horry County Council denies approval of IMAGINE 2040 until such time that criteria for these dangerous rezonings can be concurrently approved. We ask that Horry County Council denies approval of the Bear Paw rezoning to protect Scenic and Conservation areas and uphold the vision of the comprehensive plan to protect our natural assets in Horry County.

Thank you,

Cara Schildtknecht

Waccamaw Riverkeeper