Today, the Planning Commission will hold a hearing on the County Economic Development Union’s application to change the ‘planned development’ zoning of 14.5 acres on Petigru Drive to allow the building of townhouses. The property was purchased by the county in 2016 to create a tech park anchored by Mercom, which has planned to build a new headquarters on part of the site. These plans were abandoned when the company ran into financial problems. The Coalition, a county-controlled nonprofit, used a $950,000 loan from Santee Cooper to purchase the property.
Pastor Johnny Ford and the community in which he lives and works are not resistant to change.
“We want it done the right way,” he said. He proposed that Georgetown County transfer the land it had purchased as a technology park to Habitat for Humanity instead of selling it to a developer who wanted to build 90 townhouses. This will meet the county’s affordable housing needs and help maintain the neighborhood’s character of single-family homes, Ford said.
It is looking for other buyers who are able to bring economic growth to the site. In 2020, Graycliff Capital Partners offered $1.4 million in real estate and offered 182 units, similar to those they’ve developed in Litchfield and Murrells Inlet. The Planning Commission recommended denial, and Graycliff withdrew her rezoning application before putting it to a vote by the county council. The request for the proposed 90 townhouses for two other projects totals 109 in the Parkersville area, a traditionally black community. All townhouses offered are 3-bedroom apartments.
In one of his first activities as union president, Ford and his wife, Lynne, who is a member of the school board, wrote to the district council to offer a resolution to the problem. the problem they see with the redistribution of the tech park. They write: “We are deeply concerned that our community has been exploited for years (with no apparent purpose) and at many levels, including in land use decisions. “We recommend that the county council invest actively in this community to preserve and protect county-owned land on Petigru”.
Dan Stacy, an attorney representing the union, said the tech park plan is for rental units. There will be 18 units rented below market rates as affordable housing. Following public hearings on other townhouse projects last month, Ford formed the Parkersville Development and Planning Alliance. “It’s really personal,” he said. “I feel that people need to be heard. The coalition has the support of regional churches and the Pawleys Island Citizens Club, he said. “It’s definitely a wide umbrella,” says Ford.
They say Habitat for Humanity will provide “good, affordable housing for people on low incomes”. Ford said he previously served on Habitat’s board and that the organization will ensure homes are created for those in need. Laura Gassler, executive director of Habitat in Georgetown, didn’t hear about the proposal.