GEORGETOWN — Next year could bring major changes to Georgetown County with a possible revision of a Georgetown city rule that could makeover the Liberty Steel mill site and a decision on the fate of the damaged Pawleys Island Pier.
County and city leaders shared these priorities and others for 2023 during a State of Our County/State of Our Cities event hosted by the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce on Nov. 30.
The lasting impact from worldwide inflation has taken its toll with turnover of government employees and rising construction material costs that have affected city and county projects, government leaders shared. Affordable and workforce housing remains an ongoing need.
“We are here to work towards a better Georgetown,” Georgetown County Council Chairman Louis Morant said. “And that’s going to entail all of us doing what we feel is best for our communities and what is best for our citizens. So in order to accomplish that, we have to work together.”
City and county leaders previewed upcoming economic development projects and spoke on the need for partnerships with state and federal officials.
The Georgetown City Council directed its planning staff in October to review a redevelopment ordinance, which stood at the heart of two zoning appeals board hearings that could have shut down the Liberty Steel mill near the city’s downtown core.
Georgetown City Administrator Sandra Yúdice said the proposal will be presented for consideration at the beginning of 2023. Some city leaders would like to see the large waterfront mill replaced with tourist-friendly development featuring hotels, restaurants and shops.
Meanwhile, Georgetown Mayor Carol Jayroe confirmed that construction of a new Georgetown City Hall will begin in 2023 near the city’s Sanitation Department building on North Kaminski Street.
While responding to an audience question about why a new city hall received precedent over roads, Jayroe said that most of the city’s streets are maintained by the S.C. Department of Transportation and that city staff are currently working “in closets” in the current city hall on North Fraser Street.
In his presentation, Pawleys Island Mayor Brian Henry said three options exist for the future of the Pawleys Island Pier, a key attraction that was damaged in Hurricane Ian.
The pier could be capped and repaired at its current length, rebuilt to its previous length or scrapped entirely. The tourist town has little say in the matter, Henry said, since the pier is privately owned by Pawleys Pier Village.
Henry discussed a sea level-rise adaptation plan the town’s council will vote to adopt in December to fight increasing flooding on the barrier island that is home to 130 permanent residents but hosts thousands of visitors each year. If passed, the plan could call for raising roads and improving drainage.
In speaking at the gathering, Andrews Town Administrator Mauretta Wilson spoke extensively about unmet retail demand in the small town.
“There’s a super-saturation where you have a Dollar General on one side of town and then another on the other side of town,” Wilson said. “We have multiple automotive services that offer the part supplies. So we have a saturation of those items, but not necessarily the needs.”
Wilson also said the town of 2,500 could support two to four additional restaurants, noting the local popularity of food trucks.
Andrews Mayor Frank McClary spoke of his town’s mission to establish itself as a destination, hopeful that development of Black River State Park will jumpstart tourism in western Georgetown County.
Henry began his presentation, which followed one from Andrews officials, by expressing his desire to work with McClary and Wilson.
“Your leadership, your tenacity, your passion for taking Andrews to the next level, I saw it last year at this same presentation,” Henry said. “And I’m impressed. I wish you the best. If there’s anything we can do at the town of Pawleys Island to assist you in any way, let’s work together and we’re all about it.”
Wilson said “positive partnership” is necessary for the county and its towns to meet their goals.
“As we’re moving forward, and everything that we have to do, we all have the same challenges, but a lot of times it feels like we’re sitting in silos,” Wilson said. “We need to be coming together to collectively be having a conversation so we can progressively move forward as a county and not individually, or saying that this is a ‘they’ problem. It’s a ‘we’ problem.”
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