AWENDAW, S.C. (WCBD) – A small victory for many Awendaw residents after the town planning commission decided to postpone the vote on a controversial neighborhood proposal.
Nearly 100 people packed into Town Hall for a public hearing Monday night. Many made their voices heard leading to eruptions of applause, laughter, and even booing.
The packed public hearing stems from many Awendaw residents having concerns about the proposed White Tract Development.
It’s slated to go between the intersection of Bulls Island and Seewee Roads and Garris Landing on Bulls Island Road. Pulte Homes, one of the nation’s largest homebuilders, is the applicant.
More than 200 homes would be built on approximately 148 acres.
Many Awendaw residents say there’s a list of problems including heavily increased and potentially dangerous traffic on two-lane roads, water drainage issues, and a harmful impact to Cape Romain Wildlife Refuge which is nearby.
It’s described by the Fish and Wildlife Service as a rich mosaic of barrier islands with forest and ponds, vast salt marshes and intricate waterways. FWS says this diverse and dynamic system supports over 293 bird species and a myriad of other wildlife.
Additionally, it is a nesting site for loggerhead sea turtles and a fresh source for shrimp and oysters.
Susan Cox and other neighbors say building 200+ septic tanks on 148 acres so close to the refuge would be detrimental.
“We are not against development, we are against poorly planned development. And the density that is proposed for these housing developments here is more than the soil is likely to be able to handle. And it’s too close to the waterways to make any sense at all,” said Cox.
Awendaw does not have a sewer system, so all new development is built on septic tanks. Cox says while her neighborhood is also built on septic tanks, the homes are fewer and further between than the proposed development.
“We have 65 homes on 300 or 400 acres of land,” she said. “It’s our goal to make the town of Awendaw and the Department of Health and Environmental Control in South Carolina understand that septic tanks of this density and in this area are a very bad idea.”
The Town of Mt. Pleasant has been working to decrease the number of septic tanks in town for years due to sewage leaks into waterways such as Shem Creek. James Island residents have also reported problems that Charleston Waterkeeper says are likely due to leaking septic tanks.
That’s one prong of the argument Awendaw residents are making.
Cox and many others in Awendaw say the refuge should be protected and development should be done properly.
Now, the planning commission and town residents will have until the next planning commission meeting to gather information, make proposed alterations of the current proposal to the developer, and attempt to find a plan that pleases a majority of people.
This is a developing story. Count On 2 for updates on air and online.