AWENDAW, S.C. (WCBD) – The Awendaw Planning Commission voted to move forward with a proposed neighborhood that’s caused many residents in town to call for a time out.
This comes after a nearly two-month-long fight from Awendaw residents who say the proposed 200-home White Tract Development would be detrimental to the town and its resources.
It is slated to go on Bull Island Road a few miles away from the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge.
Neighbors are concerned about the negative impacts on wildlife and the water quality of the refuge. Due to the lack of a sewer system in town, each home would be built on an individual septic tank. The concern is that the septic tanks would eventually leak impacting the water quality and wildlife both above and below the surface.
“It is a travesty. The oysters will die. The shrimp will die. The fish will die. and the birds and other animals that depend on them will die,” said Susan Cox, an Awendaw resident who has been one of the frontrunners of the opposition to the plan since the beginning.
Other concerns brought to the table in the original public hearing for the development held in March are traffic safety on the two-lane road, water drainage concerns, the small lot sizes in the proposal, and more.
Many of those concerns and more were brought to Monday’s public hearing.
Of the more than 60 community in attendance at the meeting 16 people participated in the public comment section. Nearly every one brought up the concern that the plans for the proposed neighborhood do not line up with the towns conceptual master zoning plan passed in 2006.
According to the master plan, a 50-foot buffer is required on developments like this, but Pulte Home’s plan includes only a 20-foot buffer.
Peter McGrath, an Awendaw resident and environmental lawyer, says the plans are legally invalid.
“When it was approved, they had a 50-foot buffer. They also had a different road, and they sold a piece of the land since. So, this plan is very, very different and that’s what we tried to point out to the board….I’m surprised they passed it,” said McGrath.
Another concern brought up by a representative of Awendaw-McClellanville Fire Department is the lack of first responders. The department is understaffed and would need many new firefighters to accommodate hundreds of new homes in the area. The representative also said there is only one EMS worker for the area.
A representative of Pulte Homes, the applicant for the development, was present at the meeting and said since the March meeting, he and his team have been talking to environmental groups and neighbors to work on making the plan more accepted.
“What was evident is that folks in this room had something to say and in the time between meetings, we’ve been listening,” said the representative of Pulte Homes.
Now that the preliminary plat has been approved with conditions, the town’s planning commission and Pulte Homes will work to make the necessary changes.
Meanwhile, people in town are planning to take legal action to try and stop the development in its tracks.
“There will be a lawsuit. Unfortunately,” said McGrath.
“There will be action on many fronts. Because this cannot be allowed to stand,” said Cox.
Town residents including Cox and McGrath have created an organization called Save Cape Romain to bring awareness to the situation.
News 2 reached out to the town for comment but have not heard back.
This is a developing story. Stay with News 2 for updates.