UPDATE: According to Brunswick County planning staff, the rezoning request has been postponed until the April meeting.
BRUNSWICK COUNTY — The owners of a massive rural land collection in the southwest unincorporated county — which, at around 3,100 acres, outsizes Calabash — have applied to rezone the tract. If their hearing, scheduled for Mar. 14, is successful, it would bring the 4.85 square miles out of a low-density zoning district and set the stage for future construction of thousands of homes.
Members of a family with South Carolina and Whiteville ties have been accumulating the land for at least 25 years, according to property records. Much of it has been family land since at least 1997, while more swaths were purchased from other private owners between 2006 and 2010, then consolidated.
The tract lies at the edge of an interstate corridor of development — bound by the Waccamaw River and Atlantic Ocean — that stretches from Brunswick County toward Myrtle Beach along the cost. The area up for rezoning is comparable in size to London Heathrow Airport or LAX; by comparison, Brunswick Plantation, a residential community and golf resort that borders the site to the south is 1,750 acres in size.
At the next Brunswick County Planning Board meeting, county officials will consider the applicant’s request to place the approximately 3,100 acres into a zoning district that allows construction of up to 5.8 units per acre. Katharine Fort, whose limited liability companies list Myrtle Beach addresses, received more than 1,000 of the acres in the mid-’90s; she later transferred a portion to her children, according to property records.
It’s unclear if a buyer in the building world has been lined up, ready with construction plans should the rezoning be granted or if the Fort family is positioning for a later transaction. John Phillip Norris, of Norris and Tunstall Consulting Engineers, is representing the owners in the process, according to the county planning department. Full details on the application packet won’t be available until next week, when the agenda for the Mar. 14 meeting becomes public.
Brunswick County has seen a steady flow of applications for large-scale residential territories during the pandemic, but rezonings for tracts larger than a few hundred acres are not common. Departments of transportation for both Carolinas are planning an interstate roadway project designed to improve the coastal thoroughfares outside of Myrtle Beach and to the northeast; multiple routes, many of them coming through Brunswick County at different angles, are being evaluated. It has led to the southwestern quadrant of the county becoming somewhat of a hotspot for residential proposals.
The planning board’s decision on requests like these is binding. Though, after the hearing, there is an additional local and state permitting process. The county also has a requirement that 5% of gross project area in the desired zoning district be open space, though many applicants have offered higher percentages in recent applications. The desired zoning district allows for duplexes in certain situations, but that requires pursuing more regulatory changes than what’s expected to be applied for in March.
Ash-Little River Road runs along the western edge of the site, and Pea Landing Road and Gwynn Road make up the eastern boundaries. The Brunswick County Planning Board will next meet at the Brunswick County Government Center at 6 p.m., Mar. 14.
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