Environmental activists are organizing in Horry County for the 2020 election to elect local candidates who agree with them on issues of climate change and flooding in order to curb future growth and development.
Organizers with the Coastal Conservation League (CCL) of Charleston and Horry County Rising revealed their political strategy during a forum earlier this month in Surfside Beach, which was hosted by the Southenders Democratic Club.
Jasmine Gil, Horry County community organizer for CCL, specifically mentioned the county council election next year for numerous seats including District 3, now held by Dennis DiSabato, District 4 represented by Gary Loftus, District 6 represented by Cam Crawford, and District 9 held by Paul Prince.
That council race is the opportunity to use voting power and influence to affect the outcome of the election, Gil told those attending the Sept. 12 event, also shown live on Facebook.
Gil urged residents to get involved in upcoming municipal, county, and statewide elections in order to change development and zoning policies in Horry County.
The community organizer also suggested mayoral and council forums should be held like the ones CCL is organizing in Charleston, in order to get candidates on the record committing to the group’s environmental causes.
A central component of the Democratic Party platform is devoted to slowing climate change through the elimination of fossil fuels used for vehicles, heating and cooling, and restricting land use for conservation only.
While everyone including Republicans strives to be environmental friendly, restricting land use conflicts with the GOP’s commitment to preserving the free market and protecting private property rights.
A press release announcing this Flooding and Resilient Communities forum issued by the Horry County Democratic Party cited global warming as a primary factor in changing hurricane activity in the 21st century, increasing tropical cyclone intensity and rainfall.
Environmentalists insist it was development, not the historic amount of rain that caused flooding after Hurricanes Matthew and Florence, and that continued construction of new homes will cause flooding conditions to worsen.
Environmentalists are saying the only way to prevent this, is to elect local officials who will lock up our future land use with more government restrictions on rezoning private property.
“More housing, less natural land barriers means more flooding potential,” the statement from the Democratic Party said.
Jaimie McCauley, a sociology professor with Coastal Carolina University, credited Erin Pate with CCL for organizing this movement by creating the Horry County Rising group on the heels of Hurricane Florence to communicate their environmental message with flood victims.
Horry County Rising is now actively lobbying the Conway City Council and county council against rezoning requests for new housing and advocating for new zoning rules.
The new normal is the disastrous flooding and severe storms, McCauley said at the forum.
Building more housing will make Horry County residents more vulnerable to flooding, McCauley said.
However, it’s not climate change or record rain from hurricanes flooding the river these activists and flood victims most often cite when asking officials to block new development.
During last week’s public hearing at county council on Highway 90 rezoning requests, complaints focused on runoff and stormwater backup issues that occur on isolated parcels of private property near recently built houses.
County Councilman Harold Worley said these and other stormwater complaints from organized residents should serve as a warning to his fellow councilmen.
“If we don’t do something about it I can tell you who will — the voters,” Worley said.
“They will throw us out of office if we don’t do the right thing. And that needs to be addressed and it needs to be addressed now,” Worley said.
— Horry County Rising (@HorryRising) September 20, 2019
Groups including CCL, Horry County Rising, Winyah Rivers Foundation and Waccamaw Riverkeepers, Highway 90 Corridor Concerns, Rosewood Strong! and national environmental groups have been working towards the same goals since Hurricane Florence to halt new development in Horry County.
Many of those groups are also lobbying for the Imagine 2040 planning guide to restrict all private property caught up in a new designation called “scenic and conservation,” which encompasses nearly one-third of the entire county and excludes it from future rezoning requests.
Some of them would have us believe every tree in the county is being clear-cut, every wetland filled to make way for new housing.
Yet in reality, less than 14% of land in Horry County is occupied by homes, according to Horry County land acreage information.
With less than 200 members, Rosewood Strong produced the first petition and gathered more than 900 signatures for a building moratorium filed Aug. 1.
A hearing on that request is scheduled for Oct. 14 in the Horry County Court of Common Pleas.
A second petition circulated by Horry County Rising and CCL asks the planning commission and Horry County Council to remove conditional uses under “commercial forest agriculture” zoning for multi-family units. Their goal is 200 signatures.
A third petition launched the day after Hurricane Dorian by a local resident asks for a moratorium on new housing construction in Horry County and has more than 600 signatures.
But it’s not partisan politics or a climate change agenda that has ignited a long simmering community concern about future development.
Flooding in some neighborhoods after Hurricane Florence and her record rainfall was just the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back, and it collided with an already surging movement of local NIMBYism — the opposition of residents who say “Not In My Back Yard” to any kind of development or infrastructure.
No more traffic, cars, or highways, no more tourists or new residents, and no more new houses — such was the bubbling momentum before the hurricanes brought the rain.
Many new residents, retirees and even those born here just want Myrtle Beach to be like it was in olden times with just the Pavilion, plus their favorite new restaurants, long before their current house were probably even built.
And now those folks are being used by environmentalists who stoke their fears with threats that climate change is causing it to rain more, and that any new development will cause their home to flood, next.
They are stoking people’s fears to threaten office holders with eviction at the next election in order to finally advance environmentalism’s long-held goals of locking up private property from any future use at all.
Street and yard flash flooding caused by isolated stormwater issues should not be confused with the record and rare deluge dumped by Hurricane Florence or Hurricane Matthew that destroyed homes.
Our growing pains won’t be magically solved by blocking all new development of homes, restaurants, businesses, schools or roads.
But it will disrupt our local economy and kill jobs.
Just ask the Town of Nichols, which was nearly wiped off the map after the recent hurricanes, whether development caused all their flooding.