No community is really an island, and some of the most beautiful and fragile places in America are fair game for big box retailers. In this case, the Lowe’s home improvement chain is trying to bust into the small community of Pawleys Island, South Carolina, and get around its cap on the size of buildings. Here’s a report from island residents: “We are located in an area called “The Waccamaw Neck” located in Pawleys Island, SC. It is one of the oldest summer resort towns on the East Coast. I believe it’s only 4 miles wide at it widest point with about 16,000 residents (some of which are not year round). It’s known as “Arrogantly Shabby” with a rich layback style. After almost sinking their teeth into an area 10 minutes south of Pawleys, an area in the City of Georgetown County, Lowe’s was told they could not build that close to a school area. But were asked with “open arms” to check on alternate locations in the same general area. Following that rejection Lowe’s studied the economics of OUR area and has now set it’s sights on our small quiet town because, to quote them, “This is where the money is”. We have developed a website www.DontBoxTheNeck.com and all the info is pretty current on the site. The communities are meeting with planning commission this Thursday 3/17/05 for the first of several board meetings. Lowe’s is trying to overturn a zoning law that states “no structure of over 45,000 s.f. is permitted in the Waccamaw Neck”. But Lowe’s has found a loophole that may allow them to enter under a “Planned Development” and open it’s 169,000 s.f. which is almost 4 times the allowable size. Lowe’s attempted to quiet us down with a meeting at their request with residents to answer questions. But they were met with such strong opposition (people pouring out of the doors) that they are now on a mission to quiet us for good. This is a generally upper- middle to higher-class area. However, they have started soliciting residents in
the proposed Lowe’s area within a radius of 1/10 of a mile, approx. 3 streets worth (which is the only area that is almost completely overcome by unemployment) and promised jobs to ensure these residents’ allegiance to Lowe’s. They have taken out newspaper ads and sent fliers to homeowners requesting their presence in favor of Lowe’s. It’s getting very ugly. Some naive people state that we “Can’t Stop Progress” and “Lowe’s gives so much back to communities”. To say that this is “Progress” is insulting to anyone that appreciates tranquility, the sound of the ocean, and the stars in the night sky. It will ruin our
economic well being for all the locally owned small antique shops and clothing boutiques and Mom & Pop shops. We are an area that doesn’t advertise but rely heavily on tourism, by word-of-mouth and once our landscape is changed forever – our unique town will become identical to every other town destroyed in America.”
You can’t buy small town quality of life at Lowe’s, but once they take it from you, you can’t buy it back at any price. Lowe’s thinks they have Waccamaw Neck by the neck — but the Planning Commission does not have to accept a planned development that they think is too intense a land use, and which is incompatible with the surrounding area and the area’s comprehensive plan. Accepting this kind of plan is not mandatory. Otherwise, Lowe’s would have no need to come before the Planning Commission in the first place. Some towns think they have regulated scale, but then they leave the back door open with these “overlay zones” called PUD, or planned unit developments. Still, Lowe’s clearly sees that Pawley’s Island wants small development, and has set limits, but the corporation has it limits too, and has a quota of stores its trying to open. The fact that Lowe’s would try to crowbar its way onto Pawley’s Island, with full knowlege of the size cap intent, shows just how bankrupt this company’s ethics really are. Any means to an end seems to be the operating philosophy at Lowe’s.