Stella Mercado: Our community requires a blueprint for the future

September 30, 2021

In 2001 I relocated from Arlington, Va., to the beautiful Lowcountry. I was 26 years old. Having vacationed at the beach as a teen, I knew I had to live near the water. In the midst of moving my company and my life, I was invited to a dinner in the Heritage neighborhood. I fell in love with Pawleys Island. Her beauty, tranquility, and shabby chic lifestyle fit my desire for a work hard, play hard environment.

The leaders of the county had a vision that welcomed smart growth and economic development that would propagate the natural beauty of the Waccamaw Neck. I saw Pawleys Island as an incredible opportunity for a young entrepreneur like myself who wanted to build a life and build a business. That was 20 years ago.

Today I am concerned about what I see happening around our beautiful piece of heaven. Large swaths of land have been clear cut for “big box” storage facilities and piecemealed, clustered homes that lack appropriate egress and ingress, cause flooding, traffic jams and traffic accidents while also limiting beach access. We have failed to keep infrastructure ahead of development. The blinking signage of Myrtle Beach and the city lights of Charleston/Mount Pleasant are encroaching on our tranquility and shabby chic lifestyle.

Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” It’s time for our community to come together, connect our neighborhoods, protect our waterways, plan and zone out absent-minded commercialization, and lead the change for smart, tranquil, shabby chic growth that is Pawleys Island and the Waccamaw Neck.

We need detailed zoning with legal and financial consequences for development that does not adhere to the regulations. We need more walkability with tree-lined paths connecting our neighborhoods and that provide beach access for our residents and visitors. We need designated, connected green spaces where multi-generations come together for concerts, movies, parks and recreation.

In summary, we need a picture with transparency and accountability of how a county comprehensive plan will impact our natural resources, transportation, economic development, housing, safety and overall community viability and sustainability for not only our generation, but also future generations. We need a vision of how we want this community to look and feel 20 years from now.

Stella Mercado