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The original item was published from 6/30/2023 11:54:41 AM to 7/20/2023 12:17:24 PM.

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Council District 6, Stella Mercado

Posted on: May 4, 2023

[ARCHIVED] What comes first, the chicken or the egg? Ordinances (zoning) or Comprehensive Plan?

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As I wrap up my fourth month serving Georgetown County as a Council Member, I’ve been called a “grifter, a pig, an embezzler,” and many other insulting names including “the most hated person on earth” by a Planning Commission member. Wow!   

When I decided to run for this position back in late 2021, my husband worried about me, but I shrugged it off thinking that I could help tone down the rhetoric in our beautiful county.   From where does all this vitriol stem? What is the root cause? I had to take a step back from all the hatred that was ignited from a local platform and turn to lessons from history as it does repeat itself.    

Historically, as a species, we have traversed the earth’s land masses claiming land typically through wars starting from around 3500 BC with Mesopotamia, Persia, Ancient Egypt, Ancient India, Ancient China, Ancient Peru, Ancient Mesoamerica, Rome, and Greece to more recent times in the last few hundred years with the Spanish, French, English, Russian, Mongol, Ottoman, Aztec, and Inca empires, Han dynasty, and Umayyad Caliphate. As a species, the root of who we are as humans, property “ownership” is of critical importance to our civilization. So much so that in our country, the Fifth Amendment states; “no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of the law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.”   

As a proud US citizen, the Constitution of the United States of America and specifically, the Fifth Amendment, highlights my fundamental beliefs in property owners’ rights. Throughout our great nation’s history, cases have been decided defining what federal, state, and local governments can do to privately held property whether they were inherited, purchased, or acquired any other way.    

After the US Civil War, the South Carolina Constitution transitioned the former Georgetown District to Georgetown County, which was originally named for King George III. The entire county primarily consisted of working rice plantations, agriculture, forestry, and river activities including the Waccamaw Neck. In the 1970s, the Code of Laws of South Carolina established Georgetown County as a council form of government and under SECTION 4-9-25 Powers of Counties, gave it the authority to “enact regulations, resolutions, and ordinances not inconsistent with the Constitution and general law of this State.” This included such regulations, resolutions, and ordinances as property assessments, ad valorem property taxes, and other powers to tax, “and make appropriations for functions and operations of the county.”    

( The Code of Laws of South Carolina later established the South Carolina Local Government Comprehensive Planning Enabling Act of 1994, which created and defined “Local planning commission.”   

( Based on this South Carolina state law, Georgetown County created a Planning Commission and its first Comprehensive Plan in 1997. The current 2010 Georgetown County Comprehensive Plan includes eight elements: Community Facilities, Cultural Resource, Economic Development, Housing, Land Use, Natural Resources, Population, and Transportation, which are listed on the Georgetown County website (    

The Planning Commission and staff are working on updating those eight elements and adding Resiliency and Priority Investment. Each Element must be recommended to County Council and voted on through three readings (one at each of three separate meetings).     

From a historical timeline, we know that Ordinances, Regulations, and Resolutions came first in the 1970s, and the Comprehensive Plan came second in the 1990s. So why are there some citizen-created platforms generating email blasts about the South Carolina law? SECTION 6-29-710 outlines Zoning Ordinances; purposes. SECTION 6-29-720 establishes Zoning Districts.   ( SECTION 6-29-340 outlines the Functions, powers and duties of local planning commissions. SECTION 6-29-730 addresses Nonconformities.   

The root issues stemming from these groups/platforms are as follows: In some instances, the General Residential Zoning District conflicts with the 2010 Comprehensive Plan Land Use Element. I’m not an attorney and there are some cases making their way through our court system, so I will not comment or provide an opinion.  Until those cases are determined, my basis stems from the Fifth Amendment of our US Constitution, our Zoning Ordinances and guidance from our county attorney and the SC Association of Counties (SCAC). If a property in Georgetown County is currently zoned a certain zoning district, such as General Residential, which is the most flexible of the residential zoning districts, and the property owner needs to request a change to that zoning, I fully support any property owner that desires to “down zone” their property to a lesser density or impact to our community. I do NOT support a non-property owner or group attempting to change a property owner’s zoning without their agreement or consent.   

In an effort to communicate and continue to be transparent, I asked staff to create this table ( that visually demonstrates the alignment of the Comprehensive Land Uses and the Zoning Districts. I also encourage the public to go to the county's GIS Maps and in the upper right-hand corner click on the "layers" icon.  There you will be able to see what your address or an area is currently zoned and the future land use from the Comprehensive Plan. 

Finally, if you have any questions regarding this blog or any topic concerning Georgetown County Council, I am hosting a “Drop In” on May 16th from 11am to 7pm at the Waccamaw Regional Recreation Center at 83 Duncan Avenue Pawleys Island, SC 29585, and welcome anyone that would like to attend. Link to drop-in calendar event:

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