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Proposed development in Awendaw worries residents, conservation groups 

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 CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A large proposed subdivision with hundreds of potential homesites in Awendaw is causing major concern among conservation groups and those who live in the area. The development is set to be discussed by the Town’s Planning Commission Monday evening. 

There has been a huge outcry on social media about this proposed development, which documents show would subdivide 148 acres into 204 parcels. Conservation groups and those who live in the area are worried about the far-reaching impacts this development could have now and years into the future. 

The heavily wooded property where the proposed subdivision is located sits on Seewee Road and Bulls Island Road, near the Garris boat landing. 

Documents show Pulte Homes is the applicant behind the proposal. The development would have multiple phases, and construction would begin sometime later this year. 

“It’s the beginning of the end of this community,” John Brubaker, who’s lived in Awendaw for two decades, says. 

Brubaker’s property is located next to the proposed subdivision. He is concerned about the effects hundreds of new homes would have on his community and the hydrology of the land. The development would also impact people’s way of life who have lived in the area for generations, according to Brubaker. 

“It will be the initial development that will change Awendaw irrevocably,” he says. “It will go from a rural setting that supports a population who found their homes here since the earliest Afro-European settlement. Those people will be displaced.” 

Conservation groups, too, are concerned about the subdivision and its impacts on traffic, infrastructure, flooding and the environment. 

“The density at which these developments are being proposed would have a profound impact on the national forest they abut and where we’re standing here at Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge,” Grace Gasper, the Executive Director of Friends of Coastal South Carolina, says. “In the best case scenario, if there were no paved roads, 200 houses brings in a lot of impervious surface. The area surrounding us is very important for absorbing stormwater, from buffering the rest of the coast from storms.” 

The subdivision would also negatively affect endangered sea turtles, as Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge—which is located next to the proposed development— is one of the most important nesting grounds for Loggerhead Sea Turtles along the East Coast, according to Gasper. 

The refuge can get between 2,000 to 3,000 nests in a single season, and because sea turtle hatchlings use the moonlight to get to the water, light from the proposed development would confuse them, Gasper says. 

“Ambient light, a light from a house on the beach, even the background light from cities and towns can disorient them and cause the hatchlings of a threatened species to not successfully get in the sea,” she says. “They end up disoriented and up in areas like this along the dunes and don’t survive. Just the light from hundreds of more houses this close to such a sensitive and important area for turtles is another significant concern.” 

This land is already zoned as planned development, according to the documents from the Town. This zoning was adopted by the Town back in 2006, and Town staff finds the proposed subdivision is consistent with the zoning, documents show. 

Monday’s meeting agenda shows there is another subdivision in Awendaw that’s up for discussion as well. That one would subdivide 184 acres into 204 units. 

We reached out to the town of Awendaw for more information and are still awaiting a response. The Planning Commission meeting is set for 6 p.m. today at the Awendaw Town Hall. 

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