Florence County, South Carolina – The Florence County Planning Commission is currently looking into a study about Highway 76 East Corridor that goes through the Florence Regional Airport and near Francis Marion University. Florence County officials want to make this area bigger and better.
According to Florence County Administrator Kevin Yokim, Florence County administration is looking forward to develop those area the right way. He mentioned that the administration is working towards growing the specific spots mentioned in the study, but they are also looking to develop the areas along the highway in a good and smart way.
The study is now public
The findings from the study are listed on the Florence County website. An excerpt from the study said:
US 76 is one of the most prominent corridors in Florence County. It connects Downtown Florence to Francis Marion University and communities beyond. Prior to the improvement and widening of Williston Road (SC 327), US 76 served as the principle route for seasonal beach traffic traveling to/from I-20 and I-95. Even now, many travelers still prefer US 76, either because of nostalgia or habit.
No matter the type of traffic, local, commuter, or seasonal, there is no arguing that US 76 is and will continue to be a significant corridor in the Florence community. Many key destinations are located on or immediately adjacent to the corridor, including Downtown Florence, McLeod Health, Florence Regional Airport, Florence Flea Market, and Francis Marion University. Because of the significance of the corridor, it is often the first and only impression many people have of Florence County. Today, that impression is poor, as the corridor is not attractive or inviting.
With no zoning along the majority of the corridor, land has developed in a somewhat haphazard manner, with some property owners taking great pride of ownership, while others do the absolute minimum required. Because of its history as a highway, the road itself is designed for moving large numbers of cars and trucks at higher speeds, with very little accommodations for people who walk, ride a bicycle, or take transit. These factors have contributed to the corridor having very little character, designed as a passthrough rather than a place.
The study looked at how to grow while also thinking about transportation and what people in the community want for the future. It considered how easy and safe it is to get around, how it affects the land nearby, and keeping the area’s special look and feel. The final report of the 76 gateway corridor study laid out a plan with five main parts:
- Public Participation – A continuous and meaningful public participation process was implemented to ensure that the desires of the community were clearly understood and integrated into final recommendations. The critical component of this was the convening of a Steering Committee that provided guidance to the development of the Study.
- Baseline Review – To establish a firm foundation for the Study, existing conditions were reviewed. This provided the project team with a strong understanding of history, opportunities, constraints, and possibilities for the future.
- Technical Analyses – While public participation was extremely important, it was equally important to temper public input with analysis of land use and transportation. This enabled the project team to develop solutions that would be agreeable to the community while also being technically sound.
- Alternative Solutions – Based on public input received and technical analyses performed, the needs of the corridor were determined and alternative solutions developed. Working with the Steering Committee, alternatives were reviewed to determine the most appropriate path forward.
- Recommendations and Implementation – Following direction from the Steering Committee, alternative solutions were refined into final recommendations. Recommendations include a variety of strategies for moving the corridor toward a more place-based future. An implementation plan was also crafted to determine how to most successfully advance recommendations.
Yokim said now the planning commission is working on ways to grow the area, parcel by parcel, based on what came out of the study.
“Last week at their monthly meeting, they had the first series of parcels that were presented by staff. Based on what came out of the study. For the zoning, for various parcels along that corridor. It’s going to take several months to do that. We can’t do all the parcels at one time. It maybe as many as 1,500 parcels, when it’s all done. And we can’t do those all at one time. It’s going to be a series of meetings through the planning commission. When the planning commission approves it then those will started being presented to county council in ordinance form, for their consideration.”
Boosting local economy and improving the quality of life are the main targets
Yokim believes the updates and enhancements will boost the local economy. Lots of people in the community are looking forward to the results of the study and what will happen next. But, they hope the local government will take action against rundown buildings.
Some folks have pointed out that Highway 76 East has too many rundown spots that don’t look good and could stop the area from getting better. They also mentioned that the traffic is a big problem there. Cleaning up the whole area could also help the economy grow.
“It’s a lot of business here. It’s a lot of traffic on down through here especially coming from the airport. And they go to the beach this way. They got to go through the beach this way. It’ll look better around here. I’m pretty sure it will.”
The study’s findings can be viewed here.