The town of Nichols, S.C. was flooded as rainwater from Hurricane Florence flowed downstream in the Lumber and Little Pee Dee rivers. The town was also flooded in 2015 after Hurricane Matthew. 9/21/18 TRACY GLANTZ TGLANTZ@THESTATE.COM

Developers pay for coastal development study. Critics worry it’ll justify construction

Business interests are pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into a new research institute at Coastal Carolina University to counteract rising criticism of new development along the state’s flood-prone coast.

The Institute for Responsible Development has commitments from nearly three dozen of the Myrtle Beach area’s top developers, hotel owners, construction companies and engineers, according to documents obtained by The State.

Critics question whether the institute’s research will be skewed toward development in risky places, but institute supporters and a top official at Coastal said the university’s research will be fair and unbiased. The institute will examine questions in dispute between developers and others, officials said.

Some of those funding the project have been involved in bitter fights with conservationists and local residents over new road construction and housing developments in soggy, wildlife rich communities in the Myrtle Beach area.

All told, businesses have agreed to spend $405,500 to operate the institute over the next three years, according to a document provided to institute supporters by an official at Coastal Carolina. Institute supporters are also seeking to raise $2.5 million for an endowment to fund the institute over the long run.

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