By Paul Gable
The Horry County Planning and Zoning Commission added the latest twist to the continuing Bike Rally saga last night when it recommended modifications to the proposed county ordinance regarding temporary vendor and special permit modifications to the county zoning ordinance.
The Planning Commission is required by state and local law to review and make a recommendation to county council with respect to any ordinance on zoning or zoning change. The proposed ordinance affecting vendor permits would make changes to Appendix B of the county’s zoning ordinance.
Third reading of the ordinance was on the agenda for the regular meeting of county council this past Tuesday night when it was “discovered” at the eleventh hour that the ordinance had never been referred to the commission for review and recommendation.
Horry County Planning Department Director Janet Carter explained to commission members Thursday night the ordinance was initiated when county council chairman Tom Rice directed county attorney Arrigo Carotti to draft an ordinance amending (reducing) the number of days for which vendor permits would be issued for the Harley Davidson spring and fall rallies.
Rice led the “Take Back May” movement several years ago before being elected to county council. The movement effectively cancelled bike rally support within the Myrtle Beach city limits and attempted to do the same, but unsuccessfully, throughout the rest of the county.
The rush by Rice to try and put together a coalition of council members that would ram through the reduction in days for vendor permits caused the ordinance to ‘fall through the cracks’ with respect to referral to the Planning Commission.
Rice was successful in getting first reading of the ordinance, reducing vendor permit days from the current seven to five including setup and takedown of temporary venues, passed by a 7-5 vote.
However, at second reading, Rice lost control of the issue with the original ordinance being amended back to seven days for vendor permits with reduced fees for issuance of the permits.
Thursday night, the Planning Commission recommended amending the ordinance back to five sales days for vendors with an additional day on each end for setup and takedown. The vote was 4-3 with commission members Ashlei White, Harold Phillips and Ashley Gable voting against the amendment. Commission members Nick Kenworthy, Bonnie Causey and Sandy Davis were absent for the vote and commission chairman Rob Wilfong only votes to break a tie.
The recommended amendment will be forwarded to county council for consideration when the ordinance is considered for third reading at the April 17, 2012 regular council meeting.
The Planning Commission vote continues to highlight how split areas of the county remain on the bike rallies. Commissioners Pamela Hobeika and Dennis Springs supported the amendment. Their county Districts Four and Five, respectively, bear a considerable brunt of the congestion and noise resulting from the rallies.
District Eight Commissioner Eddie Dyer, who supported the amendment, said the temporary vendors come into the county, sell their wares and take the income from the sales out of the county actually hurting local businesses.
This has always been a rather dubious claim by opponents of the rallies and temporary vendor venues. Many of the temporary vendor venues are set up at or near existing local businesses and actually boost sales at those businesses. It also disregards the millions of dollars that bike rally attendees spend in the local economy.
District Ten Commissioner Dean Belowich also supported the amendment.
It is ironic that the Planning Commission vote took place on the same day that it was announced the South Carolina State Harley Owners Group Rally will return to the Grand Strand for the first time in 11 years in the fall. The rally and its events will be centered in and around North Myrtle Beach.
The real issue is whether Horry County wishes to remain a tourist area supporting the many local businesses catering to that industry, convert to a strictly retirement area or see if there is a way for the twains to co-exist.