Post Tagged with: "city council"

North Myrtle Beach Tourism Development Fee Crushed in Vote

March 7, 2018 4:06 AM
North Myrtle Beach Tourism Development Fee Crushed in Vote

The possibility of a Tourism Development Fee in North Myrtle Beach suffered a crushing defeat Tuesday at the polls.

The unofficial tally was 188 Yes votes for the TDF against 3,050 No votes. The results will be certified by the North Myrtle Beach Election Commission Thursday.

Defeat of the TDF is not surprising. What is surprising is the turnout. In the days before the election, I spoke with several seasoned political professionals from Horry County to get their predictions for turnout. They all agreed the number of voters that would go to the polls would range from 750-1,000.

Those predictions were based on past turnout for special elections in Horry County and tempered by the fact that candidates were not on the ballot, just a single referendum question.

To put the numbers more in perspective, a special election in March on a referendum question only drew a total of 3,238 votes. The vote for mayor in the November 2017 city general election saw 3,670 total votes with Mayor Marilyn Hatley winning with 2,765 votes out of 3,670 votes cast. In that same election, councilman Terry White ran unopposed and only gained 2,894 votes.

To call the number of votes cast on this referendum question astounding is to understate it. But, it may also prove to be the high-water mark of politics for the current city council.

The result is exactly what, I believe, North Myrtle Beach city council members wanted from the beginning, a resounding repudiation of the TDF in a referendum vote to take that issue out of the political discussion once and for all. Several council members were quite outspoken with op-eds and social media during the campaign about their opposition to the TDF.

In my opinion, a presentation about the TDF by Mike Mahaney at the Tidewater Homeowners Association on February 19, 2018, one that I personally attended, hinted at other, one could say even better, options for the city than the TDF. The entire North Myrtle Beach city council attended the meeting after the city issued a notice three days before that there was no city council meeting February 19th.

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The Choice for North Myrtle Beach Voters

March 3, 2018 7:18 AM
The Choice for North Myrtle Beach Voters

Voters in North Myrtle Beach have a choice on Tuesday when they go to the polls to vote on whether or not to approve a Tourism Development Fee in the city.

Interestingly, the choice is not between voting the TDF up or down, although that will be decided. The real choice is how voters want to pay for infrastructure and other improvement needs in the city and who should be doing the paying.

From recent discussions at the North Myrtle Beach City Council budget retreat, it appears some type of revenue increase is in the offing for North Myrtle Beach residents.

According to information I have received, the North Myrtle Beach City Council discussed a property tax increase of 2-3 mills during their budget retreat earlier in the week.

A property tax increase would be paid only by the property owners in the city. The TDF would be paid by everybody, tourists included, who makes purchases in the city.

The TDF has the added advantage of providing revenue for targeted marketing of the North Myrtle Beach brand (cleaner, safer, family oriented) to tourists who are the lifeblood of the economy in the city.

I attended a meeting of the Tidewater HOA recently where the North Myrtle Beach City Manager made a presentation on the TDF.

Part of the presentation showed pictures demonstrating the need for more parking facilities in the city, an infrastructure improvement that increased revenue to the city will fund, according to statements by council. In addition, road improvements and continued staffing of public safety personnel were discussed as needs.

Another part of the presentation compared revenue increases available from the TDF versus the possibilities from something called the Municipal Tax Reform Act, which is only at best a vague hope to at worst a pipe dream in the minds of city council.

The Municipal Tax Reform Act is a bill that has been stuck in committee in the S.C. Senate for over a year and has no hope of passage in this legislative year or the near future. (You can see more on this in other articles I have written about the referendum.)

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Tourism Development Fee – A Tale of Two Cities

February 9, 2018 4:28 AM
Tourism Development Fee – A Tale of Two Cities

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,…”

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

 The above quote from the classic Charles Dickens novel “A Tale of Two Cities” accurately sums up the respective approaches being taken by the cities of North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach on the issue of the tourism development fee (TDF).

The North Myrtle Beach city council has scheduled a referendum vote for March 6, 2018, to allow voters in the city to determine whether a TDF should be allowed on purchases in the city.

The Myrtle Beach city council approved the TDF nearly nine years ago by supermajority vote of the council. The council, even with three new members, appears ready to vote to extend the TDF beyond its initial 10 year approval period again by supermajority vote of council members. Council seems unwilling to allow the question to be put before its voters.

Having voted for a referendum, North Myrtle Beach officials, both elected and appointed, cannot be seen as advocating for passage or defeat of the referendum in their official capacity. According to statements made to various media outlets, they are strictly adhering to this line to avoid any potential ethics problems.

North Myrtle Beach city officials can and should tell the public how the revenue the city will receive from the TDF will be spent, i.e. public safety, parking, other infrastructure. It appears that all residents will get some benefit from TDF revenue. In Myrtle Beach, only 17% of properties in the city (owner-occupied properties) receive all the benefits from the city revenue.

One has to wonder whether Myrtle Beach city officials would conduct themselves in the same ethical manner if a referendum on the question were pending in that city. Incumbents have been strong proponents of the TDF and even several of the new members, who said they thought a referendum should be held on the question of extending the TDF, seem to have backed away from those campaign pronouncements.

I know of several instances where local media outlets have been contacted with a request to “take it easy” on Myrtle Beach city council members if they vote to extend the TDF.

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Fixing the Damage Caused by the Myrtle Beach DRC

January 14, 2018 4:30 AM
Fixing the Damage Caused by the Myrtle Beach DRC

A sometimes heated public input session at last week’s DRC (Myrtle Beach Downtown Redevelopment Corporation) board meeting highlighted the agency’s confusion about its status and the responsibility it has to the public.

The DRC likes to tout itself as a private corporation and some of its recent moves, such as secretly purchasing properties in the Superblock until outed by local media, speak to that attitude.

 However, South Carolina law is clear that the DRC is a public body and, as such, owes the citizens full transparency of its actions.

The DRC was created by Myrtle Beach city ordinance and is funded from the parking fees collected from meters and lots on city property. The city set up a $10 million line of credit from a local bank for the DRC to purchase properties. Money to pay back draws on this line of credit comes from the parking fee revenues.

Among those entities defined as a public body subject to the S.C. Freedom of Information statute are “any organization, corporation, or agency supported in whole or in part by public funds or expending public funds․” S.C.Code Ann. § 30–4–20(a). 

 In a July 17, 2013 decision (DiSabato v South Carolina Association of School Administrators), the S. C. Supreme Court held, “When a block of public funds is diverted en masse from a public body to a related organization, or when the related organization undertakes the management of the expenditure of public funds, the only way that the public can determine with specificity how those funds were spent is through access to the records and affairs of the organization receiving and spending the funds.”

The parking fees, themselves, are a problem. They appear to violate deed restrictions included when Myrtle Beach Farms transferred company owned land to the city along the oceanfront.

This violation not only applies to parking areas charging fees along the Golden Mile, but also to the many areas in the south end of the city where parking fees have been charged for a number of years.

One of the deed restrictions states, “…property shall not be used for commercial purposes by any person, private corporation, municipal corporation or agency of government.”

If parking fees are collected, the revenue is dedicated to the DRC and the DRC uses this revenue to purchase property, how can the collection of the fees not be considered “for commercial purposes?”

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New Year Brings New Hope and New Challenges

January 2, 2018 5:49 AM
New Year Brings New Hope and New Challenges

A New Year traditionally brings with it new hope and positive feelings about the year ahead.

Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus commented in a Facebook post on New Year’s Day about making 2018 a year of positivism. I hope Lazarus is able to achieve that positivism in county government.

This year will be interesting with three new members recently elected to Myrtle Beach City Council, including a new mayor, and seven council members up for re-election for Horry County Council including Chairman Lazarus.

But it takes more than hopes and feelings to achieve positive results in government. It takes hard work, transparency and proper goal setting to get the most “bang” for each “buck” collected from the taxpaying public.

Both Myrtle Beach City Council and Horry County Council have been lax in this area in years past.

Maybe the most important thing both councils have to remember is the citizens elect them to make decisions that benefit the community as a whole. Council then directs staff to carry out these decisions.

Too often, this process has become muddled with certain council and staff members working behind closed doors to benefit special interests at the expense of the general public. This is at least part of the reason Myrtle Beach has three new members of council.

Below are just a few of the actions by city council that the public voted against in November:

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Myrtle Beach City Election Issues

August 6, 2017 10:57 AM
Myrtle Beach City Election Issues

Less than three weeks remain before filing officially opens for the upcoming Myrtle Beach city elections.

Already a number of people have emerged to announce their intention to run against the four incumbents up for reelection. While I’m sure there will be a large field of challengers, we won’t know exactly who is in the race until filing closes.

In the meantime, there are some interesting dynamics developing for this year’s election.

In the past few months, council has drawn criticism for the threatened use of eminent domain to take control of several properties in the Superblock after secretly purchasing approximately 10 other properties in that area.

After being exposed, the city announced a plan to redevelop the area with a new, $10 million building to, reportedly, house Chapin Memorial Library and a new Children’s Museum.

There are questions whether eminent domain taking of a property can be used for such a purpose and whether $10 million of taxpayer money is best spent on this project when public safety needs, among others, are critical at this time.

Shootings on Ocean Boulevard and in other parts of the city highlight the amount of violence that has infringed on Myrtle Beach streets. After the Father’s Day weekend incident during which eight people were wounded on Ocean Boulevard, the city placed barricades on one section of Ocean Boulevard, ostensibly for crowd control, but in front of retail stores and restaurants which occupy an area the city would also like to see be redeveloped.

The businesses in the area of the barricades reported drops in sales of 30-60 percent from previous years numbers.

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Blame Game Not Working in Myrtle Beach

May 15, 2017 5:36 AM
Blame Game Not Working in Myrtle Beach

A new approach to dealing with the increasing crime problems in Myrtle Beach must be found and it may take new leadership in the city to do it.

When there were shootings in the Booker T. Washington neighborhood, city council blamed the citizens in the neighborhood.

When there were shootings in the Superblock area of downtown, business owners were blamed and new restricted parking and times of business were instituted.

Recent shootings on Ocean Boulevard again saw business owners blamed for allowing an “environment that’s causing fights and violence in the streets.”

The attitude is ‘it is not city council’s fault or the fault of those charged with keeping the peace. Rather, it is the fault of those areas most affected by the violence.

And that attitude is exactly why the problems multiply year by year.

The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, which spends tens of millions of public dollars each year advertising Myrtle Beach to tourists, worries that these incidents harm the ‘Myrtle Beach brand.’

City council, the Chamber and the small group of citizens and businesses those entities actually represent are more worried about the ‘image’ projected by Myrtle Beach than the nuts and bolts actions it will take to address the problems. (Sounds like the approach of a certain group currently occupying a historic building in Washington, D.C. right now, all image, no substance.)

The Downtown Redevelopment Corporation, an agency that has spent millions of dollars of public money while accomplishing essentially nothing over the course of many years, still must answer the question exactly what are you doing to redevelop downtown Myrtle Beach?

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Budget Time for Local Governments

March 21, 2017 1:02 PM
Budget Time for Local Governments

This week will see several local governments, particularly Myrtle Beach and Horry County, in budget workshops as next year’s revenue and spending is considered.

If you have never seen the local budget process in action, you should consider at least watching some of the workshop meetings on local cable television or live streaming on the internet.

After all, it’s your money they are spending and services for you they are supposed to be providing.

Much of the discussion will be on the agencies’ respective general funds. Those are the funds that pay for public safety, public works, administration and so forth.

For each agency, approximately 65% of general fund expenditures are for personnel pay and benefits.

However, the respective general funds are not the only budget areas that affect local citizens.

The Horry County Solid Waste Authority, which is a component unit of Horry County Government, is asking for a $7 per ton increase on the cost of dumping municipal solid waste (household garbage) at the Highway 90 landfill.

If county council approves a rise in the SWA MSW tipping fee, every household and business in the county will be paying more for garbage disposal.

The City of Myrtle Beach parking fees, which go to the Downtown Redevelopment Corporation and are currently helping fund the taking of businesses through the use of eminent domain, are a problem for all county residents.

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Myrtle Beach Eminent Domain Questionable – Updated

February 27, 2017 4:48 AM
Myrtle Beach Eminent Domain Questionable – Updated

Update – Myrtle Beach City Council voted Tuesday to go forward with eminent domain proceedings to acquire the below mentioned two properties although the entire procedure remains on questionable footing.

This appears to be another example of council ignoring longstanding citizens comments in pursuit of what remains, in our opinion, a hidden agenda.

Questions are surfacing throughout Myrtle Beach and Horry County if this is really about locating a casino in downtown Myrtle Beach as the latest attempt to revitalize the area.

A new casino bill is in play in the S.C. General Assembly with specific mention that the two casinos allowed by the bill will be located on the Grand Strand. The latest justification for allowing casinos in South Carolina is to raise a continuing funding source for roads and schools.

One only has to look at the history of Atlantic City, N.J. to understand that such promises are often hollow.

We can only wait and watch developments in the superblock and surrounding areas while city elections draw ever closer.

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Questionable use of the power of eminent domains appears to be the next move as Myrtle Beach City Council looks to advance its superblock agenda.

Council is scheduled to vote on a motion to apply eminent domain to two properties in the superblock at its regular meeting Tuesday.

The following is an extract of the council agenda:

“Motion M2017-33 to authorize the City Manager and City Attorney to take the necessary legal actions to acquire properties located at 505 9th Avenue North (Tax Map #1810707016) and 801 North Kings Highway (Tax Map #1810707020), by the use of eminent domain. Such properties are to be used for public purposes, including but not limited to parks, plazas, museums and libraries.”

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Myrtle Beach Parking Fee Flaws

September 25, 2016 6:18 AM
Myrtle Beach Parking Fee Flaws

The more parking fees for non-city residents are discussed by Myrtle Beach City Council, the more flaws come to light in the distorted arguments of council members.

Since instituting parking fees along the “Golden Mile” strip of the oceanfront in July, city officials have heard increasing complaints from county residents and business owners.

The parking fees appear to violate deed restrictions included when Myrtle Beach Farms transferred company owned land to the city along the oceanfront. This violation not only applies to parking areas charging fees along the Golden Mile, but also to the many areas in the south end of the city where parking fees have been charged for a number of years.

One of the deed restrictions states, “…property shall not be used for commercial purposes by any person, private corporation, municipal corporation or agency of government.”

At a community forum last week where the parking issue was addressed, several city council members tried to argue that parking fees charged by the city are not a commercial venture. Instead, the arguments framed the fees as ‘more of a tax.’

However, taxing citizens for using city owned property is also a commercial venture. To argue any differently is to attempt to cloud the issue with semantics.

Mayor John Rhodes, reportedly, offered the possibility of selling parking decals to local, non-city residents for $300 per year. Rhodes said the $300 would equate to what city residents pay to the city in vehicle taxes each year.

This is ridiculous on several levels. I submit $300 equates to the average city tax paid on vehicles multiplied by a factor of five.

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