Post Tagged with: "City of Myrtle Beach"

Efforts to Debunk Karon Mitchell Lawsuit Flawed

April 7, 2018 4:48 AM
Efforts to Debunk Karon Mitchell Lawsuit Flawed

(Ed. Note – Some negative reactions heard locally to the Karon Mitchell lawsuit are like the Chinese fireworks pictured above – loud and colorful but, in the end, just smoke.)

On April 5, 2018 at 3:05 p.m., Karon Mitchell filed a lawsuit against the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce (MBACC), the City of Myrtle Beach and Horry County alleging misuse of tourism development fee (TDF) and accommodations tax (ATax) public funds.

In response to the lawsuit, MBACC issued a blanket denial of the allegations and at least one local television news outlet in the area attempted to, in its words, “fact check” the allegations.

The MBACC response came in a media statement issued April 6, 2018, by board chair Carla Schuessler:

“Today we had an opportunity to review the lawsuit that was filed against us, and l am disappointed to see that we will have to divert our time and resources to address this case which is full of conjecture, innuendo and inaccurate statements. The Chamber complies with all applicable laws regarding the use of public funds and selects vendors based on best business practices.”

The Chamber statement went on to say it will hold a press conference next week to accurately address the statements in the lawsuit.

The local news outlet broadcast a story April 6, 2018 where it claimed to find discrepancies, between claims in the lawsuit and MBACC public disclosure documents, with respect to public money spent with what are called in the lawsuit “crony companies.” According to the lawsuit, crony companies are companies formed by former and/or current Chamber employees and, in at least one instance, a company owned by a MBACC executive board member.

This appeared to be much ado about nothing as the MBACC public disclosure documents used generic descriptions instead of specific vendor names for some of the expenses listed. If those challenged expense amounts did not go to any of the crony companies, next week’s MBACC press conference can “accurately address” those statements and tell us exactly what company did receive the payments.

Another area addressed in the media story was a statement in the lawsuit that “the chamber funneled tourism tax money through the crony companies to contribute to politicians supported by the chamber.” 

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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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State Steps into Parking Fee Controversy

April 15, 2017 5:38 AM
Travis Bell Photographers

The SC General Assembly entered the parking fee debate when local legislators Jeff Johnson and Kevin Hardee filed a bill requiring equal treatment of residents and non-residents alike, with respect to on street parking, unless otherwise approved by the General Assembly.

Ordinarily, such decisions should remain at the local level. However, the arrogance that the City of Myrtle Beach has demonstrated in its attempts to effectively privatize the stretch of Ocean Boulevard known as the “Golden Mile” to homeowners in that area, does need tempering.

One finding of the bill reads, “Whereas, the right to park on a public street is not a right incident to ownership of abutting land but rather one that is incident to use of the street for travel and commerce and one which is rightly shared by all members of the public, …”

The key section of the bill that relates directly to the Golden Mile controversy reads, “”Section 5-7-320. Any ordinance, resolution, or regulation of any municipality regarding on-street parking privileges for residents of a municipality that are not available on the same terms to nonresidents of the municipality of that county must be approved only by the General Assembly.”

The bill was filed so late in the current legislative year that it will not be acted upon until the second year of the current legislative session, which begins in January 2018. It is unknown how much support the bill will garner among legislators, but it could be considerable.

Immediately before the bill was filed, a contingent of mayors from the coastal cities was in Columbia lobbying for the General Assembly to provide an annual, dedicated revenue stream to ongoing fund beach renourishment.

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City Has Potential Nuclear Option in Parking Fee Issue

March 30, 2017 3:39 PM
City Has Potential Nuclear Option in Parking Fee Issue

The City of Myrtle Beach holds a potential nuclear option that could blow up the current parking fee debate between the city and Horry County into a much bigger and more explosive issue.

Nuclear options in political discussion come in various categories. One we hear about often is a threatened change in U.S. Senate rules that could effectively prohibit filibusters.

However, the nuclear option that Myrtle Beach appears to hold could change taxation for many residents within the county, both inside and outside the city limits.

A little background:

The city and county have been at odds over parking fees and areas they are charged in Myrtle Beach city limits.

Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus has addressed city council on several occasions attempting to reach some type of compromise that would allow county residents to pay $100 per year for a parking decal that would allow county residents to park at all city owned paid parking locations.

To date, the city has been reluctant to adopt Lazarus’ plan.

Personally, I don’t believe any of the city’s parking fees are justified, especially because they go to fund the Downtown Redevelopment Corporation, a notoriously underperforming enterprise.

In response to the city’s reticence, county council voted last week to not include $200,000 for the city’s planned museum/library complex and $30,000 specifically for Chapin Memorial Library in the county budget. The city requested both amounts.

At Tuesday’s Myrtle Beach City Council meeting, council member Mary Jeffcoat requested city staff to prepare a review of the amount of property tax revenue city residents pay to the county and what services city residents receive as a result of those taxes.

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Fourth Atlantic Beach Bikefest Loop Proposed

October 13, 2014 11:00 AM
Fourth Atlantic Beach Bikefest Loop Proposed

A fourth traffic loop option for Atlantic Beach Bikefest traffic has been proposed by Horry County Council member Marion Foxworth.

The fourth option is on the agenda to be considered by the Atlantic Beach Bikefest Task Force at its meeting this afternoon.

Foxworth, who represents Horry County Council District Three, said his district is the most impacted district by Bikefest crowds and he believes, as a primary stakeholder, his input is required.

“The brunt of the ‘festival area’ is within District Three,” Foxworth said. “I am very concerned about this event and the planning that is evolving.”

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Achilles Heel of Atlantic Beach Bikefest Planning

September 30, 2014 10:00 AM
Achilles Heel of Atlantic Beach Bikefest Planning

The 40 mile traffic loop proposed by City of Myrtle Beach officials is quickly becoming the Achilles Heel of Atlantic Beach Bikefest planning.

Yesterday, Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus proposed an alternate plan during the county’s Public Safety Committee meeting.

The Lazarus Plan would take traffic down Ocean Boulevard to the traffic light at Market Commons. A right turn on U.S. 17 Business to Harrelson Boulevard where a left turn onto Harrelson Boulevard would take traffic to U.S. 17 Bypass. A right turn on U.S. 17 Bypass to the intersection at 29 Avenue North with a right turn onto 29th Avenue North to Ocean Boulevard would complete the loop.

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Myrtle Beach Tries Forced Annexation Again

September 5, 2014 5:33 AM
Myrtle Beach Tries Forced Annexation Again

In the words of Yogi Berra it’s “déjà vu all over again” as the City of Myrtle Beach is back with another attempt at forced annexation of businesses.

After winning the vote, but subsequently determining there were legal issues with a referendum held for the Bridgeport and Waterside Drive communities three months ago, Myrtle Beach is looking further north this time.

Last month, the city sent a letter to residents of the Magnolia North subdivision soliciting their signatures on a petition to annex into the city. It is questionable, under state law, whether the city can solicit a petition or the idea and petition to annex must be initiated by residents of an area.

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Mixed Messages on Atlantic Beach Bikefest

June 4, 2014 7:00 AM
Mixed Messages on Atlantic Beach Bikefest

Local and state officials are sending a lot of mixed messages about the Atlantic Beach Bikefest next year.

So far this week, Atlantic Beach Mayor Jake Evans said the town supported the Atlantic Beach Bikefest and it would continue. The next day, Governor Nikki Haley reiterated the Atlantic Beach Bikefest was bad for South Carolina and it needed to end.

Each admitted they had not talked to the other. Is picking up a phone so hard?

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Myrtle Beach Mayhem – It’s the Economy’s Fault

May 30, 2014 9:00 AM
Myrtle Beach Mayhem – It’s the Economy’s Fault

Myrtle Beach city officials finally got on message yesterday about the murder and mayhem that occurred in the city over Memorial Day weekend – Officially – It’s the Economy’s Fault.

The story goes, ‘because S.C. cities and counties that usually send officers to help on the Grand Strand during biker weekends are stretched tight budget wise, because of the poor economy, they couldn’t send any help this year.’

The fact that Myrtle Beach cut the $150 per diem it pays to these outside officers out of its budget for this year probably was a factor also.

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More Myrtle Beach Annexation Questions Arise

May 20, 2014 6:00 AM
More Myrtle Beach Annexation Questions Arise

The more one looks at the City of Myrtle Beach annexation petition, the more questions arise on the issues surrounding this proposed annexation.

A July 15, 2014 special election is scheduled in what the city is calling the “South Area” to vote on whether the area will be annexed into the city limits.

A 50% plus one positive vote of qualified electors within the petition area will annex the whole 640 acres or so into the city with only qualified resident electors of the area voting on the question.

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