Post Tagged with: "Horry County Council"

Uneasy Lie the Heads that Wear Incumbency – First Week of Candidate Filing

March 24, 2020 7:15 AM
Uneasy Lie the Heads that Wear Incumbency – First Week of Candidate Filing

The coronavirus has not stopped this year’s candidate filing in Horry County from being the most active filing period in the county for many years.

Grand Strand Daily is tracking 22 local races for county offices or local representatives or senators to the General Assembly.

After the first week of filing, which ended yesterday, there are currently 13 contested races of the 22 being tracked and at least two more county council candidates will probably have opposition before filing closes next Monday. If the expected two challengers file in council districts 3 and 4, all five county council seats up for election in this cycle will be contested and all will be Republican primary contests.

One incumbent council member, Paul Prince in District 9, is retiring and four candidates, including Prince’s son, are contesting the Republican primary for that seat. The other four incumbent council members up for reelection are Cam Crawford and Danny Hardee, who already have opponents filed to challenge them and Dennis DiSabato and Gary Loftus, who are expected to have opponents by the end of filing.

The main reason county council is drawing so much attention is a feeling among voters that incumbent council members are only listening to the development community that funds their campaigns and voters’ concerns about flooding and rapid development are being ignored. (See the image at the end of this post, which has been making its way around Facebook, with the heads of the four incumbents inserted).

On the state level, voters are tired of being donors to the rest of the state while road and flooding problems in particular are not being addressed and most incumbents are content with sound bites and photo ops rather than trying to address solutions.

Four incumbents who, I believe, will face particularly serious challenges are state Reps. Alan Clemmons and Heather Ammons Crawford, Sen. Luke Rankin and county council member Cam Crawford. They are being opposed by Case Brittain, Mark Epps, John Gallman and Jeremy Halpin, respectively.

If the expected challengers emerge against DiSabato and Loftus, those races will be hotly contested also.

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Crawford’s Posturing Increases in District 6 Council Race

March 13, 2020 9:20 AM
Crawford’s Posturing Increases in District 6 Council Race

Filing for candidacy does not open until Monday, but incumbent county council member for District 6. Cam Crawford, has already ratcheted up posturing of alleged actions to help his constituents.

Known for rarely speaking on any topic during council discussions, Crawford recently posted on his reelection Facebook page about his “primary flood mitigation objectives” and the “talks” he allegedly has ongoing with “relevant officials” about possible construction of a dam on the Pee Dee River to generate electricity and help mitigate flooding.

Sounds impressive until you drill down into the statements a bit.

Crawford’s grand plan to mitigate flooding is to apply county stormwater requirements to developments of 10 units or less. They already apply to larger development sub-divisions.

County council is asked to approve rezoning on very few sub-divisions of the 10 unit or less size. According to sources familiar with these requests, most fall into the category of family land being sub-divided so children can own the property on which they intend to build a house.

Stormwater runoff from large sub-divisions is a problem in the county but requiring stormwater mitigation for John Doe’s son or daughter to build a house on a couple of acres of land they are being given is not going to solve it.

The engineers and developers involved in large sub-divisions are among Crawford’s campaign chest donors so applying more restrictions to them is apparently out of the question. Pick on the little guy.

As for the dam, the river flows in generally flat land much of it outside of Horry County. Technically, the height of the dam and size of the reservoir needed to generate enough water pressure to turn the turbines to generate enough electricity to make this a viable project is probably nothing more than a fanciful concept.

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Myrtle Beach’s Problem with the Truth about I-73 Funding

February 11, 2020 4:47 AM
Myrtle Beach’s Problem with the Truth about I-73 Funding

Myrtle Beach city government just can’t keep itself from spinning stories in an attempt to make itself look good while hiding the truth from the public.

The following post, which appeared on the city government Facebook page yesterday, is a perfect example of the city’s spin:

“The City of Myrtle Beach supports I-73…

“The Myrtle Beach City Council is on the record as supporting I-73. Twice in the past year, City Council has approved resolutions expressing its support for I-73. In April 2019, Council publicly stated that it would devote financial resources to I-73 once the Hospitality Fee issue was resolved. Myrtle Beach has demonstrated its commitment to I-73. Question: Has the Horry County Council voted publicly to support I-73?”

The day Myrtle Beach filed suit against Horry County to stop countywide collection of the 1.5% Hospitality Fee, the local revenue stream for funding I-73 dried up.

The above post says in April 2019 Myrtle Beach city council approved a resolution expressing support for I-73. The resolution was passed after city council refused a settlement offer for the Hospitality Fee lawsuit from county council that provided funding for I-73.

The county’s settlement offer would have designated one-third of the revenue from countywide collection of the 1.5% Hospitality Fee to fund I-73 with the remaining two-thirds of the revenue collected within the city limits being transferred back to the city for use as city council determined.

The following is an extract from a letter Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune wrote to county Chairman Johnny Gardner rejecting the settlement offer:

“Thank you for your letter of April 3. As you are aware, the Myrtle Beach City Council has expressed its willingness to commit support for the I-73 project. However, since the proposed funding source is the subject of litigation, we are unable to engage in negotiations under the terms described in your letter and related attachments.

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Myrtle Beach Council Back at Work But No Hospitality Fee Settlement

January 28, 2020 8:28 AM
Myrtle Beach Council Back at Work But No Hospitality Fee Settlement

Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune announced that the city council is ‘back at work’ at the first council meeting of the New Year earlier this month.

Unfortunately, the New Year did not appear to bring any changes to city government.

Myrtle Beach and Horry County governments each issued statements yesterday acknowledging unsuccessful mediation attempts with regard to the hospitality fee lawsuit with both saying litigation of the lawsuit will move forward.

Among the issues at odds was specific wording Myrtle Beach wanted included in the agreement that would allow its attorneys to be paid up to as much as $7 million from the approximate $19 million fund from hospitality fees collected in city jurisdictions between February 2019 and the end of June 2019.

The county has specifically rejected the concept of allowing attorneys to be paid a percentage of the fund commensurate with a class action settlement especially since attorney fees are not a valid use of hospitality fee revenues.

Another point of contention is a footnote by attorneys representing the city that they intend to file a motion seeking a ruling to end collection of the hospitality fee within the entirety of Horry County.

What that footnote does is end any hope that some sort of settlement would provide funding for the Interstate 73 project.

If Myrtle Beach actually wanted to participate in funding for I-73, it would have accepted the county’s public offer from April 2019, which provided essentially the same split of hospitality fees that is now on the table.

However, Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune was quite specific in her rejection letter of the county’s offer last spring. In it, Bethune stated that the city’s position that collection of hospitality fees by the county within city limits is unlawful. Myrtle Beach has not shifted from that position.

Since hospitality fee revenue was the source for funding I-73, Myrtle Beach did not want any of the revenue collected within its limits to be used for the project. The city stated several times over the last 10 months that it supports the building of I-73 but it failed to put its money where its mouth is.

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Apparent Flooding Assistance Should Not be a Campaign Ploy

January 23, 2020 7:34 AM
Apparent Flooding Assistance Should Not be a Campaign Ploy

The most interesting aspect of Tuesday night’s regular meeting of Horry County Council is what didn’t happen.

After several days of media publicity touting his resolution declaring Horry County’s support of S.C. Senate Bill 259 establishing a “Resilience Revolving Fund to Assist in Future Flood Prevention”, Horry County Council member Cam Crawford failed to get council members to vote for the resolution.

Instead, Crawford made a motion to send the resolution to the county Administration Committee for more study.

The timing of the proposed resolution is suspicious. The bill has been stuck in committee in the S.C. House since March 27, 2019, nearly 10 months. If it is such a great bill that will really benefit flood victims, why wait until reelection time approaches and a challenger to his seat has come forward for Crawford to author a resolution supporting the bill?

The bill was pre-filed in the S.C. Senate in December 2018 and passed the Senate roll call vote March 19, 2019. Nothing about it has changed since its pre-filing.

The resolution appears to be nothing more than a campaign ploy by Crawford to make voters think he is doing something on their behalf.

According to several citizens who have been actively working to help flood victims since the aftermath of Hurricane Florence destroyed approximately 2,000 homes in Horry County, there are some things about S259 that could help some of those most affected by the flooding.

The idea behind the bill is to provide a local match for FEMA funds that would be used to buyout properties that were destroyed by flooding from the hurricane. However, as of this date there is no permanent revenue source identified.

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I-73 Funding Remains Roadblock to Hospitality Fee Lawsuit Settlement

December 19, 2019 3:37 AM
I-73 Funding Remains Roadblock to Hospitality Fee Lawsuit Settlement

The question of funding Interstate 73 is the obstacle preventing settlement of the hospitality fee lawsuit brought by Myrtle Beach against Horry County earlier this year.

A proposed settlement agreement that was voted on Monday by the councils of North Myrtle Beach, Myrtle Beach, Surfside Beach, Aynor and Atlantic Beach as well as Horry County Council included a provision that one-third of the proceeds from a continuation of the 1.5% countywide hospitality fee collected by Horry County would be dedicated to funding I-73.

The five municipalities voting approved the agreement. Horry County amended the agreement, which necessitates a reconsideration by the five municipalities. Conway and Loris did not vote.  

City of Conway officials said in various media reports over the last day that they have no intention of voting on the amended settlement agreement to the hospitality fee lawsuit proposed by Horry County Council Monday night.

Properly looking out for the interests of its citizens, Conway City Council wants to reserve the right to use any hospitality fee revenue collected within its city limits to meet local needs in accordance with allowable uses of hospitality funds.

The refusal by Conway to vote on the agreement effectively kills the amended settlement agreement since one condition of the amendment was that the cities in the county, less Briarcliff Acres, must unanimously approve the amended agreement.

Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune tried to take the high road when the county amended the agreement, but she can’t. It was Bethune who summarily dismissed the county’s offer to settle the dispute in early April, long before attorneys began racking up large bills to continue the lawsuit.

The exact same conditions the county proposed in April became the conditions for settlement voted on Monday night, including the I-73 funding.

Attorneys representing Myrtle Beach negotiated with attorneys representing Horry County with the other municipalities essentially left out of the negotiations. The settlement agreement was presented to those municipalities, essentially as a fait accompli. Conway and Loris chose not to accept and Horry County Council members chose to amend it.

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County Council Adds More Controversy to Hospitality Fee Settlement

December 17, 2019 5:55 PM
County Council Adds More Controversy to Hospitality Fee Settlement

Horry County Council approved an amended settlement agreement at its special meeting Monday night that added to the controversy regarding settling the hospitality fee lawsuit.

Council split 7-5 on votes to amend the settlement agreement and to approve the settlement agreement as amended. Those voting for the agreement were Johnny Vaught, Dennis DiSabato, Cam Crawford, Gary Loftis, Bill Howard, Tyler Servant and Orton Bellamy.

The Deep Six (Vaught, DiSabato, Crawford, Loftis, Servant and Howard) can always be counted on to support anything the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber and other special interests in the county want. Vaught is counting on that group to fund his run for chairman in two years while DiSabato, Crawford and Loftis expect significant donations from special interests to fund their upcoming reelection campaigns.

The special interests want I-73, they fall in line to keep it in play.

Voting against the settlement were Chairman Johnny Gardner, Harold Worley, Al Allen, Danny Hardee and Paul Prince.

As Worley said at the beginning of open debate on the question, the elephant in the room was I-73.

The settlement agreement as presented Monday night would provide approximately $14.5 million per year toward I-73. As Worley pointed out this amount is a drop in the bucket for a project that will require approximately $670 million to complete the road in Horry County, $1.3 billion to reach I-95 and over $2 billion for the total project to the North Carolina border in Marlboro County.

But the drop in the bucket is important to those landowners in Horry County who will benefit from right of way purchases for the road and the engineering and other businesses who will profit from the early design and site work for the project.

The federal and state governments will have to come in with significant money for the road to ever be completed but the local special interests can realize a significant income from the early work that can be paid for if the county contributes. Like always, it’s all about the money.

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Questions Surround Proposed Hospitality Fee Settlement Agreement

December 15, 2019 7:32 AM
Questions Surround Proposed Hospitality Fee Settlement Agreement

As Horry County and the municipal councils prepare to vote on a proposed settlement agreement for the Hospitality Fee lawsuit Monday night, many questions remain about what really has taken place behind closed doors since the lawsuit was filed last March.

According to sources familiar with the settlement agreement, the basic proposal approved in a resolution by Horry County Council at its April 2, 2019 regular meeting and publicly rejected by Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune within a few days thereafter is the agreement that will be voted on Monday night?

The basic terms of that proposal as it was offered in April and will be considered Monday night are as follows: a) Horry County will continue to collect a 1.5% Hospitality Fee countywide; b) one-third of that fee (0.5%) will go toward funding I-73; c) the remaining two-thirds (1%) will be remitted to the respective taxing jurisdictions (unincorporated county or city) in which it was collected; d) Revenues from the 1.5% countywide hospitality fee collected between the date bonds for Ride I projects were paid off (sometime in February 2019) and June 30, 2019 will be remitted in a lump sum to the respective taxing jurisdiction in which those revenues were collected.

Horry County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner sent a letter to each of the city mayors proposing that settlement on April 3, 2019.

The county was prohibited from collecting the 1.5% countywide hospitality fee within the city jurisdictions after June 30, 2019 by judge’s order. The sum collected within city jurisdictions between February 2019 and June 30, 2019 (currently held in escrow) and subject to lump sum payments back to the cities is approximately $19 million.

Why is a proposed settlement that was publicly and totally rejected by Bethune in April 2019 suddenly the terms for settlement? (See Gardner’s letter to the mayors and Bethune’s rejection letter at the links below)

The mayor’s main points of contention have not changed in the agreement to be voted on for approval Monday night: a) continued collection of the countywide hospitality fee is illegal; b) the city cannot delegate to the county the authority to control the disposition of revenues which are properly within the city’s authority to collect and manage and c) no benefit to city residents from that arrangement.

What has changed?

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Council Defers Four Mile Road Rezoning

December 11, 2019 12:06 PM
Council Defers Four Mile Road Rezoning

Horry County Council deferred consideration of second reading of an ordinance to rezone a parcel of land on Four Mile Road until its first meeting in February 2020.

The deferral was taken to allow the developer to discuss a stormwater runoff plan for the project with county planning staff that will address concerns of surrounding residents.

However, after listening to public input from both sides of the rezoning, those opposing it and the developer, and to questions from council, it seems obvious that requesting the stormwater plan is a delaying tactic.

While stormwater runoff has to be a consideration with any current or future development, especially when considering the flooding that has happened in the county in three of the last five years, it is not the central issue of contention in this particular rezoning.

The central issue is that this particular parcel is inside the boundaries of what is known as the 319 Area Plan, a plan adopted in 2011 whose goal is to protect the rural heritage of this corridor between Conway and Aynor.

The 319 Area Plan stipulates that single family housing requires half acre lots for each home built. The rezoning request is for quarter acre lots for 202 single family homes.

However, the current zoning for the parcel is commercial forest agriculture (CFA) a zoning designation that predates the adoption of and is grandfathered into the 319 Area Plan.

CFA zoning allows multi-family housing with a density of three units per acre for the gross acreage being developed. This means the developer can build, on this parcel, a total of 387 multi-family units without any approval from council required.

The 319 Area Plan cannot stop the multi-family development. The public input from those opposing the rezoning and questions from some council members appeared to demonstrate ignorance of that fact.

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Good or Bad Development on Four Mile Road?

December 8, 2019 3:44 AM
Good or Bad Development on Four Mile Road?

Horry County Council faces an interesting conundrum Tuesday night when it considers second reading of Ordinance 113-19, which is a request for rezoning a parcel of approximately 129 acres on Four Mile Road.

The rezoning requests a change from the current zoning of Commercial Forest Agriculture (CFA) on the parcel to SF10 (minimum lot size of 10,000 sq. ft.) for 202 single family detached homes.

The land is located near the Conway end of the Highway 319 Area Plan which was established in 2011 to limit the impact of residential development and maintain the rural character of the area.

The 319 Area Plan calls for minimum lot size of 20,000 sq. ft. for single family homes. The request was recommended for disapproval by the Horry County Planning staff but recommended for approval by the county Planning Commission by a 5-4 vote.

Some residents in the area expressed concerns about lot size, potential stormwater runoff and increased traffic from the proposed development. The residents were upset that the minimum lot size they expected for single family homes in the area plan was twice the size being requested by the developer. They felt the 319 Area Plan minimums should be adhered to.

In a perfect world the residents demanding adherence to 20,000 sq. ft. minimum lot size would probably win their point. However, zoning and development within Horry County is far from a perfect world.

The current CFA zoning would allow the developer to build three units per gross acre of multi-family housing with no approval needed from county council to proceed. The residents opposing the rezoning that I spoke with after one planning commission meeting were unaware of this provision in CFA zoning.

The developer stated in several meetings with the residents and planning staff that he was prepared to go forward with multi-family housing if the request for rezoning for single family homes was voted down, in order to protect his investment in the property.

Therefore, in opposing the rezoning because the requested lot size is only one-half of that in the 319 Area Plan, the residents in the area would see as many as 387 units of multi-family housing built on the parcel instead of 202 single family homes.

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