Post Tagged with: "Myrtle Beach"

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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Road Maintenance Debate Could Affect Coast

February 7, 2017 5:36 AM
Travis Bell Photographers

An interesting debate on road maintenance funding appears to be forming in the SC General Assembly that could have ramifications for coastal Horry County.

Estimates in Columbia project the state needs over $1 billion annually of new revenue to fix and maintain the state’s crumbling road system.

A bill has been introduced to raise the gas tax by 10 cents over a period of five years, along with other fee increases on things like automobile registrations, automobile purchases and the like. That bill, if passed, is estimated to contribute approximately $600 million per year when fully implemented.

An increase in the gas tax gets the state about 50% toward its goal. How to get the rest of the way? Casino gambling at the coast with the tax and fee revenue generated going back to Columbia to fund road maintenance.

The desire for casino gambling has never left the minds of certain players along the Grand Strand.

In 2009, this group put its initial support behind Gresham Barrett in the governor’s race. Remember the $85,000 funneled to Barrett that was part of Coastal Kickback?

But Barrett lost to Nikki Haley and talk of casino gambling faded into the background. Now Haley is gone and new Gov. Henry McMaster is, reportedly, at least willing to listen to the arguments for signing a casino gambling bill if it passed by the General Assembly.

According to our sources, at five different local sites are being discussed for possible casinos: the old Myrtle Square Mall site, what is called the South Mixed Use District (part of the Municipal Improvement District being planned in Myrtle Beach), a site near the intersection of S.C. 22 and S.C. 31, a site on S.C. 9 and the former Hard Rock Park site.

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Myrtle Beach Superblock Plans Raise Questions

January 28, 2017 5:56 AM
Myrtle Beach Superblock Plans Raise Questions

Tuesday’s announcement by city officials that a library and children’s museum is being planned for the Superblock in downtown Myrtle Beach does not come without raising questions.

Over the past several months, mystery has surrounded contacts to property owners in the Superblock area from Metro Properties representing an “undisclosed buyer.”

Ostensibly the city attempted to maintain secrecy in order to keep property values from escalating, according to statements by several city officials.

Maybe, but this sounds like we haven’t heard the entire story so far. According to media reports, Mayor John Rhodes went out of his way to assure everyone that ‘sales have been made between willing buyers and willing sellers’ and ‘fair market prices have been accepted with willing buyers.’

Why the need to sound like ‘he doth protest too much?’

Another question – why is Chapin Library part of this grand city plan?

When the South Carolina General Assembly passed Home Rule legislation in 1975, it specifically made libraries a responsibility and function of county government. Chapin Library is a city owned library that pre-dates home rule, but has been the subject of discussions between city council and county council over the last decade, with the city looking to get out of the library business or, at least, have the county pick up the costs of running the library.

Now, in an apparent reversal, the city plans to build a new library with a line of credit backed by taxpayer dollars.

No one argues the Superblock is not a blighted area that needs redevelopment. One could argue things in that area haven’t changed much since the early 1990’s when then city council members allowed Burroughs and Chapin to hijack money targeted for downtown redevelopment and use it instead to build Broadway at the Beach.

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MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., WEEKEND

January 11, 2017 5:10 AM
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., WEEKEND

Important Dates for the annual Myrtle Beach Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend of celebrations

January 12-16, 2017

A celebration in honor of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Leader, Pastor, Teacher, and Citizen

Thursday, Jan. 12:

Welcome Mixer and Reception

At Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, by Invitation Only, 5 – 7 p.m.

Friday, Jan. 13:

Welcome Continental Breakfast/Keynote Address

Myrtle Beach Convention Center, Ballrooms A & B, 8 – 9:30 a.m.

Guest speaker State Rep. Mia McCloud (79th District, Columbia)

Translating Diversity: A Workshop

Myrtle Beach Convention Center, Ballrooms A & B

Opening: 9:30 -10 a.m., Morning Workshop 10 – Noon, Afternoon Workshop 1:30 – 3:30 p. m.

Presented by Dr. Graeme Coetzer, Director of the Institute of Community Development, College of Charleston

Employability Workshop and Jobs Fair

Myrtle Beach Convention Center, Ballroom D, 9 a.m. – noon

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Local Reflections on 2016

December 22, 2016 5:14 AM
Local Reflections on 2016

Reflecting back on the year’s events in these last days of 2016, several local issues stand out that will carry over unresolved into the New Year.

The International Drive project is a perfect example of what many citizens find wrong in the country today. The project is highly popular with a vast majority of citizens because of the ‘back door’ ingress and egress it will give to Carolina Forest neighborhoods.

Horry County spent the year winning one court hearing after another over environmental groups trying to block the project. Some construction work was done in the fall after permits were issued by SCDHEC and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

However, a temporary stay issued by a federal court, since removed, and now a stay against the permits issued by the state court of appeals leaves the project once again stalled awaiting further court dates.

I first rode with General Vaught in his four wheel truck on what is now called International Drive when it was nothing more than a dirt track through the woods. There is no vast environmental disaster waiting to happen if construction of International Drive is completed.

Nevertheless, a small group of environmentalists continues to thwart the wishes of a vast majority of the citizens while completion of a much needed road continues to be delayed.

Staying with the county, much needed changes in the Horry County Police Department have begun with the hiring of a new chief in the fall.

After a year in which the county and its police department was hit with a series of lawsuits over the conduct of officers, notably those in the detective division, over a series of years, hopefully those transgressions will be ending.

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Time to Combat Community Violence

November 29, 2016 5:54 AM
Time to Combat Community Violence

Shootings over the last month in Myrtle Beach and the Longs area of Horry County again highlighted the need for a coordinated effort among police departments, other public agencies, community leaders and citizens to counter violence in our local communities.

In February 2016, local community activists went before Myrtle Beach City Council asking for help to combat violence in the community.

City officials responded by saying crime was down in the city and chastising the activists for “hurting tourism” with their claims of increasing violence in the city.

Since then, Myrtle Beach city officials have changed their tune. Meetings to address the rising heroin epidemic and recent shootings in the city have at least begun to acknowledge the problem of rising violence in community neighborhoods.

In a related incident, but one that may have ulterior motives, the city used a multiple shooting incident at the Pure Ultra Club in the area known as the “superblock” in downtown Myrtle Beach to add parking restrictions and business operating restrictions in that area.

However, the “superblock” moves may be part of a different initiative by city council.

In October 2015, Myrtle Beach City Council approved an ordinance effectively ending new clubs or bars from moving into the “superblock” area of the city.

At that time, council charged the Myrtle Beach Planning Commission to study zoning in the “superblock” area and come back to council with recommendations in January 2017.

A friend of mine said at that time, “They’re up to something,” referring to Myrtle Beach City Council.

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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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Wasteful Spending at International Technology and Aerospace Park

September 18, 2016 6:36 AM
Wasteful Spending at International Technology and Aerospace Park

The Myrtle Beach Planning Commission amended the development plan for the International Technology and Aerospace Park at Myrtle Beach International Airport last week to provide for additional uses on the property.

The uses added are for medical offices and overflow parking for special events.

Much of the ITAP land was purchased from the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base Redevelopment Commission over 15 years ago with grant funds received from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Grant assurances signed by Horry County Department of Airports at the time of receipt of the funds require the land to be used for aviation purposes.

It is difficult to see how medical offices and overflow parking fit into the category of “aviation purposes”. It is conceivable that the city’s amendment places the county in violation of grant assurances given to the FAA.

However, such a violation would be just the latest in almost two decades of mistakes and wasteful spending on that piece of property by Horry County and other public agencies.

Initially, the land was intended as the site on which the, then planned, west side airport passenger terminal was to be built.

After the west side terminal project was cancelled in 2007 because of skyrocketing costs and numerous other miscalculations by county officials, county council and staff searched for a way to avoid paying back to the FAA the $5 million federal dollars spent on the land purchase.

This search led to the birth of the idea to build the international technology and aerospace park.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held in 2011 complete with grandiose pronouncements by local officials, including 7th District Congressman Tom Rice (then chairman of county council), of the economic development and “5,000 jobs” the park would bring to Horry County within a “couple of years.”

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Crime, China, Taxes and Myrtle Beach

August 22, 2016 7:04 AM
Crime, China, Taxes and Myrtle Beach

A little less than a year ago, Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes told citizens crime in Myrtle Beach was at a 20 year low.

Last week Myrtle Beach officials hosted a forum at the Base Recreation Center near Market Common to address the heroin epidemic that is raging in Myrtle Beach and throughout Horry County.

A few days after the forum, a drug sting in the Racepath neighborhood resulted in 42 arrests for possession of controlled substances and intent to distribute controlled substances.

What changed in a year?

Well, 2015 was an election year for Myrtle Beach City Council and 2016 is not.

Another area of interest is the supposed $100 million project Chinese investors were supposed to be planning for the Myrtle Beach area.

Six months ago, Rhodes and Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus traveled to China for a two week trip. Upon their return, Rhodes and Lazarus announced investors associated with the $100 million investment would be visiting the area within 60-90 days and details of the project would be made public at that time.

We are now 90 days beyond that timeframe and things have gone very quiet about the supposed project.

In the interim, we have heard Rhodes went to China for a week and has another trip planned for next week.

Meanwhile, Black Bear golf course, purchased by Chinese investors two years ago, recently closed. What does that say about Chinese investment in the area?

Maybe an indicator is the China City of America project proposed for Sullivan County, New York five years ago. Initially touted as a $6 billion project complete with a college, family residences, a theme park and a casino, the project has been scaled back to just the for-profit college for approximately 900 students, most of whom will come from China.

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