Post Tagged with: "Myrtle Beach"

War on the Shore Provides Covid Break

November 21, 2020 4:09 PM
War on the Shore Provides Covid Break

If you are looking for a break from the boring Covid routine we are all suffering through, tune in to Sinclair Broadcasting’s WWMB CW21 channel at 7 p.m. this coming Friday night to watch what will be one of the best high school football games played in this area in many years.

The North Myrtle Beach Chiefs will host the Myrtle Beach Seahawks at “The Hank” at 7 p.m. the day after Thanksgiving for the Class AAAA Lower State football championship, a game being billed as the “War on the Shore.”

This game will be a rematch of the region championship game played at the same location three weeks ago. North Myrtle Beach won that game going away by a 34-6 margin over a Seahawks team that was depleted by injuries at the time.

That is not to take anything away from North Myrtle Beach. The Chiefs came out and served notice early in the game that there was only one result they would accept – a win over their main rival to the south and the region championship that would come with it.

Since that game, North Myrtle Beach (8-0), ranked number 2 in the state in Class AAAA by MAXPREPS, has methodically blasted its way through the first two rounds of state playoff games by scores of 41-12 over James Island and 35-10 over North Augusta.

Myrtle Beach (7-2) is ranked number 5 in Class AAAA. The Seahawks got their injured starters back to full health just prior to the start of the state playoffs. Having to travel on the road for their first two playoff games, Myrtle Beach defeated South Aiken 42-17 and a very good Beaufort team by a 49-37 margin.

Both the Chiefs and the Seahawks are expected to be at full strength for Friday night’s game. Both teams have explosive offenses and solid defenses.

Tickets are already sold out under the restricted rules during Covid times. If this were a normal year, there would be a standing only, overflow crowd in North Myrtle Beach for the game.

But, Friday night in front of your television from 7 to approximately 10 p.m. for a quality produced, top notch high school football game will be the next best thing to being there. It will be worth the watch.

Before closing, I want to give kudos to WPDE and Sinclair Broadcasting for televising its Friday Night Rivals local high school football games.

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Hospitality Fee Lawsuit – What Does Myrtle Beach Really Want

October 30, 2020 4:50 AM
Hospitality Fee Lawsuit – What Does Myrtle Beach Really Want

With the City of Myrtle Beach announcing last week it plans to appeal the judge’s order on a settlement of the hospitality fee lawsuit it brought against Horry County, it appears the city has taken the stance of ‘my way or the highway’ on the lawsuit issue.

Everything has been settled and agreed to between the parties in the lawsuit except for the disbursement of approximately $19 million the county collected in the various city jurisdictions in the county between March and August 2019.

Horry County asked the judge to order that money be returned to the city’s in which it was collected. The judge agreed.

Myrtle Beach requested one half of those funds be returned to the cities and one-half established as a fund from which it may pay out refunds to individuals who paid the hospitality fee between the above months with any unclaimed amount going to the South Carolina Bar Association’s fund for legal services for low income residents.

Under the county plan, Myrtle Beach would receive $11,170,800 of the approximately $19 million total. This money could be spent on infrastructure and public safety services associated with tourism, according to state law.

Under the city plan, Myrtle Beach would receive $5,585,400. Why would the city want to receive less money and why would it appeal a judge’s order that awarded it more?

The dispute over the settlement money split is about interpretation of Rule 23 of the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure, which deals with class action lawsuits.

Myrtle Beach issued the following statement as an explanation, “This appeal is necessary to finally determine the rights of the other members of the class — those who paid the Hospitality Fee to Horry County during the period when it was in dispute — regarding distribution of the portion of the $19 million common fund that was not otherwise resolved by the settlement agreement.

Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune and City Manager John Pedersen have both added the city’s attorneys said the appeal is necessary in order to shield the city from any potential liability related to a suit that may be brought by a potential claimant.

I have spoken to two attorneys not involved in the lawsuit who said the city is already shielded from any claim by the trial judge’s order. In addition, neither believe this is a class action suit.

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County Ditches Masks, Cities Hold Firm

October 21, 2020 7:58 AM
County Ditches Masks, Cities Hold Firm

Horry County Council Tuesday night voted against passing a new emergency ordinance that would have included and extended requiring the wearing of face masks in public settings or another sixty days.

As a result of the county vote, face mask requirements in the unincorporated areas of the county will halt at midnight October 30, 2020 (the time the current emergency ordinance ends).

At the extreme opposite end of the emergency spectrum, North Myrtle Beach city council voted to extend the requirement to wear face masks in public settings “until the Covid emergency ends,” whenever that may be.

Both councils voted unanimously, North Myrtle Beach to extend the requirements, the county to not pass a new emergency ordinance. However, it appeared there was confusion among county council members who wanted a new emergency ordinance enacted. Immediately after the 12-0 vote, council member Harold Worley made several attempts to have a new mask ordinance voted on. Ultimately, council voted 8-4 to not reconsider the vote on whether to pass a new emergency ordinance with Worley, Gary Loftus, Bill Howard and Dennis DiSabato (those whose districts include Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and the county areas adjacent) voting for reconsideration.

Somewhere in the middle lies Myrtle Beach at this time. The Myrtle Beach emergency ordinance and face mask requirement currently ends October 30, 2020. However, the last time the ordinance was extended, it was done so with a declaration by Mayor Brenda Bethune and City Administrator John Pederson, not a vote of council. There is no reason to believe these two will not extend the requirements beyond the present October 30 date.

The face mask vs no face mask issue has been framed as one between individual liberty and government interference in what should be personal decisions.

What hasn’t been discussed in the local debate is that no real enforcement of face mask requirements has been made by any public safety entity in the county. Indeed, each of the local governments has admitted they do not have the resources to enforce face mask provisions.

These admissions bring up the question, why pass an ordinance that nobody enforces?

It is better to take the county approach of encouraging the wearing of face masks but not requiring it. The decision should be left up to the individual.

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The Incumbent Campaign of Misinformation and Desperation

June 7, 2020 11:21 AM
The Incumbent Campaign of Misinformation and Desperation

Misinformation and desperation are seeping into incumbent campaigns as we move toward primary voting Tuesday.

We have seen the SCGOP ignore campaign finance and ethics regulations to send numerous mailers supporting the reelection of Alan Clemmons and Heather Crawford.

Why would the SCGOP feel the need to insert itself into the contests between Republican candidates?

Obviously the party leaders in Columbia are afraid of losing two representatives who will do exactly what they are told to do.

Doing what they are told to do in Columbia doesn’t help the constituents Clemmons and Crawford are supposed to serve in Horry County. That’s why the panic.

In the past several days Clemmons and Luke Rankin have posted individual pictures of themselves with President Trump. Those were photo ops taken when the president was in Horry County during the Hurricane Florence flooding.

Both reportedly talked up the Interstate 73 project to the president during that trip. If Clemmons and Rankin are as close to President Trump as they would like you to believe, where are the federal dollars to build the interstate?

In similar fashion, one of the SCGOP mailers for Crawford and Clemmons touted an endorsement of them by the governor. Again, if they are so close to the governor and the legislative leaders in Columbia, for that matter, where are the state dollars to build I-73?

Clemmons has consistently stated I-73 is his number one priority as a legislator. Yet, year after year, no money comes from the state for the project.

Meanwhile Clemmons represents a declining Myrtle Beach that he appears to ignore as the number of empty commercial buildings in the city continues to rise every year.

One of the SCGOP mailers for Crawford attempted to present her as ‘working hard’ to solve the flooding problems in her district. She has done nothing other than clean out some ditches to help the citizens devastated by repeated flooding events since 2016 nor to mitigate future flooding. Again, no state grants have been forthcoming to help these needed initiatives.

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The Enigma Surrounding Myrtle Beach Downtown Redevelopment

February 10, 2020 8:53 AM
The Enigma Surrounding Myrtle Beach Downtown Redevelopment

The attached Instagram Post by newly elected Myrtle Beach City Council member John Krajc provides interesting insight into why there appears to be much mystery surrounding the city’s new downtown redevelopment plan.

Last month, a local television station questioned city residents if they had heard of the downtown redevelopment plan. All but one said they had not heard of it and the one who responded positively said she heard something briefly on the news but wasn’t aware of the details.

City council recently passed first reading of an ordinance that creates ‘floating zoning’ from 29th Avenue North to 17th Avenue South east of Kings Highway. Floating zoning essentially means spot zoning, which is prohibited by state ordinance.

Now we have the post during a recent meeting termed ‘the start of Downtown Implementation’ by a new city council member who claims to have been on the ‘inside’ of planning for four years and is soliciting people who are looking for ‘investment opportunities’.

State ethics law prohibits public officeholders from personally profiting from their public position. Does the solicitation of investors for properties in the downtown redevelopment area cross that line?

What is generally known publicly about the downtown redevelopment plan is best termed by a 1939 Winston Churchill quote about the Soviet Union. It is a “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma but perhaps there is a key.” That key appears to be self interest on the part of a few.

Over the past several months, I have had discussions with Myrtle Beach business owner Tuvia Wilkes on the television show “Talking Politics” about the mysteries surrounding downtown redevelopment in Myrtle Beach.

Generally the discussion has focused on how a few insiders seem to have the details of what planning truly exists while the rest of the business community and residents are kept in the dark.

There are approximately 131 empty storefronts in the city. From information provided to GSD, none of the property owners of those buildings have been approached about redevelopment plans or participation.

Wilkes and a partner personally tendered a bid on one property the city owned in the so-called ‘Superblock’. Wilkes’ bid was 25% higher than the property was sold for. It was only by chance that Wilkes even heard the property was for sale.

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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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State Legislation Would Not Solve Lawsuit or I-73 Funding

January 20, 2020 3:55 AM
State Legislation Would Not Solve Lawsuit or I-73 Funding

A bill being sponsored by four local state representatives is erroneously being promoted as legislation that would settle a lawsuit between Myrtle Beach and Horry County and provide funding for Interstate 73.

Nowhere in the original complaint or subsequent motions of that lawsuit, filed March 2019, is Interstate 73 mentioned.

The legislation, H4745, sponsored by Reps. Alan Clemmons, Russell Fry, Heather Ammons Crawford and Tim McGinnis would provide the extension of what is called a countywide ‘legacy hospitality fee’ as long the revenue derived from the countywide portion is used specifically to fund an interstate highway project.

When Myrtle Beach filed the original complaint last March, it specifically sought end collection of a 1.5% countywide hospitality fee within its corporate limits. Immediately after filing the lawsuit, Myrtle Beach city council passed new accommodations and hospitality fee taxes, allowed by current state law, to capture revenue from those levies for use on projects of council’s discretion within the city limits.

North Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach quickly followed Myrtle Beach’s lead in passing new accommodations and hospitality taxes within their respective jurisdictions.

The day Myrtle Beach filed its lawsuit seeking to stop collection of the countywide hospitality fee, countywide funding for I-73 was dead.

A section of the original complaint filed by Myrtle Beach claims the 1.5% countywide hospitality fee, established by a 1996 county ordinance, was illegally extended by county council when a sunset provision was removed from the ordinance in April 2017.

County council voted to remove the sunset provision at the urging of then county chairman Mark Lazarus. It was Lazarus who introduced I-73 into the discussion by mentioning the I-73 project as one of the possible future uses of hospitality fee revenue.

A current proposed settlement for the lawsuit ends any authority of the county to continue countywide collection of the 1.5% hospitality fee and allows all the cities within the county to collect and use the revenue from their newly passed hospitality and accommodations taxes as their respective councils determine within their respective jurisdictions.

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Myrtle Beach Lawsuit Sealed Fate of Local I-73 Funding

December 26, 2019 7:24 AM
Myrtle Beach Lawsuit Sealed Fate of Local I-73 Funding

The day the City of Myrtle Beach filed suit against Horry County to end collection of the countywide hospitality fee, local funding for Interstate 73 was doomed.

This may not have been the intention of the lawsuit, but it was the inevitable result.

When Gov. Henry McMaster met with local leaders a couple of months ago encouraging them to find a way to maintain I-73 funding, Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune told the governor the lawsuit was not about I-73.

She was right. The lawsuit was about stopping the county’s ability to keep collecting the countywide hospitality fee and keeping all revenue collected in the city for the city’s use.

What Bethune did not understand was stopping the countywide hospitality fee collection stopped the funding stream for I-73 as an unintended consequence. Myrtle Beach must take sole blame for this consequence.

A county resolution to settle the lawsuit last April provided one-third of the countywide hospitality fee revenue would go toward funding I-73. Bethune and the city rejected the offer immediately.

Horry County Council approved removing a sunset provision from its hospitality fee ordinance in May 2017. The intent at that time, as clearly stated by then council chairman Mark Lazarus, was to use the countywide hospitality fee revenue to fund I-73 construction in Horry County.

However, it wasn’t until February 2019 that RIDE I bonds were paid off (the original purpose of the hospitality fee). Myrtle Beach filed suit just a few weeks after claiming the fee collection by the county has been illegal since January 1, 2017.

The original county ordinance put a period of 20 years on collection of the fee, which ended on the above date. The ordinance was later amended to continue collections until RIDE I bonds were completely paid off.

It is clear from the initial complaint filed by Myrtle Beach that the city wants to keep all hospitality fee revenues collected within the city limits for uses determined by city council. One must wonder why the city waited until March 2019 to file suit against the county if the fee has indeed been illegal since January 2017 as the city claims.

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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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