Post Tagged with: "North Myrtle Beach"

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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NMB TDF Vote Today

March 5, 2018 6:30 AM
NMB TDF Vote Today

North Myrtle Beach voters will go to the polls tomorrow to decide whether a Tourism Development Fee will be instituted in the city.

I support the decision of the North Myrtle Beach City Council to allow this decision to be left up to the voters. Additionally, I support statements from council that, if passed, only the minimum TDF revenue required by law would be used for owner-occupied property tax relief with the majority of that revenue used to benefit all the citizens of the city with improved infrastructure.

The TDF was introduced to the state and this area in 2009. Since that time, it has been my opinion the TDF is used in Myrtle Beach to benefit the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, certain large business owners in that city and residents who live in high end homes.

The North Myrtle Beach approach is significantly different. The city is demonstrating it is not Myrtle Beach in the way TDF funds will be used if the referendum passes.

Since the recent North Myrtle Beach city council budget retreat, it appears city residents are in for some type of tax increase. A property tax increase of 2-3 mills was discussed by council at the retreat.

During presentations about the TDF, City Manager Mike Mahaney discussed the need to find a funding source to address parking problems around the city because public safety people are being tied up dealing with parking problems when they could be better utilized performing other duties.

If the TDF passes, city revenue from the fee could be the funding source for addressing parking problems, which would also benefit public safety by freeing personnel for other needs. Revenue for marketing North Myrtle Beach would be used to promote the North Myrtle Beach brand in order to maintain a strong economy in the city.

Mahaney said one mill of property tax brings in revenue of $375,000 to the city. Three mills, therefore, would bring the city an additional $1,125,000 in revenue for parking and other infrastructure.

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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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North Myrtle Beach and Tourism

February 14, 2018 4:15 AM
North Myrtle Beach and Tourism

The beaches and the upcoming Tourism Development Fee referendum in North Myrtle Beach have hit the pages of local media recently.

The beaches must be protected from the potential dangers of offshore drilling and they must be routinely renourished in order to keep tourism viable in the city, according to recent articles.

Many arguments against the TDF were enumerated in a recent op-ed by a North Myrtle Beach resident. Unfortunately, the writer was arguing against the example of how Myrtle Beach has chosen to implement the TDF rather than how it can be positively applied in North Myrtle Beach.

There is no question that tourism is the lifeblood of all the coastal communities along the Grand Strand. In many ways, North Myrtle Beach has set an example that the others should strive to follow.

The business community has done a good job of advertising with its own dollars, promoting the North Myrtle Beach brand as a safe, clean, family friendly location.

The city has added to this effort by providing quality public safety services, stormwater outfalls to keep bacteria levels near the beaches low and other infrastructure that benefits both local citizens and tourists alike.

Properly used, the TDF, if approved, could be used to supplement these private and public efforts to keep the city competitive in the family friendly tourism market.

According to state law, from the second year onward, the TDF revenues can be split 80% for out of area tourism marketing and 20% to the city for property tax relief and/or tourism related public safety, infrastructure and other similar projects. The decision on the split and how the city portion is spent rests solely with the city council.

It was proposed in the above mentioned op-ed that it would be nice to be able to apply all of the revenue from the one percent fee totally to public safety, infrastructure and the like.

In fact, this was attempted by a bill submitted by Sen. Greg Hembree last year (S.426). Called the Municipal Tax Relief Act, this bill proposed a one-cent sales tax on all taxable purchases in the city that would go to city coffers to offset some of the demands on property tax revenues.

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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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Public Monies, Chambers of Commerce and South Carolina Supreme Court

February 5, 2018 8:03 AM
Public Monies, Chambers of Commerce and South Carolina Supreme Court

It has been nearly four months since the South Carolina Supreme Court heard arguments in the DomainsNewMedia.com v Hilton Head – Bluffton Chamber of Commerce.

The question before the court deals with whether the Chamber of Commerce is a public body and subject to the provisions of the S. C. Freedom of Information Act.

The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce (MBACC) filed an amicus curiae brief to the S. C. Supreme Court supporting the Hilton Head – Bluffton Chamber of Commerce position.

A Circuit Court judge in Bluffton County ruled in favor of Plaintiff DomainsNewMedia.com finding the Chamber is a public body within the definition of the law.

Actually, the law is quite straightforward. Section 30-4-20 of the S. C. Code of Laws defines a public body subject to the Freedom of Information Act as, “…any organization, corporation, or agency supported in whole or in part by public funds or expending public funds…”

The Hilton Head – Bluffton Chamber of Commerce receives accommodations tax money from the towns of Hilton Head and Bluffton as well as Beaufort County. The Chamber is the designated marketing organization for these governmental entities to expend the tax funds collected for tourism promotion.

The Chamber claimed before the Court that being the designated marketing organization for those public agencies did not negate its status as a private non-profit corporation not subject to FOIA.

The Chamber does provide a marketing budget and quarterly and year end reports for the public money to the governments involved.

In answer to a question from Justice Few about how a member of the public could find out specific information about the line items in the Chamber’s budget, the attorney for the Chamber suggested they would have to file a FOIA request with the town, who would then go to the Chamber for the specific information.

The argument was not that the public did not have a right to the information, it just didn’t have the right to request the information directly from the agency expending the funds, which is ridiculous.

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NMB Takes Proper Approach to Tourism Development Fee

February 1, 2018 4:39 AM
NMB Takes Proper Approach to Tourism Development Fee

North Myrtle Beach is to be commended on taking what many consider the proper approach to deciding whether to institute a tourism development fee (TDF) in the city.

City Council decided it was appropriate for the residents of North Myrtle Beach to decide whether a TDF is to be collected. Therefore, a referendum on whether to approve the TDF is scheduled for March 6, 2018 in a stand-alone vote.

The role of the city ends with the decision to hold a referendum. No government body, personnel or equipment may be involved in the campaign, according to state law. Individuals who are government personnel may only support or oppose the referendum question on their own time outside of government facilities and not as part of their official duties.

State Law Sec. 8-13-765 states in part, “No person may use government personnel, equipment, materials, or an office building in an election campaign,” and “This section does not prohibit government personnel, where not otherwise prohibited, from participating in election campaigns on their own time and on nongovernment premises.”

If approved, the TDF is a one percent fee charged on all purchases in the city to which state sales tax applies. Items such as food, rent/mortgage and medicines are exempted.

If approved, 80% of the revenue collected from the fee will be given to a marketing organization, usually the local Chamber of Commerce, to promote tourism from out-of-area locations. The remaining 20% goes to the city for things such as owner-occupied property tax rebates, public safety, parking and other infrastructure or similar types of city expenses.

From statements made recently to media, it appears the city will use the state mandated minimum (4% of the total revenue) to apply to property tax rebates to owner-occupied properties. The remaining 16% of revenues will be used for other city initiatives.

This approach is the best because it shares the benefits of the fee to the largest number of citizens, rather than keeping it for just a small percentage of the population.

A significant portion of the revenue will come directly from tourists and the city’s portion of the revenue can offset some of the costs to the local economy from the tourism industry.

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Protest Planned for Grande Dunes Road Connection

August 14, 2016 6:31 AM
Protest Planned for Grande Dunes Road Connection

Grande Dunes residents plan a protest Monday to demonstrate their opposition to a connection between their roads and roads serving the planned Grande Dunes North development.

The residents say such a connection would increase traffic, decrease security and lower property values in their high end community.

Connectivity between the existing Grande Dunes and planned Grande Dunes North communities has been a point of contention since it was first discussed after the purchase of the former Waterway Hills Golf Club by Grande Dunes owner L Star Property Management.

The residents of Grande Dunes have let both L Star and the City of Myrtle Beach know they do not intend to take this issue lightly.

A petition of over 160 signatures from Grande Dunes property owners has been presented to Myrtle Beach City Council opposing connecting roads from Grande Dunes North into the current Grande Dunes road network.

Grande Dunes residents have been promised that connecting roads from Grande Dunes North would require approval of an amendment to the planned unit development agreement that governs the Grande Dunes property. The road would require approval from the City of Myrtle Beach because it would cross incorporated property of the city.

None of these approvals have been obtained to date. However, according to several Grande Dunes residents, over the last few months, the Grande Dunes North road infrastructure has been built and is in position for connection to Grande Dunes road network.

According to several Grande Dunes residents, the City of Myrtle Beach is supposed to present L Star with cease and desist orders on Monday, stopping any encroachment onto city owned property.

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NMB Council Blinks on Tourism Tax

July 30, 2016 5:13 AM
NMB Council Blinks on Tourism Tax

The North Myrtle Beach city council decided Friday that the voters would have a say on whether or not a tourism tax to benefit the NMB Chamber of Commerce will be imposed within the city limits.

The decision occurred during a public workshop on whether a local one-cent sales tax should be charged on sales within the city. At least 80% of the proceeds of the tax would go to the NMB Chamber to fund tourism marketing and advertising expenses that should be a responsibility of individual business owners.

The concept of a publicly elected body taxing citizens for the benefit of private businesses is abhorrent in any scenario, but, not allowing the voters a say in the process, as is practiced in Myrtle Beach, borders on dictatorial.

At least for now, the NMB Council nipped in the bud the question of whether to impose the tax by supermajority vote of council members, the way it was made law in Myrtle Beach.

NMB Mayor Marilyn Hatley alluded to a January or February 2017 time frame for a special election referendum question on whether to impose the tourism tax, but council would have to pass an ordinance on the tax before the referendum question.

The dynamics of a special election, with its traditional minimalist draw of voters, still allows the Chamber a better than average chance of winning the tax vote if a referendum is held.

But, it is better than in Myrtle Beach where the voters have no say at all.

The North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce was established nearly 20 years ago with the specific goal of drawing additional tourists during the spring and fall shoulder seasons.

Funding for the NMB Chamber came from membership fees and the 30% of accommodations tax revenues collected in the city.

According to sources familiar with the Chamber, in recent years it has added employees and expenses, thereby eating up its funding.

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Near Miss on RIDE III for Carolina Forest

April 15, 2014 9:00 AM
Near Miss on RIDE III for Carolina Forest

Residents of Carolina Forest should be aware of how nearly they were cut out of the RIDE III decision making process before it even got started.

Horry County Council approved, at last week’s budget retreat, a process that would have cut out a citizens’ committee from the project identification phase of the RIDE process in favor of county and city staffs making up the initial list of projects.

Fortunately, after a short break, council reconsidered what it had approved and amended the process to put the citizens committee back in.

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