By Paul Gable
Bikes rallies and gun control, two of the most controversial issues to come before Horry County Council in some time, should be put to rest at tonight’s regular meeting barring any last minute surprises.
Council agenda lists a resolution directing a “more aggressive approach to be taken by the Horry County Police Department in the enforcement of existing laws” with respect to the discharge of firearms in close proximity to residences.
This resolution comes to council instead of an ordinance that would have severely restricted gun use in the county. A presentation by Public Safety Division head Paul Whitten and Horry County Police Chief Saundra Rhodes to the county Public Safety Committee made the case that current state and local law were sufficient to deal with any problems of weapons discharges in the sub-divisions. Both Whitten and Rhodes said there was no need for a new ordinance to address the issue.
Passage of this resolution should put to bed what, in a very short time, became a very explosive issue to residents of the county.
Third reading of an ordinance to keep vendor and special event permits at the current seven day level with reduced fees for the vendor permits should put an end to attempts to further limit bike rallies.
This is another issue that spiraled out of control for virtually no reason. County council thought this issue was put to rest several years ago when the vendor permits were cut from 10 to 7 consecutive days, allowing only one weekend in the string of days instead of two.
Tom Rice, then a private citizen, was the point spokesman for the “Take Back May” movement as the group lobbied both the Myrtle Beach and Horry County councils to essentially end the rallies. The effort was generally regarded successful at the city level, but a failure at the county level.
After Rice became council chairman, he decided to take another shot at virtually ending the bike rallies completely.
At the February 14, 2012 Committee of the Whole meeting of county council, Chairman Rice said something would be coming forth at the next council meeting. Rather disingenuously he said he didn’t know what that was, but an ordinance would be coming for council consideration.
Rice managed to get first reading of an ordinance passes to limit vendor permits to five days, including setup and takedown, at the February 21, 2012 regular meeting of council.
However, at the March 13, 2012 regular meeting of council, Rice lost support for the more restrictive ordinance.
Council member Paul Prince amended the proposed ordinance to allow vendor permits to be issued for seven days (same as past several years), Harold Worley amended it to cut vendor permit fees and Gary Loftus amended it to restrict set up until 9 a.m. of the first day and require take down to be completed by 9 p.m. on the seventh day. The amended ordinance passed 7-4.
That is where the ordinance stands going into tonight’s meeting. If it passes third reading as it currently reads, the May bike rallies will remain effectively unchanged.
If any changes are attempted to make a more restrictive version, such as that initially proposed at first reading, county council debate could turn into a real donnybrook.