By Paul Gable
Horry County Council has a final chance to stop passage of an illegal fireworks ordinance at its regular meeting Tuesday night.
If a majority of council insists on voting to approve third reading of Ordinance 155-2021 “providing for the regulation of the discharge of fireworks within the county by the way of establishing county no fireworks areas”, as the agenda item reads, council will have accomplished nothing other than opening the county up to another waste of taxpayer dollars lawsuit that it will lose.
This proposed ordinance has received no better legal scrutiny than the one that saw council unilaterally eliminate the sunset clause on the county’s original hospitality fee legislation under the urging of Mark Lazarus. The county lost every court ruling in the lawsuit challenging that action before coming to a settlement with the cities that challenged the ordinance.
GSD has contacted representatives of the fireworks industry who have said the association will immediately challenge the legality of the ordinance in court, if it is passed.
The state fireworks association is already seriously considering challenging the fireworks prohibition ordinances in Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach, which are also illegal under state law.
Readers should note Surfside Beach recently made major amendments to fireworks prohibitions within the town limits similar to those in place in Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach. Discussion among council about removing fireworks prohibitions in Surfside Beach centered around the illegality of the prohibitions.
Why would county council consider passing an ordinance that so clearly ignores the requirements outlined in state law for establishing fireworks prohibited zones?
Why would county staff draft an ordinance that clearly ignores state law?
The ordinance is clearly being pushed by District 2 council member Bill Howard for certain areas within his district. Howard got as emotional as I’ve ever seen him during a discussion about the ordinance in last month’s meeting of the county Public Safety Committee. Howard is not a member of the committee but was clearly supported by committee members Cam Crawford and Johnny Vaught who made the motion and second to send recommendation for approval of the ordinance to full council.
One could conclude Howard is using the ordinance to help his reelection campaign in District Two as his stimulus comes from resident complaints in the Ocean Creek and Lake Arrowhead sections of his district.
Vaught apparently hopes it will help his campaign for county chairman.
Crawford is not up for reelection nor representative for those areas, but has considerable countywide image damage to try and fix after recent revelations about his termination at Coastal Carolina University for violating the university’s sexual misconduct and discrimination policies.
None of those political considerations justify passing an ordinance whose end result will only be to cost the taxpayers of Horry County thousands in legal fees before the ordinance is rendered unconstitutional in state court.
Possibly the most ignored result in this entire effort to pass an illegal ordinance is if the residents of the areas concerned had been informed of and followed the proper procedure outlined in state law for establishing fireworks prohibited zones in their neighborhoods, those prohibitions would already be in place legally.