By Paul Gable
Horry County voters resoundingly supported the concept of having new construction pay for the improvements in county goods and services it requires on a referendum question Tuesday night.
Asked whether they supported imposing impact fees on new development, 74,904 voters out of the 103,186 answering the question, said YES.
The question was asked as an advisory referendum, which means it is non-binding and only an expression of voter will. However, when such an overwhelming majority of voters supports an issue, elected officials would do well to hear the message being sent.
State law currently includes language for imposing impact fees, but the legislation is so restrictive as to make it generally useless to a local government.
In the past, Horry County’s legislative delegation has been responsible for much of that language and has generally listened to the wishes of the real estate and development lobby at the expense of average citizens.
Many of these legislators have been given a ‘free pass’ in elections with little or no opposition to their holding office. It is time for that to change.
Results from Horry County Council contests in this election cycle provide an interesting view of what may be to come when solid challengers take on incumbents.
There were two contested Republican primaries with challenger Johnny Gardner defeating incumbent Mark Lazarus by 111 votes for the council chairman nomination. Gardner was unopposed in last night’s general election and will take office in January 2019.
Incumbent Bill Howard squeaked by challenger Dean Pappas by 33 votes in the other contested primary to barely hold onto his Council District Two seat.
There was one contested council seat in Tuesday’s general election with challenger Orton Bellamy defeating incumbent Harold Phillips by 317 votes in Council District Seven.
Two out of three losses in contested elections at the council level demonstrates that Horry County voters will vote against the status quo if they believe they are not being heard by their elected representatives.
County council members as well as county legislative delegation members should take note of those results and voter wishes on impact fee legislation if they want to keep their seats in two years.
It can no longer be assumed that incumbents will have no opposition or automatically be re-elected if they do.