By Paul Gable
The more one looks at the City of Myrtle Beach annexation petition, the more questions arise on the issues surrounding this proposed annexation.
A July 15, 2014 special election is scheduled in what the city is calling the “South Area” to vote on whether the area will be annexed into the city limits.
A 50% plus one positive vote of qualified electors within the petition area will annex the whole 640 acres or so into the city with only qualified resident electors of the area voting on the question.
The residential portion of the proposed annexation area is approximately 44 acres of the approximately 640 total acres included in the annexation area. Business owners and owners of undeveloped property included in the annexation area have no say in the annexation process.
However, who did have a say in the process is now becoming a major question.
The city’s Planning Department collected signatures on an annexation petition over a two week period in October 2012. The city council certified these signatures by resolution on March 25, 2014 and sent the petition forward to the county elections office for scheduling of the required referendum vote.
It is unclear how the signatures on the petition were determined to represent 25% of the qualified electors resident in the petition area. Voter registration records for the proposed area are maintained at the Horry County voter registration office, not in the city. Officials of that office say county employees did not certify the signatures.
State law allows city council to certify the petition as valid, which was done on March 25th. But, who actually checked the signatures to determine they are from valid electors of that area? Who checked the total number of valid electors registered in the annexation area to determine the 25% threshold was met?
Were the electors checked in 2012 immediately after the petition was signed or were they not checked until 2014 immediately before city council approved its resolution? If they were checked in 2012, were they rechecked just prior to the 2014 vote?
Are all of the electors who signed the petition in 2012 still resident in the proposed annexation area today? Have changes in the overall number of electors in the area occurred and was the 25% threshold actually met when city council passed its certification resolution?
Why was the petition effectively “pigeonholed” for almost 18 months before being certified by city council and sent on to the county election office to schedule a referendum?
Is the elimination of the owners, of over 90% of the property in the proposed annexation area, from the election process within the intent and spirit of state law?
Several years ago, a group of our local legislative delegation sponsored a “Business Freedom to Choose” act in the General Assembly when local businesses were adversely affected by Horry County solid waste flow control restrictions.
Isn’t the elimination of commercial and undeveloped property owners from the annexation vote another example of businesses being denied the freedom to choose what happens to their property?
Where does our legislative delegation stand on these questions surrounding the proposed annexation?
I would submit that answers should be forthcoming to all of these questions before any referendum vote on the proposed annexation is held?
But, don’t count on it!