By Paul Gable
A special election referendum will hold the fate of a number of businesses along the U.S. 17 Bypass corridor as Myrtle Beach City Council tries to annex them into the city limits next week.
There is nothing about this proposed annexation that makes it seem like anything other than a land and money grab by Myrtle Beach City Council.
A nearly two year old petition was resurrected in late spring as the basis of the annexation attempt.
The annexation was originally solicited by city officials who circulated a petition in the Waterside Drive and Bridgeport residential communities during a two week period in October 2012.
According to state law, a petition signed by 25% of the registered voters in a proposed annexation land area is required to submit the annexation question to a special election referendum of the voters.
However, the petition was not certified by city council until March 25, 2014 and there is a question whether some of the voters who signed the petition were still resident in the proposed annexation area at the time of certification.
To further complicate the annexation, a number of commercial and undeveloped properties, areas where no registered voters lived, were added to the residential areas. Of the total proposed annexation area of approximately 640 acres, only 44 acres are residential.
The addition of the nearly 600 acres of non-residential property, which will experience significant tax and fee increases if annexed, appears to be a classic case of ‘taxation without representation’ if the annexation is successful at the polls.
The added businesses and other properties are estimated to produce an additional $600,000 in revenue for the city budget. This amount that was initially proposed to be used for street work in Bridgeport, but later was used to balance the city’s Fiscal Year 2014-15 budget.
It now appears more confusion has arisen in the past several days because of confusing verbiage in the petition and referendum question as well as differing tax map survey (TMS) numbers appearing in the two documents.
A consortium of business owners affected by possible annexation, especially the car dealers who may experience as much as a 1000% business license fee increase, is opposing the annexation. GSD has also heard of at least one citizens’ group that is making contact with voters to defeat the referendum.
The vote is set for Tuesday July 15, 2014 with only registered voters in the annexation area allowed to go to the polls.
With its blundering response to the Memorial Day Weekend mayhem and this mistake-prone attempt at annexation, Myrtle Beach City Council is quickly morphing into ‘the gang that couldn’t shoot straight.’
Winston Churchill once said the best argument against democracy was five minutes with a voter.
It seems the best argument against representative government is five minutes with Myrtle Beach City Council.