Myrtle Beach Council Back at Work But No Hospitality Fee Settlement

By Paul Gable

Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune announced that the city council is ‘back at work’ at the first council meeting of the New Year earlier this month.

Unfortunately, the New Year did not appear to bring any changes to city government.

Myrtle Beach and Horry County governments each issued statements yesterday acknowledging unsuccessful mediation attempts with regard to the hospitality fee lawsuit with both saying litigation of the lawsuit will move forward.

Among the issues at odds was specific wording Myrtle Beach wanted included in the agreement that would allow its attorneys to be paid up to as much as $7 million from the approximate $19 million fund from hospitality fees collected in city jurisdictions between February 2019 and the end of June 2019.

The county has specifically rejected the concept of allowing attorneys to be paid a percentage of the fund commensurate with a class action settlement especially since attorney fees are not a valid use of hospitality fee revenues.

Another point of contention is a footnote by attorneys representing the city that they intend to file a motion seeking a ruling to end collection of the hospitality fee within the entirety of Horry County.

What that footnote does is end any hope that some sort of settlement would provide funding for the Interstate 73 project.

If Myrtle Beach actually wanted to participate in funding for I-73, it would have accepted the county’s public offer from April 2019, which provided essentially the same split of hospitality fees that is now on the table.

However, Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune was quite specific in her rejection letter of the county’s offer last spring. In it, Bethune stated that the city’s position that collection of hospitality fees by the county within city limits is unlawful. Myrtle Beach has not shifted from that position.

Since hospitality fee revenue was the source for funding I-73, Myrtle Beach did not want any of the revenue collected within its limits to be used for the project. The city stated several times over the last 10 months that it supports the building of I-73 but it failed to put its money where its mouth is.

Actually this stating one thing while suing for another appears to be Myrtle Beach’s version of what Herman Goering told the War Crimes Tribunal after World War II, “If you tell the big lie often enough, people will believe it.”

And it’s not the only time Myrtle Beach has tried to use this type of philosophy. When the city passed an ordinance in 2018 establishing a ‘family friendly’ zone along Ocean Boulevard, what it really did was deprive a number of Jewish businesses located in that zone of due process. A lawsuit is moving along challenging that ordinance at the present time.

The New Year also brought the Downtown Development Corporation to replace the Downtown Redevelopment Corporation although the only thing that has changed is the dropping of the letters ‘Re’ in the name.  The actors remain the same as well as the attempts to convince citizens that plans for development in the downtown area exist when they really do not.

It would be great if Myrtle Beach would adopt an attitude similar to that expressed by new Surfside Beach Mayor Bob Hellyer that transparency and public input will be emphasized in that city.

Unfortunately, that’s probably too much to ask.

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