Myrtle Beach Eminent Domain Questionable – Updated

Update – Myrtle Beach City Council voted Tuesday to go forward with eminent domain proceedings to acquire the below mentioned two properties although the entire procedure remains on questionable footing.

This appears to be another example of council ignoring longstanding citizens comments in pursuit of what remains, in our opinion, a hidden agenda.

Questions are surfacing throughout Myrtle Beach and Horry County if this is really about locating a casino in downtown Myrtle Beach as the latest attempt to revitalize the area.

A new casino bill is in play in the S.C. General Assembly with specific mention that the two casinos allowed by the bill will be located on the Grand Strand. The latest justification for allowing casinos in South Carolina is to raise a continuing funding source for roads and schools.

One only has to look at the history of Atlantic City, N.J. to understand that such promises are often hollow.

We can only wait and watch developments in the superblock and surrounding areas while city elections draw ever closer.

By Paul Gable

Questionable use of the power move of eminent domains appears to be the next move as Myrtle Beach City Council looks to advance its superblock agenda.

Council is scheduled to vote on a motion to apply eminent domain to two properties in the superblock at its regular meeting Tuesday.

The following is an extract of the council agenda:

“Motion M2017-33 to authorize the City Manager and City Attorney to take the necessary legal actions to acquire properties located at 505 9th Avenue North (Tax Map #1810707016) and 801 North Kings Highway (Tax Map #1810707020), by the use of eminent domain.  Such properties are to be used for public purposes, including but not limited to parks, plazas, museums and libraries.”

Eminent domain is the power that a state or local government has to take private property for use for the public good. It is normally used to acquire land for highways, public service utilities and the like. It is not critical that a particular parcel of land be grabbed by the city for a library and/or children’s museum as both could be located in other areas with no difficulty.

Additionally, the South Carolina Home Rule Act of 1975 specifically states that libraries are the responsibility of county government.

Only a few years ago, members of Myrtle Beach City Council were speaking of ‘getting out of the library business’ by allowing the county to take over responsibility for Chapin Memorial Library. Plans, at that time, called for the library to be located with a new county services building that is planned for Myrtle Beach in the Horry County capital projects plan. To date no site has been selected for that building.

It seems an overreach for the Myrtle Beach city council to use eminent domain to acquire private property for a library that the same council was willing to relegate to county control only a short time ago.

The children’s museum brings other questions. Is it a proper use of eminent domain to seize private property to build a structure only to lease that structure to a private corporation? Is such a move sufficiently in the public good to justify the use of eminent domain?

But, the biggest question is exactly what is to be the use of this property?

City officials have stated in media stories that the land will be used for the library/museum project.

However, the vagueness of the motion, specifically the use of the wording “including but not limited to”, brings into question the intent of the entire process?

What exactly is the public purpose eminent domain is to be used for in acquiring these two properties?

Is there a hidden agenda, as city council is often wont to do, behind this alleged library/museum scheme?

Or is this merely payback to Jack Thompson (who leases one of the properties for his photography studio) for Thompson’s standing in front of the bulldozers over a decade ago to stop the (then planned) destruction of the Myrtle Beach Train Depot?

Many questions, with few answers to date, remain about this agenda item.

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