By Paul Gable
An unnecessary vote by Horry County Council at its May 6th meeting has raised questions about just what is going on with a prospective City of Myrtle Beach annexation plan.
This annexation proposal met initial opposition from two members of city council before passing. It was back to flying nicely under the radar until it was mistakenly put on Horry County Council agenda for a vote on a Resolution to move a referendum on the annexation question forward.
After initially passing county council by a 9-1 vote, council member Paul Prince moved for reconsideration after hearing many of the property owners were not included in the decision. Council, then, defeated the resolution by a 6-4 vote.
State law allows three options for annexation of property into a city. The first two require the approval of property owners.
The two options for property owners are: (1) If 100% of the property owners in an area request annexation into a city, the whole thing can be accomplished by passing a city ordinance or (2) If 75% of the property owners in an area request annexation, a public hearing must be held by the city, then, it can still be accomplished by city ordinance.
The third option uses voters, not property owners, as the petitioners and is rarely used throughout the state.
When 25% of the voters have been certified as having signed the petition, it is forwarded to the county election office for scheduling the referendum vote.
State law does not require the county to pass a resolution for a referendum to be held. Myrtle Beach was using the annexation option of having signatures on a petition from 25% of the voters in the proposed annexation area calling for a referendum on the question of annexation into the city.
Under this annexation option, used for the proposed Myrtle Beach annexation, the property owners don’t matter. Just because you own property in the proposed annexation area doesn’t give you a voice in the annexation question if you are not also a resident registered to vote in the area.
This is especially true for owners of commercial or rental property in the proposed annexation area. Their voice will not be heard even though they will be impacted by annexation in the form of higher property taxes and higher business license fees.
To further muddy the waters in the proposed Myrtle Beach annexation, approximately 640 acres are included in the annexation of which only approximately 44 acres are residential, a ratio of approximately 12:1 non-residential to residential. Some of the non-residential property is undeveloped and some is commercial.
The proposed annexation area, lumped together as the “South Area”, is not contiguous with some of the property on the west side of U.S. 17 Bypass and some on the east side with the Bridgeport and Waterside sub-divisions being the areas with most of the voters.
There are approximately 170 registered voters in the proposed annexation area, 47 of whom signed the annexation petition. Most of these signatures came from two main thoroughfares in the Bridgeport sub-division.
It can be argued that only approximately 1/30 of the total property (slightly over 3%) in the proposed annexation area was actually involved in the annexation petition.
The city acknowledges it will receive approximately one-half million in additional revenue each year from the proposed annexation area.
Is the city using the annexation petition of a relatively small residential area as an excuse to attempt to grab considerable commercial property, and its attendant tax revenue, into the city limits?
It seems that attaching significant tracts of non-residential property onto relatively small tracts of residential property into one overall annexation petition is certainly not the intent or spirit of state law.
The non-residential property owners could request annexation by ordinance if it was their desire to annex into the city. It certainly seems that these non-residential property owners should have some say in the process since they will be bearing the burden of increased taxes.
Or is it the intent of the City of Myrtle Beach to not allow the property owners most affected by this annexation to have a say in what happens to their property and their pocketbooks?
Could this possibly be a foreshadowing of how the city will attempt to deal with the remaining donut holes of property in the county completely encircled by the city limits?