By Paul Gable
Horry County Council will consider second reading of an ordinance that would allow council to designate fireworks free areas by resolution.
How this ordinance made it to second reading is a mystery considering it totally ignores state law.
State law, section 23-35-175 (C) states, “an owner, a lessee or managing authority of real property may establish a Fireworks Prohibited Zone by (1) filing a Discharge of Fireworks Prohibited Agreement with the law enforcement agency having jurisdiction over the subject property.”
The only thing counties are allowed to do under state law with regards to fireworks prohibition is extend into public land a fireworks free zone after a request from an adjacent property owner who has already established a fireworks prohibited zone on his property by completing the above procedure.
Yet, the county ordinance states, ““County No Fireworks Areas shall be any geographic location, as determined by County Council, wherein the prohibition against fireworks under this section is deemed appropriate. Such areas may be designated only by Resolution of County Council and must state with adequate specificity the area encompassed as to be readily identifiable by the general public and Horry County officials and employees.”
The question is why wasn’t county staff, particularly the county attorney, not aware of the contradictions of state law contained in the proposed county ordinance?
According to sources familiar with this ordinance, council member Bill Howard initiated the process for this ordinance at the behest of some constituents. It’s fine to work on behalf of your constituents’ desires, but it’s even better if it is done within the law.
There has been a recent pattern with the county acting in violation of state law. It was recently discovered the county stormwater fees were illegally raised on open space, agricultural and forested lands earlier this year, after a county resident sent a copy of state law to county staff. The county is now in the process of having to determine who paid the increased fees on prohibited types of land and provide refunds to those owners.
A SC Supreme Court ruling last spring brings the question of the legality of the county road maintenance fee, added to all vehicle taxes, into question. The county currently collects the fee and holds the money in a special account pending the outcome of a class action lawsuit currently making its way through court. However, with the Supreme Court ruling in the spring, it appears the road maintenance fee will be deemed illegal.
Meanwhile, according to sources familiar with the case, road maintenance, normally paid from the revenue generated by this fee, has been suspended.
What’s next for this crazy type of legislation in the county? Will we see outdoor barbecue prohibited zones, child prohibited zones, or, even, a media prohibited zone within county council chambers?