Tag: Horry County Council

More on Crawford Dismissal from CCU

One week ago, local media posted stories on events surrounding the dismissal, in November 2019, of Horry County Council member Cam Crawford from his position at Coastal Carolina University.
According to the stories and documents released by CCU, an investigation into Title IX complaints by a female student who also worked under the supervision of Crawford was conducted by the university. Findings from that investigation supported ‘continuous physical contact with student employee supervisees, which included hugging and touching of hand and/or arm,’ and evidence supporting ‘kissing of a student employee’s head’.
Crawford responded to questions from the media claiming the woman misinterpreted his “Southern mannerisms”, that he did not believe he did anything wrong and that there were political motivations behind the media being informed of his dismissal from CCU.
Nevertheless, a female student registered a complaint with the university, the university conducted an investigation and Crawford is no longer employed by CCU.
Crawford’s response brings to mind statements by former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo when Cuomo resigned as governor after 11 women came forward claiming Cuomo had sexually harassed them.
Cuomo was quoted in media as stating, “As an Italian, I have always kissed and hugged in a casual way, I’ve never crossed the line with anyone… I accept full responsibility, I slipped, but there are political motivations behind the accusations, and I am sure New Yorkers will understand,”
Strikingly similar statements from two politicians on opposite ends of the political spectrum, except Cuomo took responsibility while Crawford did not.
But the similarities between the two cases end there. Once women began stepping forward with accusations against Cuomo, stories continued in the New York media, Cuomo’s former political allies distanced themselves from him and ultimately Cuomo resigned as governor.
In Horry County, Crawford’s leaving CCU employ remained a secret for two years and there has been virtually no comment from other local politicians.
Freedom of Information requests to CCU from two local newspapers were handled completely differently. According to a story in the Sun News, the newspaper filed a FOIA request with the university in October 2021, requesting documents related to “any disciplinary action taken by Coastal…including notices of termination or suspension, reprimands , etc.” as well as “any complaints or other documents submitted to Coastal by students, staff, professors, administration or the public regarding Mr. Crawford, his employment, his job performance and his conduct/behavior.”

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County Change to CFA Zoning Will Bring Lawsuit in New Year

A virtually overlooked vote by county council during its final meeting of 2021 is guaranteed to bring a class action lawsuit against the county in the New Year.
Council member Gary Loftus called for reconsideration of Ordinance 142-2021, which had been passed on third reading at the November council meeting as part of the consent agenda.
The ordinance dealt with eliminating multi-family housing from the Commercial Forest Agriculture zoning classification.
Upon reconsideration, an amendment was approved with the final effect of eliminating multi-family housing (apartments and condominiums) from CFA zoned parcels and reducing the overall calculations for the number of units which could be built on the parcel from three to two per acre. Town homes may still be constructed in CFA.
The amendment also limited calculations for density to be restricted to non-wetland acreage in the parcel. CFA zoning until the passage of the amended ordinance had been limited to three units per acre, multi-family and/or town house, with the total acreage in the parcel, wetland and non-wetland, allowed in the density calculation.
Council passed the amended ordinance unanimously on the reconsideration vote.
According to several council members contacted by GSD, the change was made to eliminate the threat of construction of three multi-family and/or town home units on CFA parcels if rezoning requests for single-family units were turned down by council. According to those sources, council had become tired of developers using the threat of building more units on the land under current CFA zoning if the single-family rezoning proposals were rejected.
Many of the remaining CFA zoned parcels in the county can be found along the Hwy 90, 905, 701 and 707 corridors, which have been areas of new development resisted by citizens’ groups. A number of re-zonings from CFA to single-family developments have already occurred, especially in the 90 and 905 corridors, raising public opposition to further re-zonings.
A number of small farmers still in possession of CFA zoned parcels, as well as developers who have already purchased similar parcels from farmers, could be affected financially by the reduction in overall density stipulated in the new, amended ordinance.
GSD has learned that representatives from those groups are already in the process of working with attorneys to file a class action lawsuit against Horry County because of reduced value of CFA zoned parcels caused by the new ordinance.

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Second Reading of Illegal Fireworks Ordinance Before County Council Tuesday

(The above image courtesy of TheStreet)

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.

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North Myrtle Beach Council Members Vote for I-73 Funding – Or Did They?

North Myrtle Beach City Council voted at last night’s meeting to provide $1.7 million annually to construction of Interstate 73 contingent on so many variables it really isn’t a provision at all.
Among the contingencies required for North Myrtle Beach to provide any money to I-73 is a requirement for the other cities and counties that would supposedly benefit from construction of the highway to also contribute money for construction of the road.
In addition, North Myrtle Beach restricted use of any money it may provide to actual construction costs. Specifically prohibited from use of any money provided by North Myrtle Beach are right of way acquisition, engineering and legal services, construction documents, environmental studies and reports of any kind. Funds from North Myrtle Beach may not be used on SC 22 or any other roadway and actual construction must begin before December 31, 2024.
Despite the headlines of local television stations last night, the North Myrtle Beach resolution contains so many restrictions and prior requirements from other local governmental agencies in three counties as to make it virtually meaningless.
The North Myrtle Beach resolution varies widely from a proposal by Gov. Henry McMaster during a press conference at the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce in October 2021.
According to the governor’s proposed $1.6 billion funding plan, the state will be asked to provide $795 million for the I-73 project all of which will be spent in Dillon and Marion counties. The federal government will be asked to provide $450 million, most of which will be spent in Marion and Dillon counties. Local governments in Horry County were asked to provide $350 million for construction of the road in Horry County. None of the cities in Dillon and Marion counties nor the county governments themselves were asked to provide any money toward construction of I-73.
The governor’s plan only included funding for construction of what is really an interstate spur road from I-95 south of Dillon to the eastern terminus of the road at the end of the current SC 22 in the Briarcliffe area.

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New Rezoning Request to Answer How Bumgardner Tract will be Developed?

The ongoing debate about overdevelopment in Horry County often pits citizens against developers with Horry County Council in the middle.
The public desire to slow down development when developers request a property rezoning and the complication of underlying zoning in most areas of the county could be described in Winston Churchill’s words as “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”
Such a rezoning request is currently in the works in Horry County with respect to a proposed rezoning of what is known as the Bumgardner Tract off of Hwy 707 between St. James High School and Blackmoor Golf Club.
The property owners, the Wall family of Horry County, are asking Horry County Council to rezone approximately 721 acres (none of which is wetlands) of a 1,421 total acre tract from Commercial Forest Agriculture (CFA) to basically single-family zoning with a little multi-family and commercial zoning included.
If the rezoning request is approved, the development agreement shows approximately 3,700 housing units at final buildout, approximately 80 percent single family homes.
The possibility of 3,700 new homes replacing what is now mostly trees immediately set some citizens’ heads spinning with a desire to stop the rezoning.
What those opposing the rezoning apparently do not understand is that development of the property cannot be stopped. The current CFA zoning already allows for the construction of approximately 4,300 multi-family units.
I have spoken to representatives of the property owner and have been assured the multi-family units will be constructed if the rezoning request to single family is not approved. In today’s housing market in Horry County, the developers are confident 4,300 multi-family units could be sold as easily as single family homes in the area in which the property is located.
The enigma, if you will, is not how development on the property can be stopped, but rather what type of development will be constructed.

Proposed County Fireworks Restriction Ordinance Violates State Law

At its regular meeting Tuesday night, Horry County Council passed first reading of an ordinance that would allow the council to unilaterally designate No Fireworks Zones in the unincorporated areas of the county.
This ordinance, as written, directly contravenes both the spirit and letter of state law.
The proposed ordinance, 155-2021, sub-section c 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.”
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.”
State law goes on to say the zone must exhibit at least two signs, stating fireworks are prohibited visible from the street and any adjoining public property. In addition, the owner, lessee or managing authority of the property may request county council to extend the prohibited zone up to 500 feet into any adjoining public property such as a park or to the low water mark of a public beach adjoining the property.
State law is specific in that the initial action must come from the property owner, lessee or managing authority to the law enforcement agency. There is no provision in state law for the initial action to come directly from county council. Any direct action by county council would be a usurpation of property rights by county council on any property included in a county council initiated prohibition and is not allowed by state law.
It is hard to understand how this ordinance even came before council considering how blatantly it violates state law. One would expect the county attorney to explain the conflict with state law to any council member desiring such an ordinance to be drafted.

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Horry County Council Rejects I-73 Funding

By a 6-5 vote, Horry County Council, at its regular meeting Tuesday night, rejected a proposal to dedicate $4.2 million per year for 30 years from hospitality fee revenue to the construction of Interstate 73.
The margin was one vote, but it wasn’t that close. It was a clear demonstration that six members of council are solid in their determination to vote in the interests of the citizens not special interests.
The vote was a clear defeat for council members Johnny Vaught and Dennis DiSabato, the two on council who drank the Chamber Kool-Aid and spearheaded the effort to dedicate funding to I-73. It wasn’t their idea, but Vaught and DiSabato agreed to ‘carry the water’ for the Chamber and its cronies in this latest effort to obtain local funding for the road. They spilled most of that water.
The question now is, have Vaught and DiSabato destroyed any hope for the Chamber to secure local funding for its pet project?
The effort to secure funding for I-73 from countywide hospitality fees has been four and one-half years in the making. It began in Spring 2017 when former council chairman Mark Lazarus convinced county council to remove the sunset provision from the county ordinance establishing hospitality fee collection.
Lazarus next tried to convince council to dedicate the entire approximately $45 million annual revenue from countywide hospitality fees to fund construction of I-73. However, the people were beginning to be heard as their rejection of Lazarus for reelection in 2018 demonstrated, and Lazarus, in his final days in office, was only able to push through authorization for the county to enter into a funding agreement with the South Carolina Department of Transportation for up to $25 million per year from hospitality fees for I-73 construction.
That funding agreement was immediately challenged by a lawsuit brought by the cities against the county and the agreement was cancelled by county council in late 2019 with no money having ever been sent to SCDOT.
The settlement of that lawsuit included vague language that the county and the cities would work together to try and find alternative means of providing local funding for I-73.
After a break due to the uncertainties of the effects of Covid on local governments, a small group reportedly consisting of Chamber officials, state Rep. Case Brittain, Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune, North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley and DiSabato began meeting last summer to concoct a new local funding plan for I-73.
The spin at the time was dedicated funding from local governments could be taken to the S. C. General Assembly to lobby for state funds to be appropriated to I-73 construction and that resulting package could be taken to Washington to lobby for federal funds.
That entire concept seems to be upside down logic. Why should local governments be the first to dedicate funding for an interstate highway in an attempt to convince the state and feds they should contribute?

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Horry County Council Members Face Choice on I-73 Funding Resolution – Listen to Voters or Donors?

Horry County Council will vote tonight on a resolution to dedicate funding from locally collected hospitality fees to construction of Interstate 73.
This latest attempt at I-73 funding comes on the heels of a visit last week by Gov. Henry McMaster to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce at which the governor announced his proposed funding plan for the road.
The governor proposed a plan that included $795 million from state funds, $430 million from federal funds and $350 million in total funds from Horry County, Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach. None of the funds have been appropriated and the sources are generally unidentified.
The governor could not give promises the funds from the state would be appropriated. The only thing he could do was tell the gathering he would ask the General Assembly to appropriate the funds he recommended.
Additionally, none of the state funds will be spent in Horry County. They will be spent in Dillon and Marion counties, according to the governor’s plan. Horry County residents are expected to fund construction of I-73 within the county on their own.
Information from the S. C. Department of Transportation is there are no funds currently available for construction of a new highway. To further complicate the funding problem, the state is on notice from the U. S. Department of Transportation that it must upgrade Interstate 95 from the North Carolina border to the Georgia border. Included in the requirements from the federal government are additional lanes and bridge repair/replacement, all of which are extremely costly items.
SCDOT said the I-95 improvements are the number one project for the agency since failure to meet the federal requirements would cost the state federal highway funds.
After the governor’s visit, the Horry County Administration Committee held a special meeting, called by committee chairman Johnny Vaught, to approve the resolution the council will vote on tonight.
The obvious question for county council tonight is, with 77% of the governor’s proposed funding for Interstate 73 (the state and federal portions) unidentified and unappropriated, and neither Myrtle Beach nor North Myrtle Beach to date having committed funds, why the rush for the county to pass its resolution?
Despite an alleged Chamber poll, which supposedly said 82% of 405 statewide voters responding supported construction of I-73. The internals of the poll have never been released by the Chamber and there is significant reason to believe no such poll exists because it is very difficult to find any voters in Horry County who support spending local raised tax revenue to build the road.
The lack of voter support was demonstrated by a reader poll conducted by a local media outlet recently which showed 67% of those responding did not want local tax funds to be spent on I-73 construction.

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Chamber and Governor Mull Press Conference to Announce I-73 Funding with No Funding Approved

The latest effort by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce to make construction of Interstate 73 a viable project in the minds of the voters of Horry County took several bizarre twists yesterday.
A brief recap:
In recent weeks, the Chamber has promoted the idea that a mysterious poll of voters in South Carolina (405 in all) showed 82% of those responding favored construction of I-73. The actual questions and responses have never been revealed, just questionable results.
The poll announcement was followed by news that Chamber President and CEO Karen Riordan, state Rep. Case Brittain, Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune and Horry County Council member Dennis DiSabato were working on a $750 million funding package for the I-73 project that included $250 in funding from local governments and $500 million from the state. It was announced that the governments of Horry County, the City of Myrtle Beach and the City of North Myrtle Beach would approve their respective portions of the $250 million funding package by the end of this month.
Monday it was announced that the Horry County Administration Committee would vote the next day on a resolution to dedicate $4.2 million per year, for up to 30 years, to the I-73 project from county hospitality fee revenue. That vote, however, was postponed until at least October 26 after a short executive session by committee members on Tuesday.
Tuesday evening Horry County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner was informed that Gov. Henry McMaster would hold a press conference Monday October 4, 2021, at the Myrtle Beach Chamber offices to announce the state was committing $300 million to I-73 construction. (There was no explanation of why alleged state funding was reduced from the $500 million announced by Brittain to the $300 million over a two-week span.)
Now the bizarre:
According to a number of sources familiar with events, word began to spread from Riordan to local politicians yesterday that the governor would be coming to Myrtle Beach on Monday to make an announcement about I-73 funding.
Unless the state government receives specifically earmarked funds for I-73 from the federal government, the governor cannot order any state agency to spend money on the project. Appropriations must receive voting approval from the General Assembly.
State legislators, from around the state, contacted by Grand Strand Daily, said the news that Gov. McMaster was going to announce funding from the state for I-73 was a surprise since the General Assembly had not approved nor even considered any such appropriation.

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Shell Game Continues for I-73 Funding

The Horry County Administration Committee will vote today on a resolution dedicating a portion of annual hospitality fee collections to funding Interstate 73 construction within Horry County.
The effort to commit county dollars to Interstate 73 is being heavily pushed by county council member Dennis DiSabato.
A member of the Infrastructure and Regulation Committee, DiSabato failed to get the resolution on last month’s I&R Committee agenda. DiSabato received a much more sympathetic result from Admin Committee chairman Johnny Vaught after approaching Vaught on including the resolution on the Admin Committee agenda.
Regardless of the vote from the Admin Committee, a positive vote is expected, the resolution will go forward to full council for consideration next week. This is the latest ploy in attempting to commit county funding to the Interstate 73 project before any other government entity at the local, state or federal level commits to providing funding for I-73.
The story being spread to other council members is the resolution, if passed, does not commit the county to anything because it’s only a resolution stating the will of the current council to fund the road project.
That is not entirely true. If the resolution is approved by full council, it would be a direction to county staff to include dedication of $4.2 million of hospitality fee revenues to I-73 in next year’s county budget. Once such a dedication is included in the budget, it will be much more difficult to remove that line item during budget discussions and would serve as the impetus to approve a similar appropriation in succeeding budgets especially considering the pressure the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and its cronies continue to bring to local councils to fund I-73.
Last month the Chamber promoted the idea of having local governments in Horry County commit to providing a total of $250 million in funding for I-73. The idea was promoted that such a commitment from governments in Horry County could then be taken to the state government with a request for an additional $500 million in state funding for the project. The combined $750 million in commitments would then be taken to the federal government to request funding to complete the project.
Current estimates to complete construction of I-73 from its connection with SC-22 to connection with I-95 in Dillon run in the $1.5-2 billion range.
State and federal funding for the project remain highly questionable. The state government recently committed hundreds of millions of dollars received from the federal government in Covid relief funds to expanding Interstate 26 to six lanes between Charleston and Columbia. To date, not one dime of that money has been committed to construction of I-73.