On Tuesday, Aug. 14, Myrtle Beach City Council voted 5-2 to approve new zoning regulations commonly referred to as an “overlay” for Myrtle Beach’s downtown Ocean Boulevard district. The overlay proscribes various categories of merchandise, which after Dec. 31 of this year can no longer be sold in the areas affected by the Overlay.
In so doing, at the stroke of a pen, city council rendered various businesses, perhaps dozens of businesses in the Ocean Boulevard district, either financially devastated, or (as of little more than four months from now) illegal altogether.
It’s worth noting that the same city council, at the very same meeting, also celebrated the Constitution. Your city council has designated Sept. 17-23 as “Constitution Week” in the City of Myrtle Beach, apparently without any ironic intent.
In the interest of full disclosure, I represent some of the downtown merchants whose lives have been up-ended by the passage of the overlay ordinance. I spoke on their behalf at council. But my feelings about council’s actions in this matter would be the same, whether I represented these merchants or not.
The facts are rather startling: most of the downtown merchants only heard about the looming overlay a mere three days before council’s vote – and not from the city, but from various news reports published over the weekend. There was no debate. No give and take. Just a couple of days to get ready for a vote.
At the Aug. 14 council meeting, there was a brief comment period where public comments were limited to a mere three minutes. And that process seemed more of a formality, really, one that belied the underlying reality that council had already made up its mind, and wasn’t really interested in what the public had to say. Some city council members were seen to be checking their phones during the public comments.
And make no mistake, government may move at its own pace in other quarters, but during public comment, three minutes means three minutes. Not three minutes and three seconds, but three minutes. Speakers were cut off mid-sentence, mid-thought, even mid-word. “Sorry” the Mayor would politely say, “your time is up”.