Pool enclosures poised for comeback this winter in Myrtle Beach

dbryant@thesunnews.comOctober 26, 2012 

Pool enclosures -- those temporary devices hotels use to make outdoor pools useable when it’s cold -- will return in Myrtle Beach for the first time in several years this winter, though later than some would like.

The federal government clarified rules for hard-structure pool enclosures earlier this year, ending a years-long battle that had left Myrtle Beach hotels in the floodplain unable to use enclosures that they say are crucial to their offseason business.

But the structures won’t be able to go up in the floodplain until hurricane season ends Nov. 30. Before the battle over them, hotels in the floodplain could put them up in Myrtle Beach starting Oct. 1.

“Well, it’s a bit later in the season,” Myrtle Beach spokesman Mark Kruea said. “The dates are not likely to make everybody happy, but it’s better than not being able to put them up at all.”

Hotels with pools also must get a free permit from Myrtle Beach before they can put up the enclosures, a step that will allow the city to better track them. No applications had been received as of Thursday, Kruea said, adding that it’s still a bit early. The city doesn’t know how many hotels use pool enclosures, but some had used them since the 1970s.

“We need to be able to track who is putting what, where,” Kruea said. “We want to make sure it doesn’t go up before it’s supposed to and comes down when it’s supposed to.”

Concerns about pool enclosures emerged a few years ago, with the Federal Emergency Management Agency saying they could become airborne hazards if a hurricane hit the coast. Some Grand Strand hoteliers have said the structures are safe and needed for winter guests seeking all the amenities. The pools are basically unusable when it’s cold without the enclosures.

An ongoing battle ensued, with the city of Myrtle Beach -- which was at risk of losing its eligibility in the National Flood Insurance Program if pool enclosures remained a few years ago -- suing 11 hotels two years ago to get them to comply. Federal law had prohibited communities in the National Flood Insurance Program from using hard-structure pool enclosures - often made of glass - in the floodplain.

New federal rules that allow for hard-structure pool enclosures in the floodplain from Dec. 1 through May 31 --outside hurricane season -- went into effect in July when President Obama signed the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act. Hotels with pools not in the floodplain don’t have to abide by the date restrictions.

Contact DAWN BRYANT at 626-0296 or at dbryant@thesunnews.com or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_dawnbryant.

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