MYRTLE BEACH — With the votes from the Coastal Lane 1 precinct still out, about 54 percent of Myrtle Beach voters on Tuesday supported a referendum that would allow the city to raise property taxes to pay for the construction of a $10 million performing arts center.
One of the voting machines went down at Coastal Lane 1, and those votes weren’t counted with the others Tuesday evening. The machine had to be sent to the county to retrieve the votes, with the results expected to be available Wednesday morning. Between 200 and 220 residents reportedly voted at the Coastal Lane 1 precinct at the Horry County Complex on 21st Avenue North, said city spokesman Mark Kruea, a number that wouldn’t change Tuesday’s outcome.
As of Tuesday night, 1,818 votes were cast supporting the referendum for the performing arts center, with 1,538 residents voting against it.
If the final tally shows that voters approve the referendum, the City Council is not obligated to build the facility, city attorney Tom Ellenburg said. The city needs the OK from voters to exceed the city’s debt limit as set by the state, to finance $10 million in bonds that would take them above that limit.
For the last 15 years, arts supporters have tried to establish a performance venue in Myrtle Beach.
“We are very happy,” said Penny Boling, co-chairwoman of the Performing Arts Center board. “It’s been a long time coming.”
If the center is built, it could bring off-Broadway shows, small symphonies, chorales and dance troupes along the Grand Strand to one location.
If the final tally shows that voters approve the referendum, residents of an owner-occupied residential property would have to pay about $10 more per year on a $100,000 home.
Owners of second homes, commercial property, automobiles and other taxable properties, such as boats, also would see an increase ranging from $26.25 per $100,000 of assessed manufacturing and utility property to $3 per $20,000 of assessed automobile value.
The proposed 35,000-square-foot venue would be adjacent to the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, have an auditorium of 500 to 600 fixed seats, a fully-equipped performance stage, a smaller theater that would have an additional 80 to 120 seats, back-of-the house and support space, professional offices and public pre-function areas. The $10 million would pay for construction as well as architectural and engineering fees.
Boling said if the referendum passes after receiving the votes from the final precinct she and others on the Performing Arts Center board were going to celebrate first, and then regroup.
“Then we’ll really back around and we’ll get with the mayor and City Council and figure out how to move forward,” she said.
Kruea said that if the referendum passes, the City Council could agree to issue the funds as soon as next year’s budget, which begins July 1.
Linda Brock, owner of Big Daddy’s Roadhouse Grill, said she supported the referendum because it would bring more tourists to the area.
“I’m in favor of seeing Myrtle Beach prosper,” she said.
The performing arts center has been a hope for the arts community for at least 15 years, beginning shortly before the city’s purchase of the former Rivoli Theatre in 1999 with the thought that it would be home of the facility. That building needed too much work.
The council was required to ask residents through a referendum if they would support the facility by allowing the city to increase property taxes to fund the purchase of $10 million in general obligation bonds, taking Myrtle Beach past the municipal debt limit allowed by state law. The city currently has about $25.2 million in outstanding debt and by law only can issue a total of $26.9 million.
The last time the city asked residents if they supported a tax increase was in 2001 when voters approved the referendum to fund $9 million for city recreation and more than $25 million for stormwater drainage, Kruea said. Both items passed easily.
Contact MAYA T. PRABHU at 444-1722 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_MPrabhu.