Some Horry County residents decide Tuesday if they, along with 600 acres of commercial property, join Myrtle Beach

mprabhu@thesunnews.comJuly 13, 2014 

About 170 Horry County voters have the opportunity to decide Tuesday if 626 acres that include two neighborhoods and more than a dozen businesses should be annexed into Myrtle Beach.

The special election is being held after 46 of the 170 voters that live in the Bridgeport and Waterside subdivisions of Horry County – located off of U.S. 501 – signed a petition between September and November 2012.

According to state law, 25 percent of the 170 registered voters in the designated area – which includes about 55 acres of residences – can petition the city and county to hold a special election to decide to be annexed into the city.

The remaining 571 acres is made of mostly commercial property. Owners of commercial properties only can vote in the special election if they also live within the designated area.

Staff members have said the annexation aims to close doughnut holes – or areas of unincorporated land completely surrounded by city limits – and provide services to residents.

“Bridgeport has been very interested in coming into the city,” said Edna Wright, growth coordinator in the Myrtle Beach planning department. “They want better streets and better drainage.”

Adrienne Weatherwax, who serves on Bridgeport’s homeowners association board, said she thinks coming into the city would be a huge benefit.

“It would bring police protection, fire protection, garbage pickup,” she said. “Right now we have to individually pay if we want our garbage picked up.”

She said she’s not sure how her neighbors will vote, but the board has sent letters out encouraging them to vote in favor of the annexation.

“I certainly do hope it goes through,” she said.

City staff collected 49 signatures of residents of Bridgeport and Waterside in 2012, but only 46 could be verified through the state’s voter registration rolls. The petition needed 43 signatures to be certified.

“We’re anticipating a higher turnout from Bridgeport because more residents there want the annexation,” Wright said.

Voters will head to two polling locations – Canal Street Recreation Center at 901 Canal St. and Midway Missionary Baptist Church at 1110 Highway 15 – Tuesday to decide if they will become city residents.

If a majority of residents vote in favor of joining the city, City Council can choose to accept the annexation through an ordinance, which requires two readings to go into effect.

Wright said the city wanted the annexation to connect to a ditch that already was in city limits on the far side of the water and sewer treatment plant.

Some business owners, including a group of car dealership owners situated along U.S. Highway 17, have said the move would cause them to pay drastically higher business license fees if they are in the city’s jurisdiction. A lawyer for the dealerships requested thousands of papers from the city through the Freedom of Information Act.

A staff report presented to City Council estimated more than $461,000 in additional revenue to the city through the annexation, with the bulk coming from business license fees.

Businesses like The Gold Club, stores in the Dail Centre shopping plaza on Jason Boulevard, BMW of Myrtle Beach and The Sun News are among the properties that would be annexed if the move is approved.

At the past two City Council meetings, Councilman Michael Chestnut has asked if the businesses impacted by the annexation had been notified by the city about the upcoming vote. City manager Tom Leath said they had not.

Councilmen Mike Lowder and Randal Wallace voted in March against holding the annexation vote, saying businesses should have a say in whether they are annexed.

“I’ll always vote against an ordinance like this until the law is changed,” Lowder said. “Commercial properties that lie in this area ought to have some say. … If it was just the residential properties, I’d support this.”

Contact MAYA T. PRABHU at 444-1722 or on Twitter @TSN_mprabhu.

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