North Myrtle Beach is on its way to getting a new fishing pier at Sea Mountain Highway, the first new pier along the Grand Strand in 20 years and one officials say could help tourism.
The new pier, proposed by North Myrtle Beach businessman Frank Boulineau, also would have a four-story building that likely would house a restaurant, according to documents and officials. Boulineau declined comment Monday.
State regulators already have signed off on construction of the new pier, and the North Myrtle Beach City Council on Monday unanimously passed the first of two required votes to change the zoning in the area to allow for the pier.
“It would be a great asset,” North Myrtle Beach spokesman Pat Dowling said. “People like them. They can get out on the water, so to speak. There’s just really not a downside to it that we can see.”
The zoning in the area – called the waterfront pleasure district – would be deleted completely if the ordinance passes the second vote. North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley called the zone antiquated and redundant.
State law regulates construction seaward of the setback line. The zoning district mostly regulated activities like fishing that appear elsewhere in the city code.
This would be the second public pier in the North Myrtle Beach area; there’s already the Cherry Grove Pier. A timetable for building the new pier wasn’t available Monday.
This would be the first new pier along the Grand Strand in about two decades. Apache Pier debuted in 1993, while others that had been around for decades had to rebuild in the early 1990s after Hurricane Hugo smashed them in 1989.
Though officials tout their positive appeal for tourists, new piers aren’t proposed along the Grand Strand too often, mainly because of the cost of building one and the risk of damage from hurricanes, officials said.
Harold Worley, who owns Ocean Drive Beach & Golf Resort in North Myrtle Beach and is also an Horry County councilman, considered building a pier there but nixed the idea after crunching the numbers.
“The numbers don’t work,” he said.
Boulineau – which owns a grocery store, hardware store, Laundromat and other businesses in the North Myrtle Beach area – has been working on this pier for at least three years and already has key approvals, according to state documents. The S.C. Department of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management has approved the plan, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved the permit in March 2012, which is valid until March 2017.
The Corps didn’t have any problems with the plan, though construction of the pier is not allowed between May and October, said Tommy Fennell, chief of the Corps’ regulatory division in Conway.
“We didn’t have any real issues as far as the structure itself,” he said. “It’s similar to other structures in the area.”
Dowling said the city would still need to give further approval for the construction of a pier if the waterfront pleasure district is deleted after the second vote.
Eight public piers dot the Grand Strand’s oceanfront, from Cherry Grove to Garden City Beach. Deon Grainger, manager of the Apache Pier, said that’s enough.
“We’ve already got eight,” she said, adding that she doesn’t think a new pier in North Myrtle Beach would affect business at the Apache Pier.
The new pier would be fairly close to the Cherry Grove Pier, which opened in 1952. A new pier in the area will lure more people, but it’s unclear what kind of affect it will have on the Cherry Grove Pier, operations manager Steve Gann said.
“It’s hard to tell,” he said. “Obviously it’s going to draw more people to the area.”
The Cherry Grove Pier, though it’s the only one in North Myrtle Beach now, had its share of competition before Hurricane Hugo wiped out four other piers in the area. The others didn’t rebuild.
Piers are hubs for fishermen and make a nice attraction for others, said Marc Jordan, president of the North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce. Gann says he’s watched couples get engaged on the Cherry Grove Pier and groups reunite years after first making the pier a part of their vacations. Some stop by just to see if the names they carved in the wood have survived through the years, Gann said.
“A pier just kind of pulls you to it,” Jordan said. “The pier idea is a good one. Piers attract people.”
Staff reporter Amanda Kelley contributed to this report.