February 1, 2013

Several layers of approvals remain for proposed pier in North Myrtle Beach

A proposal to build a pier in North Myrtle Beach -- which would be the first new pier along the Grand Strand in 20 years -- still has a ways to go before it becomes reality.

A proposal to build a pier in North Myrtle Beach -- which would be the first new pier along the Grand Strand in 20 years -- still has a ways to go before it becomes reality.

A zoning change and several layers of approvals are needed before work could begin on the proposed 1,200-foot-long pier at Sea Mountain Highway.

If it gets the needed approvals, the earliest it would open would be 2015, said Frank Boulineau, the North Myrtle Beach businessman who wants to build the pier.

The project also would include supporting amenities such as a restaurant, tackle shop and grill serving hamburgers and other quick eats. Some of those details still are being sorted out, Boulineau said, with “a lot of different options there.”

Plans still must be drawn, engineering done and -- the most important -- lining up the financing to make it happen.

“I’ve always wanted to do a pier,” Boulineau said, adding that a price tag for the project hasn’t yet been determined. “I think it will be very good for the economics of North Myrtle Beach.”

Construction would take between six to nine months, he said. Those who use the pier would pay a fee, though Boulineau said he hasn’t determined how much it would be.

Boulineau has been working on the pier for at least three years and already has key approvals from the S.C. Department of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to documents and officials. The permit from the Corps was approved in March 2012 and is good until March 2017.

But there are still more approvals needed, starting with a zoning change the North Myrtle Beach City Council will consider Monday night.

The zoning change, which is up for a final vote, is a needed step that would allow parking for the pier, which isn’t allowed under the current W-1 zoning. The council will consider eliminating the W-1 zoning, which would allow the existing zones behind it to move forward.

“This would mean that within his new zone he could provide pier parking,” city spokesman Pat Dowling said in an email.

If the council approves the change, Boulineau then would need approval from the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals because a pier would be considered a “special exception” within the new zone. If that board signs off on it, it then would go to the city’s Technical Review Committee, a group of staff members that will review it to ensure the project meets city zoning and building code requirements, Dowling said.

If those approvals are granted, the final step is getting a building permit from the city.

A proposal for the pier hasn’t yet been submitted to the city, though North Myrtle Beach officials reviewed the documents submitted to OCRM and the Corps, Dowling said.

This would be the second public pier in North Myrtle Beach; there’s already the Cherry Grove Pier.

It also would be the first new pier along the Grand Strand since Apache Pier debuted in 1993. Others were rebuilt in the early 1990s after Hurricane Hugo smashed them in 1989, though many, including several in the North Myrtle Beach area, did not rebuild.

New piers aren’t often proposed along the Grand Strand, mainly because of the cost of building one and the risk of damage from hurricanes, officials have said.

The Grand Strand has eight public piers dotting the coastline from Garden City Beach to Cherry Grove.

That’s enough, said Larry Schelero, a Conway resident who owns a condominium in North Myrtle Beach that he uses on the weekends and when relatives visit.

Another pier would create more traffic, lead to debris on the beach and attract sharks, he said, adding that he prefers the open beach in that area stay the way it is.

“What benefit is it?” he said. “There’s absolutely no benefit.”

A new pier would give North Myrtle Beach an attraction that will give visitors a reason to stay in the city, Boulineau said.

“North Myrtle Beach needs more things to hold them here, keep them in town,” he said. “Fishing piers are very popular.”

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