A human chain briefly formed around Jack Thompson’s photo studio in downtown Myrtle Beach on Wednesday afternoon as property owners and supporters met to deal with the city’s use of eminent domain.
Myrtle Beach may use the legal procedure to force two properties to sell: House Parts LLC at 801 N. Kings Hwy and Thompson’s studio at 503 Ninth Ave. N. The city is working to put together land for a library and children’s museum.
But John Pruett, a friend of Thompson’s, said he’s starting a group to circulate petitions against the forced sales and to raise money.
“We’re trying to raise a small amount of legal support, maybe $10,000...and divide that among the business owners that need it,” Pruett said.
He said his group, Freedom Defense Myrtle Beach, is not against a new library, but is opposed to its placement and what Pruett described as infringement on property rights.
A copy of the petition provided to The Sun News by Pruett reads, “We, the undersigned, as concerned citizens, urge our leaders to act now to allow these individual property owners to continue to own their privately held land and buildings and to run businesses or rent their buildings without unfair interference by the city.”
Myrtle Beach city officials have said the library and children’s museum, run by EdVenture, will help develop an area with several empty storefronts. The superblock, the downtown block that is home to both properties that might be forced to sell, has also recently seen crime as five were injured in a shooting inside a club in November.
Pam Davis, whose father owns the building where Thompson’s studio is located, said the group outside the studio this afternoon chanted “Don’t tear it down.” Pruett and Davis said the group of residents and business owners was gathered there after a meeting of the Downtown Redevelopment Corp., the nonprofit arm of the city that is the official buyer as Myrtle Beach puts together parcels for the project.
The DRC is using a $10 million pool of loans to finance the project.
Davis, who said at a public meeting last month that she’d just finished an over four-year eminent domain proceeding with North Myrtle Beach, said Wednesday that one of the reasons her family doesn’t want to sell is because they believe the market it on the rise.
But, she said, some reasons for holding on to the building are more personal.
“What’s your value on sentimental? What’s your value on that?” she said.