With so much news in the Myrtle Beach area this year there were several stories that are worth mentioning in the look back at the top stories of 2012.
Here’s a brief description of each:
Neighborhood declares war on helicopters
Helicopter Adventures, a tour company, opened in late May at Broadway at the Beach and received flack about noise from some Plantation Point residents. The company changed its flight paths in an effort to ease the effect on neighbors. The company opened a ticket booth at Broadway at the Beach with a takeoff and landing spot nearby off 21st Avenue North behind NASCAR SpeedPark. The attraction remains open, weather permitting.
After months of construction, officials dedicated in August the $18 million Aynor overpass as the Julius H. Goodson Overpass, a route over U.S. 501 that connects the town. The Aynor overpass was one of the 15 projects chosen by the sales tax commission ahead of the November 2006 vote on the one cent capital projects sales tax for road projects.
Meanwhile, closer to Myrtle Beach motorists traveling on the south end continue to deal with construction along U.S. 17 Bypass as the $100 million overpass is being built at the backgate. It is expected to be completed in the fall of 2014.
Pawleys Island development
Residents in Pawleys Island spoke out against plans for the proposed redevelopment of the Pawleys Plaza during a Georgetown County Planning Commission meeting in September.
Mount Pleasant-based Sunbelt Ventures acquired the property in July and wants to redevelop the property and increasing the size to allow for an anchor store. But residents were worried about a big box store coming to the community.
The proposal was deferred until Jan. 8, said Jackie Broach, Georgetown County spokeswoman.
The plans for Pawleys Plaza include traffic changes to Petigru Drive and Waverly Road. Sunbelt Ventures officials said they hope to increase of the largest building size from 84,300 square feet to 119,000 square feet and increase the entire size of the plaza by about 5 acres.
The redevelopment would cost $20 million and Sunbelt said it could create 200 to 300 jobs.
Dentist wins millions from Divine Dining group owner
Myrtle Beach dentist Wade Nichols has obtained an $8.6 million judgment against Jack Divine IV, owner of the Divine Dining Group, in a settlement agreement that could force some of the group’s restaurants into receivership if the two sides cannot work out a suitable repayment plan.
Divine also must supply Nichols with a list of all assets and collateral he has available to secure the judgment, according to a consent order filed in February in Horry County and signed by Circuit Court Judge Steven John.
Nichols and Divine agreed to the settlement in order to end a series of lawsuits in which Nichols said Divine failed to repay money he borrowed to open restaurants at The Market Common-Myrtle Beach development.
The judgment is against Divine personally, although Divine Dining Group was named as a defendant in one of the lawsuits.
Prior to the settlement, Divine said in court documents that he did not owe money to Nichols. Divine said the dentist misunderstood that his money was an investment in The Market Common restaurants and not a loan.
Divine Dining’s restaurants at The Market Common include Divine Prime, Nacho Hippo and Ultimate California Pizza. Another restaurant, Roy & Sid’s American Kitchen, closed in 2010.
Most of the money Nichols loaned to Divine in 2007 came from a pension plan the 62-year-old dentist had set up for himself.
The settlement also clears the way for Bank of North Carolina to try and recoup a $5.5 million mortgage it gave to Divine for three parcels of land in Murrells Inlet. Nichols had claimed an interest in the property, saying Divine pledged it as collateral for some of the money he borrowed. The settlement calls for Bank of North Carolina to market the property and give Nichols 10 percent of the sale proceeds. If a buyer can’t be found, the bank will foreclose on the property.
In 2012, Atlantic Beach residents saw upheaval in the form of multiple changes in the leadership, the firing of the town’s police force and election protest filings.
Earlier this month, Town Council voted to release Town Manager Calvin Blanton of all duties and put him on administrative leave with pay pending a hearing and strip Councilwoman Carolyn Cole of her duties as mayor pro tem. Cole, Blanton and Councilwoman Windy Price were not at that meeting.
Earlier this year, council members confirmed the police chief, the last man remaining from a three-person force, had left the town because he wasn’t getting paid. The town is currently being patrolled by Horry County police.
Town officials also are awaiting the outcome of an appeal filed with the S.C. Supreme Court in reference to the results of the May 22 special election in Atlantic Beach. It is the second appeal filed in the election.
Both Mayor Retha Pierce and Price were mayoral candidates in May’s special election. Councilman Jake Evans won the election with 84 votes to incumbent Pierce’s five and Price’s one.
The two appealed the results with the Horry County Circuit Court. Both appeals were dismissed and the results affirmed.
In their appeals, Pierce and Price made allegations of voter intimidation and that the election was improper. Their cases were separate, and heard by two different judges – Judge Derham Cole for Price and Judge Larry Hyman for Pierce.
Evans still hasn’t been sworn in as mayor, as the cases continue to move through the court system.
Blue Crab festival survives
A scaled back Blue Crab Festival was held in May after it was canceled following a debate about the number of vendors, their location, parking, transportation and security. Officials had planned to suspend the festival for a year and return in 2013, but outcry from residents resurrected the two-day annual event.
Horry County leader shuffle
It was a year of changes for Horry County leaders.
A new police chief, fire chief and county administrator took the reins in their respective departments this year.
In June, Chris Eldridge became Horry County’s next administrator following the November 2011 resignation of John Weaver. Eldridge had been the city administrator for Georgetown since March 2009.
Interim County Administrator Steve Gosnell, the head of infrastructure and regulation, served as the administrator following Weaver’s resignation.
In September, Saundra Rhodes was officially sworn-in as the Horry County Police Chief. She served as the interim chief following the retirement of former chief Johnny Morgan.
Before being named interim chief of police, Rhodes served as a captain in the Horry County Police Department for nearly six years. She has served in law enforcement since 1993, all in the county, according to her resume. Rhodes also has served as an adjunct professor at Horry Georgetown Technical College since August 2009, teaching classes in crisis intervention, police administration, community-oriented policing and criminal investigations.
A month later in October, Hanover County, Va., Fire-EMS Chief Frederick Crosby was named the new chief of Horry County Fire Rescue. Crosby, who began work a month later in Horry County, began his career as a volunteer firefighter at the age of 16.
Crosby took over for interim Chief Kenneth Bean, who oversaw the department since April 13 after former chief Garry Alderman announced his request for reassignment because of personal reasons.
A sex offender living next door
A story that sparked some heated discussions among readers was the one of a sex offender living next door to a family that included a 10-year-old girl, who accused him in the crime.
In September, Chris Smith talked about his outrage that Kerry Dane Marlowe still lives next door.
Marlowe has been convicted of criminal solicitation of a minor and is a registered sex offender because of an encounter between Marlowe and Smith’s 10-year-old daughter last fall across the chain link fence that separates their yards.
Accounts differ about what happened then and about what transpired between that day and the date of Marlowe’s sentencing hearing in mid-June.
According to Chris Smith, his daughter was playing with Marlowe’s cat one day in the shade of an evergreen near the fence that separates the two yards. Smith said his daughter told him that Marlowe, who was standing on his side of the fence, started what would have been a criminal conversation by asking the 10-year-old her bra size. He then said he wanted to rub lotion on her, exposed himself to her and leaned over the fence to kiss her, Smith said.
The Sun News does not use the name of victims in sex-related charges. Smith gave approval to use his name.
According to Candice Lively, senior assistant 15th District solicitor who prosecuted the case, Marlowe did not try to grope the girl, but admitted he was drunk and that he asked her if she would sleep with him.
According to Marlowe’s family, he was drunk and didn’t remember anything. Marlowe could not be reached by The Sun News at the time of the publication of the story.
After calming his daughter down and hearing what she said about the encounter, Smith said he called the Horry County Police, who arrested Marlowe within days on a charge of committing a lewd act on a minor.
At his probation hearing, Marlowe was ordered to wear an ankle bracelet so police could track his movement, and not to go within a mile of the neighborhood, Smith said.
Later, Marlowe pleaded guilty to criminal solicitation of a minor and was sentenced to four years’ probation and to stay at least 30 feet from Smith’s daughter. He moved back into his house next door to Smith’s the day after the sentencing hearing.
Smith has lived in his house 10 years and said Marlowe has been his next door neighbor for six of them.
Hells Angels bust
Following an 18-month investigation in April, Horry County police conducted Operation Red Harvest, which targeted a drug operation that involved members of the Hells Angels motorcycle club.
Horry County police arrested 33 people in the operation and executed search warrants at 10 locations in Horry County and two in Georgetown County following a grand jury handing down 226 sealed indictments, authorities said.
Police said everyone arrested was a member of or affiliated with the local chapter of the Hells Angels motorcycle club. The charges stem from growing and selling marijuana and some have been charged in the assault of Michael Marsh, a Myrtle Beach police officer, in April 2011 at a cookout.
Dog walks 500 miles
In January, a new Myrtle Beach resident was reunited with his 2-year-old black Labrador retriever after it walked about 500 miles from his father’s home in Virginia.
Mark Wessells didn’t think he’d ever see his dog again after leaving it with his father in Virginia while he moved, but Brett Gallagher found the lab in a Carolina Forest subdivision. He asked around the neighborhood, but nobody had reported a missing dog. When Gallagher took the dog in for a checkup, a veterinarian found a microchip identifying it as Buck and returned it to Wessells.