July 22, 2014

Myrtle Beach annexation vote was invalid, city to begin process again

Residents in the Waterside and Bridgeport subdivisions who thought they were going to be annexed into Myrtle Beach city limits after passing a vote last week will have to rally their neighbors all over again.

Residents in the Waterside and Bridgeport subdivisions who thought they were going to be annexed into Myrtle Beach city limits after passing a vote last week will have to rally their neighbors all over again.

Myrtle Beach city attorney Tom Ellenburg told City Council on Tuesday morning that while the polling places in the July 15 annexation election were where Bridgeport and Waterside residents typically vote, they were not within the area proposed to be annexed. The residents voted 56-24 to join the city.

Ellenburg said annexation law requires the ballot boxes to be “wholely and completely” within the area to be annexed so he is recommending the city begin the process again.

The 659 acres proposed for annexation would extend city limits from U.S. 17 Bypass west to the Intracoastal Waterway, including four lots along the bypass. The area goes from Piedmont Industrial Park roughly as far north as Mr. Joe White Avenue in some parts and the Grand Strand Water and Sewer Authority and surrounding land owned by Burroughs & Chapin Co. Inc.

Sandy Martin, director of Horry County Voters Registration and Elections, said it cost $1,500 to run the election last week. That cost paid to place the election notice in The Sun News and for six election workers at the two polling places.

The special election was held last week at the Canal Street Recreation Center and Midway Missionary Baptist Church after 46 of the 170 registered 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.

Martin said once she hears from the city her office will have to look for suitable alternate polling places.

“We’ll have to go to those two developments and see if they have a clubhouse or somewhere that we can [use as a polling place],” she said.

Martin said when selecting a polling place it must meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements and be able to hold the number of voters registered at the precinct.

Bridgeport resident Adrian Weatherwax said she thinks it’s ridiculous that the election must be held again.

“It’s an awful waste of time and energy and money to the taxpayer to have to hold the election again,” she said.

Weatherwax said she doesn’t think having to hold the election again will dissuade residents from voting.

“This might encourage people to vote because we will be right in our neighborhood,” she said. “It will be that much easier than it was the last time. I think we’ll have an even better turnout than the last time.”

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 604 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.

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

Some business owners, including a group of car dealership owners situated along U.S. 17 Bypass, have said the move would cause them to pay drastically higher business license fees if they are in the city’s jurisdiction.

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.

City Council is expected to pass a resolution at the Aug. 12 meeting that begins the annexation process again. Horry County would have to select a date – and new locations – for the special election and publish a notice at least 30 days before the vote.

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