Proposed pier in North Myrtle Beach on hold for now

Don’t expect to see that proposed new pier popping up in North Myrtle Beach any time soon.

The project to build a pier at Sea Mountain Highway -- the first new public pier along the Grand Strand in 20 years -- has become less of a priority, said businessman Frank Boulineau, whose work on the plan surfaced in early 2013.

He said he’s been focusing on other projects such as remodeling at his grocery store, and has been waiting to see if the economy is back on stable footing before diving into the pier project.

“It’s just kind of on hold right now,” he said. “It’s kind of been on the backburner.”

Boulineau said he still wants to build the pier; the initial plan proposed a 1,200-foot-long pier that would include supporting amenities such as a restaurant, tackle shop and grill, though a final plan hasn’t yet been hashed out. The cost also hasn’t yet been determined. Boulineau said last year that those who use the pier would pay a fee, but that hasn’t been set yet either.

“It won’t make anybody rich but it will be good for the community,” Boulineau said.

He said a pier would help North Myrtle Beach’s economy by giving visitors something else to do.

“We need more beach-oriented things to do,” he said.

But some residents don’t want another pier on the north end, saying it would create more traffic, lead to debris on the beach and attract sharks.

“There’s absolutely no reason it should be there,” said Larry Schelero, a Conway resident who owns a condominium in Springs Tower, near where the pier would be built.

A year ago, North Myrtle Beach City Council unanimously approved extending zoning districts toward the beach, which would allow for parking for the proposed pier at Sea Mountain Highway. But the pier still has several layers of approvals to go through before moving forward, including submitting a formal proposal to the city and getting approval from the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals because the pier is considered a “special exception” in the zoning.

The plan then would have to stop by the city’s Technical Review Committee -- a group of staff members that review projects to ensure they meet city zoning and building code requirements. The final step is getting a building permit from the city.

None of those have been checked off the list yet. But Boulineau does have key approvals from the S.C. Department of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The permit from the Corps, which was approved in March 2012, is good until March 2017.

“That’s not a problem,” Boulineau said.

Work won’t start this year, but there’s a possibility it could begin next year, he said.

If the pier is built, it would be the first new additional public pier along the Grand Strand since Apache Pier debuted in 1993. New public 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 Cherry Grove to Garden City Beach. If the new pier is built, it would be the second public pier in North Myrtle Beach; there’s already Cherry Grove Pier.

Schelero said a new pier would only divide business between the piers, adding that there’s a petition with about 1,000 signatures of people who don’t want the pier built.

Boulineau said there’s demand to keep all of the piers busy, reminiscing about how prior to Hurricane Hugo that wiped many of them away, several operated in the North Myrtle Beach area and they all did well.

“It was good for everybody, I think,” he said.