Residents in the Bridgeport and Waterside neighborhoods of Horry County could soon become citizens of Myrtle Beach after the majority of voters who participated in Tuesday’s special election voted in favor of annexation.
If Myrtle Beach City Council approves the annexation it will bring about 659 acres into the city, about 604 of which is commercial property.
Bill and Tina Glenn, who said they have lived in Bridgeport for 20 years, said they’ve always considered themselves city residents because they leave east of the Intracoastal Waterway.
“I’d like to have a city sticker and to be able to vote for City Council,” Tina Glenn said Tuesday after voting.
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“Plus it will cut property taxes,” Bill Glenn said.
Steve Richardson said he planned to vote for annexation but was unable to because his home in Bridgeport is not his primary residence.
“Prayerfully the city will take over the roads,” he said. “They’re in poor condition.”
The special election was held after 46 of the 170 voters that lived in the Bridgeport and Waterside subdivisions of Horry County – both located off of U.S. 501 – signed a petition between September and November 2012. As of Tuesday, there were 186 registered voters in the two neighborhoods.
The area 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.
Edna Wright, growth coordinator in the Myrtle Beach planning department, said if City Council approves the annexation, they also would have to approve a separate ordinance to accept the roads.
That is why 10-year Bridgeport resident Melissa Bilotta said she voted against the annexation.
“Road maintenance – it’s not a guarantee,” she said. “The city may take the roads, but they don’t have to.”
Michael Jandrisits, who also has lived in Bridgeport for 10 years, said he voted against the annexation for the same reason.
“The city doesn’t want this annexation so they can fix our roads, they’re doing this so they can get money from the businesses on Jason Boulevard,” he said.
The commercial property included in the proposed annexation has drawn criticism from some affected business owners.
Thomas Brittain, who represents owners of two car dealerships in the area, said he plans to file a lawsuit to fight the annexation.
According to state law, 25 percent of the registered voters in the designated area can petition to hold a special election to decide to be annexed into the city.
“This could change the way annexation takes place in South Carolina,” Brittain said. “It’s worth letting the courts decide.”
Only registered voters who live in the area proposed for annexation could vote in Tuesday’s election.
“A lot of times you say, ‘Got to the polls and vote,’” Brittain said. “When you don’t have a vote, what do you do? You go to the courts.”
A city staff report estimated more than $461,000 in additional revenue to Myrtle Beach through the annexation, with the bulk coming from business license fees.
Businesses such as 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 included.
“These municipalities believe that if they want to they can take a neighborhood that needs a lot of work, reach around to the businesses in the area and use them to pay for it,” Brittain said. “It’s annexation on steroids. ... Ninety-seven percent of the [revenue] will come from those business that don’t have a vote.”
A Freedom of Information Act request filed by Brittian with the city of Myrtle Beach that yielded about 1,000 pages of documents and emails and was shared with The Sun News shows the city has been working since at least 2009 to annex the Bridgeport neighborhood.
In July 2013, emails showed that residents were frustrated with the annexation process – which at the time also included residential areas such as Magnolia Pointe off of 48th Avenue North and businesses on Oleander Drive. Not enough residents signed the petition in that area to qualify for annexation.
“If the city were to annex just Magnolia Point[e] it would cost the current taxpayers,” city manager Tom Leath wrote. “We are trying to package the annexation with some commercial property that would offset the loss.
“It is a dicey move and will take some time for Council to get comfortable with,” Leath said in a follow up email.
Steve Moore, superintendent of the city’s street division, said in a December 2013 email that the Bridgeport and Waterside annexation would “cost the city substantially more than can ever be realized.”
A document provided to Brittian showed a number of capital improvement projects in the residential neighborhoods ranging from one to eight years that could cost more than $638,000.
Councilmen Mike Lowder and Randal Wallace voted in March against holding the annexation vote, saying businesses should have a say in whether they are annexed.
“I’ll always vote against an ordinance like this until the law is changed,” Lowder said. “Commercial properties that lie in this area ought to have some say. If it was just the residential properties, I’d support this.”