What do these new state beach property rules mean for you?

Jason Lee

If new beach lines are put into effect, some residents could be left paying $1,000 to apply for a special permit if their beachfront homes are damaged, and most will be restricted on what can be built on their property.

The lines, known as the baseline and setback line, are reevaluated every seven to 10 years in order to calculate erosion rates along the shoreline. From that erosion rate, jurisdictional lines are drawn, known as the setback line and the baseline, dictating what structures can be built along the shoreline.

Within the setback line, the more landward of the two lines, houses as well as “associated infrastructure” including decks, gazebos and other public access structures can be built. If a home is damaged within the setback line it can be repaired up to the size of the original house. Up to 5,000-square-feet of new heated space can also be rebuilt in the setback area.

In the baseline, the more seaward line, wooden walkways, small wooden decks, fishing piers, golf courses, normal landscaping and structures must be authorized by the special permit. If a home is damaged, the special permit must also be received to rebuild the home to its original size.

“It’s an individual critical area permit that someone would apply for with the department,” Elizabeth Vonkolnitz, chief of the Department of Health and Environmental Control’s office of Coastal and Ocean Management, said. “They would apply through our critical area permitting section. It typically takes 90 to 120 days to review.”

The $1,000 is not the only cost associated with the permit, however. In order to apply for the permit, DHEC requires that drawings of the house are submitted, which adds additional costs to the process.

On top of that, the application can be appealed “by anyone who feels they have a case,” Pawleys Island Mayor Bill Otis said.

This year is also the last year that the baseline will move seaward, due to legislation passed in 2016.

“Even with that line staying, not allowing it to go further seaward, it can go further landward, which is probably not what some folks would want, but there’s still the opportunity for folks to build through the special permit provision seaward of that line,” Barbara Neale, senior program analyst with DHEC, said. “So it’s not a no build line, even though now it’s going to stay static as far as ocean-ward movement, there’s still the opportunity for folks to build habitable structures.”

Because of the importance of setting the baseline, many residents and officials asked DHEC for more a longer public comment period so that homeowners will have the chance to understand more of the process, and make an informed decision on what the proposed changes mean for them.

“Please slow down,” Brad Dean, president of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, said. “There are so many property owners that are just now hearing about this. We need to make sure we’re taking the appropriate time. For those that are being impacted, it appears like a freight train that’s moving downhill.”

Public comment can still be submitted to DHEC until Nov. 6. Comments can be submitted on the DHEC website or sent in writing to DHEC-OCRM, Attn: Barbara Nealle, 1362 McMillan Avenue, Suite 400 in Charleston.

Megan Tomasic: 843-626-0343, @MeganTomasic