New entertainment district could surround Surfside pier

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Here's how Surfside's entertainment district might affect some area bars.

Officials here want to create a new entertainment district surrounding the pier to protect the small business community from being gobbled up in the future by condos or hotels.

The Surfside Beach Planning Commission on Tuesday night held a public hearing with local residents and business owners to discuss the matter, then unanimously agreed to recommend that the town council pass the zoning change.

The entertainment district would encompass about six acres surrounding the pier between 1st Avenue South to north of Surfside Drive, and from Dogwood Drive south, then east towards the ocean.

Some residents and business owners expressed concern that an entertainment district might mean more noise and less parking.

Perry Gold, who owns Sophia’s ice cream shop, said he only has six parking spaces for his business, which employs 12 people.

“The Yaupon parking lot is already packed at night,” Gold said. “You can’t find a parking place, and golf carts are parked on the sidewalks.”

Members of the commission and some town councilmen who attended the meeting said the zoning change would not affect parking, and is intended to promote a more pedestrian atmosphere.

“The parking issue is the same today, it will be the same tomorrow,” said Charles Seibold, vice chairman of the planning commission.

Under the new zoning rules, businesses would not be required to have independent parking, and some setbacks would be eliminated.

“The whole point is we are trying to create a walking district,” said Carrie Johnson, planning commissioner.

Commission chairman Mary Ellen Abrams said it would give businesses already there some breathing room to expand.

Ron Ott, mayor pro tem, said the intention is to protect the businesses from becoming a residential area.

“There is an important advantage to having more businesses,” said Jon Harrah, deputy town administrator. “We want to thrive, we want to make the economy good.”

The issue of an entertainment district was first brought to the planning commission in June 2016, but no public hearing was ever held.

At Tuesday’s hearing, more than a dozen people showed up to express their support or opposition to the project.

Bill Howard, the owner of Surf Diner and an Horry County Councilman, said he supported the zoning change and that residential encroachment could damage Surfside’s image as a small seaside town.

The entertainment designation would help brand the area as the boardwalk area and a family beach, officials said.

Rebuilding the pier, which was destroyed by Hurricane Matthew, will cost about $9 million. It will be built 10 feet higher to avoid flooding and storm surge damage.

No construction dates have been set.