Surfside Beach Planning and Zoning sues town council over new Entertainment District

Surfside Beach Planning and Zoning, along with former councilwoman Beth Kohlmann, are suing the town of Surfside Beach after council passed the Entertainment District last week with several amendments, online records show.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday alleges town officials exempted any new construction in the overlay district — which runs from 1st Avenue South, starting at Dogwood Drive South, down to the ocean and Surfside Drive, starting at Dogwood Drive South — from having to comply with requirements of the Clean Water Act and National Pollutant Discharge and Elimination System.

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Town Council passed the ordinance Oct. 9 establishing the Entertainment District, which prohibits residential construction and promotes commercial businesses. Prior to the passage of the ordinance, Surfside Beach Planning and Zoning recommended regulations for stormwater management and parking.

The planning commission recommended buildings cannot exceed 55 feet and must have a 20-foot front and rear-yard setback, meaning the space between the curb and the building. But council changed that for buildings on Ocean Boulevard, with no setback required.

“The purpose of the setbacks is not only for green space to attract, have a nice environment, it also was to help with stormwater,” Sabrina Morris, director of Planning and Zoning, said at the council meeting.

Council also changed rules for parking, based off the number of employees, chairs and other factors, and changed the recommended outdoor entertainment time from 10 p.m. to midnight.

Because council passed the ordinance with the amendments, it is no longer legal, the lawsuit alleges.

According to the suit, the decision by council puts nearby properties in danger, potentially “causing irreparable harm to those properties.”

The suit also alleges Town Council exempted all restoration of nonconforming businesses from compliance with the local flood damage prevention ordinance, which could result in higher flood insurance premiums.

The suit is asking the court to make the ordinance illegal and unenforceable and to issue the plaintiffs’ attorney fees.

Kohlmann declined an interview with The Sun News. Surfside Beach Mayor Bob Childs could not provide any further information on the suit.