June 14, 2012 North Myrtle Beach, SC - Haley’s Tuesday vetoes puts funding for dredging the Cherry Grove channels in question. The finger channels are now so shallow at low tide they are smelly mud pits where boats cannot come and go and the main channel is barely navigatible.
Finger channel home at high tideNorth Myrtle Beach Councilman Fred Coyne explains that dredging Cherry Grove is going to be expensive and the cost consists of two efforts -dredging to clear the finger channels between the homes and dredging to clear the common channel that flows to the Cherry Grove Inlet. Property owners on the finger channels will directly benefit from gains in real estate value and recreation while the rest of the community will benefit from the improved recreation from clearing the common channel.
Under SC law, municipalities must levy property taxes equally across all residents. The only exception is when a particular area is designated as an ‘Improvement District.” To tax the finger channel homes separately, the City of North Myrtle Beach would have to designate the finger channel homes as an ‘Improvement District.’ But SC law is very specific for what purposes an ‘Improvement District’ can be created.
Coyne said, “There was no legal provision to set up an ‘Improvement District’ for the purpose of dredging a waterway.”
At the local delegation’s urging, the SC Legislature passed a modification to an existing bill. That bill was changed to allow a municipality to create an “Improvement District” for the dredging of waterways.
The bill passed on June 6 and Haley vetoed it on June 12.
Haley’s veto message said “I am vetoing this bill because it gives improvement districts the ability to tax more homeowners who have not given their consent.” Adding in explanation: “This bill expands a municipal improvement district’s taxing authority to include not only those properties near a canal, but also properties near waterways connected to a canal. This could lead to higher involuntary assessments for property-owners already subject to them, along with new assessments on property-owners who are not currently subject to these levies.
Coyne thinks that the veto probably resulted from the Governor’s office not having a clear understanding of the intent of the legislation. “The council and local delegation is involved and we will work the issue together.”
The city of North Myrtle Beach officially started the Cherry Grove dredging project in 2001 when it hired consultant Wade Beam to apply for a permit to dredge the finger channels. That effort quickly wound up in maze of court hearings and appeals when East Cherry Grove Realty claimed title to the marsh land. In April, the S.C. Supreme Court ruled the marsh land was owned by the state not by East Cherry Grove Realty, but it may not be over. East Cherry Grove Realty had 90 days to appeal – to approximately July 11, 2012.