CAB getting out of control in Myrtle Beach

pic-Wax MuseumHere we go again.

The Myrtle Beach Community Board, a city board that reviews business plans and has a well-deserved reputation for its capricious judgment, is doing its best to put the kibosh on a project that could bring jobs and tourism revenue to the City of Myrtle Beach.

This time the CAB is taking exception to Hollywood Wax Museum, a proposed business use for the old NASCAR Cafe, which has largely remained dormant for years.

The large scale museum plans call for a new Hollywood sign, King Kong, and a celebrity version of Mount Rushmore covering the front.

At a meeting Jan. 17, CAB members bombarded representatives from Hollywood Wax Museum and Burroughs & Chapin, owners of the building, with unfavorable comments and criticisms. This comes in spite of tepid support from the City of Myrtle Beach and city council members, who apparently viewed the project as “favorable.”

“Well this would be new, this would be different, but it might fit in with the other lively things that we have here,” city spokesman Mark Kruea told Chronicle television partner WMBF News.

Tell that to the CAB. Never mind that there are restaurants shaped like a pyramid and globe across the street. Never mind also that there’s an upside down building we all call Wonderworks, a project that incidentally the CAB did its best to kill. Wonderworks survived, in part, due to reporting by the Carolina Forest Chronicle.

Local leaders are fond of referring to Orlando, Fla., our community’s main competition when it comes to tourism, as the “300-pound gorilla.” Until the CAB changes its capricious nature, Myrtle Beach might as well be a 150-pound chimpanzee.



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Carolina Forest Recreation Center response sparks greater debate

Posted by Michael Smith on Feb. 1 at 11:45 a.m.

Ever since the Carolina Forest Recreation Center opened a month ago, the feedback has been substantial.

A few common themes have surfaced, whether it’s a Facebook post or a letter to the editor. One of the rubs seems to be with apparent unavailability at the Carolina Forest center.

While some are also critical that they think the $4.5 million facility isn’t up to snuff, most are upset because now that the center is open, they can’t use it.

Those concerns are understandable and I’m confident things will slow down as basketball season draws to a close. Until then, it’s probably also a good idea for Carolina Forest residents to consider using the recreation center during off times.

Some residents also think the center belongs to them. They see it as Carolina Forest’s center and others who use it should be required to pay extra.

This thinking, though not necessarily correct in this instance, is understandable considering how Carolina Forest has been shafted in the past.

Ever since the Carolina Forest Chronicle first reported how pork barrel projects such as the Aynor Overpass and the Glenns Bay Road interchange were fastracked ahead of Carolina Forest, residents here understandably feel left out.

The traffic situations in Aynor and at Glenns Bay Road are infinitesimal compared to Carolina Forest, a view supported by traffic counts listed in public records kept by the S.C. Department of Transportation. The inclusion of the Aynor Overpass and Glenns Bay Road in Riding on a Penny was purely political.

Our expository series on the overpass, however, had an interesting side effect: it emboldened Carolina Forest residents. Soon, every issue was seen through the prism of Carolina Forest being treated as the red headed stepchild, including the rec center.

This is where I differ somewhat.

I do agree Carolina Forest often comes last because of political considerations, but the Carolina Forest Recreation Center is not one of those instances.

The recreation center is virtually identical to facilities built in the Surfside Beach area and Little River. Nearly everyone in Horry County, including the municipalities, pays the same tax rate to the county.

It may feel good to “punish” cities, such as Myrtle Beach, that charge non-residents extra to use rec centers and libraries. But unless the county gives a tax cut to unincorporated residents, the Carolina Forest Recreation Center policies appear just.

That said, I do think Myrtle Beach should rethink its rate structure.

When the city approved the Myrtle Beach tourism tax – it is a tax, and not a tourism development fee – it gave property owners a substantial property tax credit. With property taxes diminishing so much and Carolina Forest residents no doubt shopping in the city limits, a review of the city’s recreation center and library fee structure is reasonable.

The city has historically taken the position that it’s not in the tax collection loop, that it’s the state’s responsibility to rectify illegal tax collections. While I do believe the state is a stakeholder, I also think the city bears responsibility too.

Myrtle Beach aggressively pressed for the tax, passing it without a referendum. The city also vigorously defends the tax like a lion defending its cubs.

By extension, the city should also accept ownership of glitches that have appeared in the tourism tax, and that includes improper collections.

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With nearly $1 billion surprlus, DOT can do better on U.S. 501

Posted by Michael Smith on Jan. 18, 2012 at 2:02 p.m.

While attending a workshop for the media earlier this month, I was blown away that the state was expecting a nearly $1 billion surplus in 2012.

It was at this same workshop a year earlier that state lawmakers – many wearing grim faces – debated over how to address an $800 million shortfall.

A $1.8 billion swing is nothing to sneeze at. Whereas we were once destitute, the state appears to be on firm financial footing heading into the budget writing season.

So imagine my surprise and frustration when I learned that the S.C. Department of Transportation planned to postpone the partial widening of U.S. 501 until 2013, citing lack of resources.

It’s bad enough this is occurring in a windfall year. What’s worse, the money already exists. Federal money is paying for the $2 million project.

The S.C. DOT’s money problems troubles have been well documented in other media reports.

Even Curtis Loftis, the state’s treasury secretary, has blasted the agency, questioning why there are budget shortfalls resulting in contractors not getting paid. Loftis went as far as to accuse the S.C. DOT of only having $3 in one of its prime bank accounts, according to a news release from the treasurer’s office.

Regardless of who’s to blame, government often uses “budget cuts” or “lack of resources” to justify just about anything.

In the 1990s, when the economy was booming, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control cited “dwindling resources” as why mandatory hotel room health inspections were discontinued.

It should be noted that the Grand Strand’s tourism industry generates about $5 billion in revenues, nearly as much as the entire state’s $5.1 billion budget in 2011. Sizeable chunks of that $5 billion are sent to Columbia in the form of taxes and fees.

If it wasn’t for the Grand Strand, South Carolina would’ve been in even more dire straits in 2011 than it was. The Grand Strand bailed out Columbia¬† the same way the Federal Government bailed out banks.

Now that conditions are improving, the state can thank the Strand as well. While it’s dubious the Myrtle Beach tourism tax had anything to do with it – as some local leaders assert – the revitalization of Grand Strand tourism sure did contribute to the state’s economic recovery.

It’s about time state government stops leaning on budget cuts like a crutch and live up to their promises. The state should not only spend the money where it’s most needed, but also where most of it is generated.

And that place is right here in Horry County.

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Horry should spend $9.8 million windfall on roads, library staffing

Posted by Michael Smith on Nov. 18, 2011 at 9:15 a.m.

It happens every budget year.
Members of Horry County Council are told it’s a dire budget year. They hear gloom and doom predictions that revenues will fall far short of expenses.

Sweeping cuts are ordered.

Then, magically, the county’s budget writers “find” unexpected revenues toward the end of the budget cycle. This year, it’s $9.8 million in unassigned budget money.

Predictably, county leaders are already looking for a way to spend it. Salary increases for county employees seems to be the frontrunner.

Here’s a suggestion. Why not take the $9.8 million in taxpayer money and reinvest it into back into the community that paid it?

Ever since 2007, when the Chronicle first began publishing, the county has told us repeatedly it doesn’t have the money to fully widen Carolina Forest Boulevard. Nor does it seem to have the cash to extend Postal Way to Tanger Outlets.

Both could easily be paid for with the $9.8 million with extra cash to spare.

Of more immediate concern is the Carolina Forest library. Although the building itself is set to open in early 2012, there’s no money to hire any employees, meaning the building will likely remain vacant until at least July 1, the deadline for approving the 2012-2013 budget.

Why build a library if you’re not going to ensure it’s staffed?

My hope is that when the county gets a windfall, they remove politics from the discussion and do what’s best for the community.


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High school league right to review MB football film

Posted by Michael Smith on May 1, 2011 at 9:01 a.m.

I read with interest a story about the Conway-Myrtle Beach football game on Sept. 23 in our sister publication, the Horry Independent. I’ve also followed what’s being written in other publications, including discussion forum posts regarding an investigation stemming from that game.

In that story, it was reported that Conway quarterback Mykal Moody was kicked in the head. He suffered a concussion and left the game.

Since then, the matter has been sent to the S.C. High School League, which will review video from the game. Any decisions from the league, including any possible suspensions, will be decided once the league concludes its review. Until that review is complete, it would be premature to further state with certainty what happened in that specific incident.

I will say, however, that penalties are quite common in Myrtle Beach football games. At the Aug. 26 game between Myrtle Beach and Carolina Forest, an inordinate number of face masks, personal fouls and unsportstmenlike conduct flags were thrown. The bulk of them belonged to Myrtle Beach.

Myrtle Beach is an excellent football team that’s extremely well coached. The Seahawks have dominated Class AAA football the past four seasons.

This success, however, seems to have led to a growth in Seahawk swagger. Swagger can be healthy, but it can also be a catalyst for poor decision making. When more than a dozen yellow handkerchiefs are thrown because of late hits and trash talking, it hurts the team.

It should be worth noting that more needless 15-yard penalties were called in the Aug. 26 game between MB and Carolina Forest than in every other CFHS game that’s followed.

Since Aug. 26, the Panthers have outscored their opponents 199-22, and shut out their last three opponents. They accomplished this by playing fundamentally sound football, with very few personal fouls.

Myrtle Beach is a great team, but every dynasty has its ups and downs. A time will come with all of those 15-yard penalties will hurt the Seahawks more than they do today.


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Sumter sports: strong spirit or sore losers?

Posted by Michael Smith on May 1, 2011 at 9:01 a.m.

It has the makings of a bitter rivalry. Some may think one already exists.
For whatever reason, Sumter’s name keeps coming up as Carolina Forest’s new archrival.
The latest in the Sumter vs. Carolina Forest food fight happened April 27 in the Region VI-AAAA track meet.
Carolina Forest’s boys and girls teams appeared to have concluded a sweep at the region meet, but an incident in the final race has led Sumter to protest.
Apparently, the anchor of the CFHS 1,600-meter relay crossed the finish line with an arm hoisted in triumph. Sumter cried foul, calling that taunting.
Now the matter is up for review.
I’m not sure if Sumter feels threatened by Carolina Forest or if it’s just sour grapes, but the incident is the latest in a long line athletic clashes between the Panthers and the Gamecocks.
In recent years, there’s been skirmishes in track, cross country and wrestling.
Sumter protested the results of the 2010 region track meet after film showed CFHS hurdler Mallory Hancock finishing third instead of fourth, which gave the Lady Panthers just enough points to upset the Gamecocks.
“When you have a meet so close in scoring, the appeal is just to make sure the calculations are accurate,” Sumter athletic director David Wright said at the time. “We want to make sure everything is like it should be with no mistakes in math and the figuring of the score is as it should be.”
The Gamecocks also protested a uniform violation committed by the Carolina Forest girls cross country team in the 2010 region meet.
A mere technicality that had no bearing on the Lady Panthers’ performance, three runners were disqualified, robbing CFHS of a region title.
And Sumter also refused to reschedule the 2010 region wrestling meet, which was canceled due to inclement weather. Though Sumter was considered the region favorite,  denying CFHS the chance to compete enabled the Gamecocks to walk away with a region title and Lower State wrestling berth without ever having to step on the mats.
The girls cross country team had a region title stripped due to a technicality concerning a uniform violation. It was Sumter who reported the violation.
Sumter also protested the results of the previous two
It seems to me that Sumter is used to being the Goliath of Class AAAA. The Gamecocks have pretty much dominated in football and are a force in many other prep sports.
Then came along Carolina Forest High School, which is part of a community that grew 506 percent since the 2010 census. CFHS has a population of more than 2,000 students and will likely continue to grow.
As CFHS continues to grow, so does its sports program.
In spring sports, just about every Carolina Forest team has a winning record.
The tennis team is seeded No. 2 in the playoffs. The softball team is on the verge of winning the district title. The boys soccer team is ranked in the Top 5 in Class AAA. The golf team is a great chance at winning the region.
Other sports – including cross country, basketball, volleyball and wrestling – have been successful as well.
The CFHS-Sumter rivalry may have culminated in October 2010, when for the first time in school history Carolina Forest defeated Sumter in football.
I suspect this accomplishment has further stoked the fire burning between the Panthers and Gamecocks.
I’m all for a healthy rivaly – CFHS already has friendly rivalries with Myrtle Beach and Conway – but no school should resort to whistleblowing or technicalities to win.


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Two tenants plan move into Forest Square

Posted by Michael Smith on March 26, 2011 at 1:00 p.m.

My apologies for the two week hiatus from my blog, but I’m happy to report good news appears to be coming to the Forest Square plaza, home of the old Piggly Wiggly.
Multiple sources close to the development are saying two new businesses are coming to the shopping complex at U.S. 501 and Carolina Forest Boulevard.
Because specific details were unavailable as of this posting, I’m only comfortable reporting that a 24-hour gym and a pizzeria plan to move into the center.
The Piggly Wiggly space itself remains vacant, but the new businesses will be locating within the new anchor mall.
Piggly Wiggly pulled out of the plaza in late 2009, citing a glut of grocery stores in the Carolina Forest area and overall economic slowdown.
By Monday, more details on the new tenants should become available. Stay tuned for further updates.


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