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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