092817 Garden City: Storm response prompts talk of leaving county
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Sand dredged from Murrells Inlet was spread on the beach at Garden City this year.

Garden City: Storm response prompts talk of leaving county

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

The response of local government to storms has led to renewed talk about the south end of Garden City leaving Georgetown County for Horry County. It is among the issues up for discussion next month at the area community association’s annual meeting.

“There are a couple of people that have complained, not a lot,” said Drew Streett, president of the Garden City Beach Community Association. “We’re looking for direction from the membership.”

The association also heard talk of annexation in 2000 following property tax reassessment in Georgetown County, when some residents questioned whether they were getting a level of service commensurate with their tax revenue. “It comes back to the age-old argument that people all along the Waccamaw Neck feel that they pay all the taxes and don’t get the services,” state Rep. Lee Hewitt said. He will be among the speakers at the association meeting.

Following Hurricane Matthew last October, residents in the Georgetown County portion of Garden City saw their neighbors streets in Horry County being cleared of sand while they waited. “Horry County pushed up dunes in front of their property, Georgetown County did not,” Streett said. “That’s where a lot of this is coming from.”

Georgetown County Administrator Sel Hemingway said the county actually contracted with Horry to remove sand from the roads after Matthew. The roads belong to the state, but the Department of Transportation granted local government permission to do the clearing on its behalf. The process was governed by the need to get reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But since Horry County was already at work, Georgetown County arranged for its crews to continue south, Hemingway said.

He hasn’t heard any calls from Garden City property owners to leave Georgetown County, but he did hear complaints about walkway repairs after Matthew. The county had 55 walkways to repair from Garden City to Litchfield. A contractor began by repairing every other walkway, starting at Garden City. Work was not completed until late spring.

“Lesson learned,” Hemingway said. “In hindsight, I would employ more than one contractor.”

On the beach, Georgetown County is funding a portion of a major renourishment project that starts in Myrtle Beach. The work at Garden City should be finished in a couple of weeks, Hemingway said. The area also received sand from a county-funded dredging project in Murrells Inlet. If Garden City left Georgetown County, it isn’t likely sand from future dredging projects would go to the beach there, he added.

Leaving would require a petition by property owners for an election. They would then have to vote to leave and Horry County voters would have to agree to accept them.

Officials from both counties have been invited to the community association meeting on Oct. 9. Streett said there are about 900 properties in the Georgetown County portion of the community. He estimates 60 percent are rented to vacationers.

Losing the property tax revenue would have an impact on the county and the school district, which has just started capital improvements funded by a $165 million bond referendum. The area is also a major source of local and state accommodations tax revenue, which pays for services and tourism promotion.

Annexation could also have an impact on the view from Murrells Inlet. The zoning has kept the density and building heights low in the Georgetown County portion of Garden City, said Hewitt, who is the owner of Garden City Realty. Streett is a broker at the firm. “I get the sense that people like staying in the lower end of Garden City because it is lower density, it’s single-family,” Hewitt said.

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