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Land use: Film rules make administrator a movie mogul
By Jason Lesley
Residents of the waterfront residential neighborhood in Murrells Inlet where a reality television show caused disturbances and hard feelings during filming say they are happy with a proposed county film ordinance that won preliminary approval this week.
The ordinance, approved on second reading Tuesday, will require a $1,000 permit with numerous restrictions that include no filming, site work, preparation, staging or storage within 500 feet of neighborhoods zoned for half- or quarter-acre residential lots east of Business 17.
That area includes King’s Krest, a large house on the waterfront that was rented for the filming of the reality show “Party Down South” for the Country Music Channel in August.
“We like it,” said Leon Rice, whose family owns the house, Marshmere, next door to King’s Krest. “This invites film production companies to come back but with a permit requiring reasonable restrictions. Good regulations make good neighbors. This will get our neighborhood straightened out.”
Five Murrells Inlet residents in the audience at the council meeting stood to show their approval of the ordinance.
Rice said he and his neighbors were surprised and overwhelmed when the cast and crew of “Party Down South” moved into King’s Krest with trucks, modular buildings, flood lights and movie sets. “They commenced to do their thing: noise and lights 24/7,” Rice said. “Despite our pleasant requests to tone it down, they carried on.”
The ordinance will prevent county residents from being blind-sided by film crews moving into their neighborhoods. It calls for filming companies to notify all businesses and residents within 500 feet of the proposed filming activity in writing 30 days prior to starting.
Complaints about “Party Down South” came when filming occurred late at night. Rice said the cast and crew were on a different schedule than residents, sleeping late and staying up until the wee hours of the morning. Another neighbor, Warren Stedman, said the noise kept his daughter awake on school nights. The proposed county ordinance will limit the hours of film production on the Waccamaw Neck between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m.
The ordinance says proposed filming, storage and work sites as well as the anticipated number of days planned for the job must be disclosed.
The ordinance also requires a detailed statement of the character or nature of the proposed filming activities. One of the complaints about “Party Down South” was that it would portray Murrells Inlet in a negative light. Officials said they could not control content once filming had begun.
Film producers must include plans for any activity which may cause public alarm such as the use of animals, pyrotechnics, gunfire, crashes, or loud or low-flying vehicles. Use of special effects like explosives or fire will require a permit from the Georgetown County, Midway or Murrells Inlet/Garden City fire districts. Use of public water from hydrants will also require a permit from the fire districts and the water utility provider.
Film companies will be required to work with the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office on traffic control unless responsibility is transferred to the highway patrol. Traffic cannot be blocked during rush hours: 7-9 a.m., noon-1:30 p.m. and 4:30-6 p.m.
The ordinance addresses parking restrictions, clean-up, alterations to county property, insurance requirements and indemnity for the county resulting from filming.
The ordinance grants the county administrator broad authority to issue, deny and revoke permits. The administrator may change or waive provisions of the ordinance for the public’s safety or convenience.
Violation of the ordinance will be considered a misdemeanor with a $500 fine and/or 30 days in jail as punishment for each occurrence.
A permit will not be required for news coverage or school projects. Production companies, businesses or organizations with a cast and crew of no more than three persons will also be exempt.