101217 Garden City: Officials hear complaints that drove annexation talk
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Pipe carries sand along the Garden City beachfront for a renourishment project.

Garden City: Officials hear complaints that drove annexation talk

By Nikki Best
Coastal Observer

The possible annexation of the unincorporated Garden City Beach area of Georgetown County to Horry County was considered to be the hot topic of discussion at the community association’s semiannual public meeting. But other matters on the agenda became frontrunners as the meeting progressed.

“Georgetown County treats this region on South Waccamaw Drive worse than a redheaded stepchild,” said Ed Jenkins, a property owner on Garden City Beach. “I’ve seen Horry County do plenty and we just get neglected.” Another property owner said Garden City Beach was being left behind Pawleys Island and Litchfield when it comes to attention from the county. Matters of drainage, dunes and beach renourishment, and safety took precedence that night.

Garden City, like Murrells Inlet, lies in both Horry and Georgetown counties. Because of its proximity to Horry County, and the geography of the spit, residents feel their needs are overlooked by Georgetown County. The meeting seemed to act as a catalyst for unhappy Garden City residents to have their complaints heard by the county government. “They’re here for that reason,” Drew Streett, president of the Garden City Beach Community Association, said. “To address your concerns.”

The Garden City Beach Community Association has been around since 1982. It has about 300 members and a board that meets monthly to discuss issues.

“Well, why doesn’t Georgetown County get up and say something,” Jenkins said.

A lack of communication between the residents and the government has been a two-way street according to County Administrator Sel Hemingway. “I can tell you from the county’s perspective, we have gotten calls from a small number of people over the years, since I’ve been involved in the county, involving issues up here,” he said. “And

certainly I don’t think to elevate it to a position to which it has been published in the media the last couple of weeks.”

South Waccamaw Drive and the roads on the spit fall to state Department of Transportation when it comes to maintenance. One resident complained of the lack of drainage after this week’s rain. He said the water was 6 inches deep in places in front of his home and in seven years he’d never seen anybody from Georgetown County or DOT come clean the drains.

“I got a call last week about drains on the 200-block on South Waccamaw Drive,” Streett said. “I met with DOT and they found the drains I’d received the call about and they sent the equipment to clean out those systems. If there are drainage issues, if they’re full of sand, let us know. I’ll call DOT and get them over here to work on cleaning them out.”

After Hurricane Matthew, the roads in Garden City needed clearing. When an event like that happens, and a county wishes to clean up a DOT road, the county must enter into an agreement with DOT, Hemingway said. Horry County entered into an agreement like that. “We had communication then that [Horry County] was on the ground ready to go and we basically subcontracted, if you will, to Horry County rather than us going back and creating a separate agreement with DOT,” he said. Horry started on its end and worked its way down to the Georgetown end of the spit. “Good, bad, or indifferent, whether you like that, that’s an explanation of how that worked.”

A lot of work is done that way, with the two counties in cooperation, including long-term planning for beach renourishment. “It’s been pointed out here we’ve had two federal projects going on in the last year,” Hemingway said. “The dredging of the inlet was funded by the taxpayers of Georgetown County, and our visitors that pay sales tax as well, but that was a capital project paid for by sales tax.”

The intent of dredging was to place the sand on the beach. The Army Corps of Engineers determined how much goes where and how far the project reaches as far an official disposal site for the sand, Hemingway said. Another project for renourishment was Reach 3, a cooperative effort between Horry and Georgetown counties. “Although the funding comes partially from the federal government and partially from local government, it’s a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers managed project,” Hemingway said. That means the counties do not determine where and how much of the sand is placed along the beach. “It has been pointed out here ironically that the end of Reach 3 and the end of the dredging disposal site, ended here, and there’s a gap between those two points. That is a fact.”

Reach 3 was just completed. An unfortunate byproduct of renourishing a beach is that when sand is placed on the beach, a storm or the ocean can remove it as quickly as it’s placed. It’s a never-ending battle. “I’m convinced of two things, in Georgetown County: when Jesus returns, we’ll still be trying to put sand back on the beach and we’ll still be spraying for mosquitoes,” Hemingway said. “We’ll never fully grasp that problem.”

For Jenkins and other owners, that wasn’t enough. The way the sand was handled from the dredging was irresponsible and then a dune and fence he and his neighbor paid for was removed by contractors, Jenkins said. “We had hundreds of posts left out there from fencing that was previously there and I’m gone for three days and they took my fence, and all the posts down, and they’re not going to put the dune back up,” he said. “This is ridiculous. When I spend my good money to try and help nourish the beach and we get – Georgetown County dropped the ball somewhere. It may not have been you, but somebody needs to step up to the plate and take responsibility.”

Hemingway said the county would do something about the destruction of personal property and that he wanted to hear more.

As far as public safety, complaints ranged from tourists using private property as a walkway, multiple break-ins and poor first responder times. Assistant Sheriff Carter Weaver addressed those concerns.

“We know we have a lot of residents here and that this is an area heavy with a lot of tourism,” he said. “But our main goal is to maintain a high quality of life for the residents, 365. Not just make sure the tourists come back year after year.”

Weaver went on to explain that everything the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office does is computerized and recorded. Everything is time stamped. “We don’t have those numbers here tonight, but we’d love to come back and talk about crime on South Waccamaw Drive, talk about response times and talk about any other issues you have, a legitimate issue that you have because we can bring numbers and reports that are not manipulated. And maybe it would help you understand and it would help us understand.”

One resident complained that entering Georgetown County was like entering a crime zone and should be entered at one’s own risk and that, “something needs to be done about police protection in Georgetown County.” Weaver apologized and offered to sit down with the man. He also suggested a neighborhood watch program and offered to come help the residents set it up.

Streett suggested that Garden City could request accommodations tax funds to set up traffic cameras on South Waccamaw Drive. “If nothing else that would document everyone coming and going,” he said.

“When are we going to talk about the elephant in the room,” asked property owner Erwin Bryant. He meant moving from Georgetown County to Horry County.

Hemingway said he wasn’t there to talk about that, but to listen and identify the issues, and help work them out so that it wouldn’t matter on which side of the border a resident lived.

No concrete action was discussed regarding a possible annexation. No real explanation was given other than it would be a long process and the legislature would have to be involved for Garden City to consolidate in Horry County.

“So you’re saying it’s virtually impossible,” Bryant said.

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