102617 Breaking news: Governor asks for delay in shifting beachfront lines
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Breaking news: Governor asks for delay in shifting beachfront lines

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Gov. Henry McMaster asked state regulators this week to delay implementation of new beachfront jurisdictional lines for a year. The month-long public comment period for the lines ends Nov. 6. The lines are due to take effect by Dec. 31.

On the south end of Pawleys Island and parts of Garden City, the lines will extend state jurisdiction to the second row of houses. Under state law, the lines can never move seaward, reflecting a policy of “retreat from the beach” for development.

But critics say the short timeframe for comment will leave many property owners without the opportunity to react to the change. Although homes may still be built or rebuilt on affected property, owners will need to get special permits from the state Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, a division of the Department of Health and Environmental Control.

In a letter to the DHEC board on Thursday, McMaster asked regulators to “extend the deadline for public comment for the beach jurisdiction line and review proposal until such time as the General Assembly can revisit the issue, which will allow additional public input and debate.”

McMaster cited the importance of the beachfront to the state’s $28 billion tourism industry and called the 30-day comment period “inadequate for a decision that may dramatically and negatively affect our state’s economy.”

State Rep. Lee Hewitt, who has led efforts in the legislature to delay the process, was told by DHEC’s interim director the agency doesn’t have the ability to delay implementation of state law. Lawmakers have discussed convening a special session, but that remains uncertain.

Pawleys Island Mayor Bill Otis, who read McMaster’s letter to property owners gathered for his retirement party, said “this is maybe the best news a lot of our property owners have heard in a long time.” The new lines affect about 120 parcels on the island.

The town has worked since the lines were made public on Oct. 6 to make owners aware of the changes and the potential impact. Otis estimated that the majority of the audience at a public hearing on the lines held in Myrtle Beach this week were island property owners. But Hewitt said elsewhere in the state information has been slow to reach property owners. He and Otis agree that a year’s delay would provide adequate time for review and comment.

Otis also said it would give the legislature a chance to review the retreat policy. He served on a blue ribbon committee that was part of the process in updating the state’s beachfront rules and noted that the committee’s recommendation for “preservation” was replaced in the legislature by “retreat.”

The new lines can be viewed online. Comments can also be made at online.

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