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Beaches: Governor’s letter raises hopes for delay in new lines
By Charles Swenson
Gov. Henry McMaster asked state regulators last week to delay implementation of new beachfront jurisdictional lines for a year. But the decision will come before a state board of Health and Environmental Control that has vacant seats for representatives of state’s coastal counties.
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 time frame 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, 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.” The board meets next Thursday.
McMaster cited the role of the beachfront in 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, served on the DHEC board until he was elected last year. His seat is vacant along with one from the 1st Congressional District. “Here we have one of the biggest impact items and there’s no coastal representation,” he said.
Despite that, Hewitt said his talks with lawmakers, agency staff and DHEC board members lead him to believe the board will agree to a delay now that it has a request from McMaster.
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 last week were island property owners.
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