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Appeals board upholds permits for inlet reality show

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Members of the Georgetown County Zoning Board of Adjustments found no fault Thursday with the way county planning and zoning officials issued permits to a reality television production company to film in Murrells Inlet.

The board denied an appeal of permits for an office and storage trailers issued to 495 Productions by inlet resident Warren Stedman, who lived near King’s Krest, the house the show’s crew rented for four weeks for filming.

Stedman complained about noise cast members of the show, tentatively called “Party Down South,” made at night and made a complaint under the county noise ordinance against a show producer last month.

He told board members that living within 60 yards of the filming had caused his family “a great deal of anguish and pain.”

Boyd Johnson, the county planning director, said the show’s producers applied for permits for a contractor’s office and storage trailers. County regulations permit the location of temporary facilities for one year within 400 feet of the property line.

The crux of the case came down to the definition of a “contractor.” Stedman’s lawyer, Alan O’Kelly, said issuing the permit was an error because the contractor’s office and storage units are for construction, renovation or remodeling. “These permits turned what was a rental house into a production facility, which I don’t think is permitted.” The county’s ordinance says no land or structure can be used for purposes unless specifically allowed, he said. Filming a reality television show is not permitted in a residential district.

Stedman said county officials gave “a wink and a nod” to the show’s producers when they claimed to be contractors.

Johnson said the term contractor is not specifically defined in the county ordinances and is not limited to construction. The zoning administrator has authority to issue permits if conditions are met.

County attorney Wesley Bryant cautioned board members that they should refrain from creating a new zoning definition. Their scope was narrow: Was the permit issued legally?

Board member David Greene moved to remand the issue back to Georgetown County Council. The board’s attorney, Charles Smith, said the council had no authority to make a decision in this case. “This board is their only relief,” he said of the plaintiffs.

The board voted 4-1 to deny the appeal with Greene, Amy Brandon, James Holmes and chairman Johnny Weaver in the majority. Eugene Gilfillin cast the lone vote in favor of the appeal.

Any further appeal would go to Circuit Court.

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