Myrtle Beach, Horry Co. at impasse in tourism tax battle; city plans to prosecute

Grand Strand

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – The mediator in the ongoing hospitality fee battle between Myrtle Beach and Horry County has declared an impasse, and the city is ready to “vigorously prosecute.”

Contrary to what the
spokesman for the City
has stated, the County
stands willing to settle,

but will not participate
in a scheme of diversion
of public monies for
private gain, will not
participate in a fictitious
class-action scheme,
and will not exclude

municipalities from
the settlement, as the
City is willing to do.

– HORRY COUNTY

 “Horry County Council rejected the negotiated agreement, which its own authorized representative had previously approved,” the city stated, saying officials were disappointed in the county’s “eleventh-hour rejection during a special City Council meeting on December 19.”

A statement released by the city on Monday said an agreement was approved by Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach, Surfside Beach, Atlantic Beach and Aynor that would have funded both I-73 and SC 22 improvements, but Horry County “is unwilling to settle.”

But Horry County officials fired back on Monday saying the county disagrees with many of the city’s assertions and stands willing to settle.  The county made four major points in disagreement:

  • The county was more engaged in the process since no elected officials from any of the municipalities attended even one of the mediation sessions. At every hour of the mediation at least two Horry County Council members attended and Chairman Gardner and Councilman Loftus attended each mediation session.
  • That the settlement agreement in principle was “previously approved” by the County’s “own authorized representative” is another example of “deceptive manipulation.” There never was an agreement in principle because none could exist unless voted on, the county reports.
  • Third, the fact that the settlement agreement in principle included funding for I-73 and improvements to SC 22 were the County’s ideas, as expressly stated by the Mayor of Myrtle Beach to the Governor. The Mayor said that this litigation had nothing to do with I-73, and that it was the County that imposed that condition upon the City during settlement discussions. 
  • Horry County Council did not reject the negotiated agreement, but agreed in principle upon condition – that all participating municipalities consented to the settlement and spending be in accordance with the law.

The county’s statement, released by Kelly Moore, concluded: “In short, contrary to what the spokesman for the City has stated, the County stands willing to settle, but will not participate in a scheme of diversion of public monies for private gain, will not participate in a fictitious class-action scheme, and will not exclude municipalities from the settlement, as the City is willing to do.

“And the County will continue to vigorously defend the flawed litigation initiated and prosecuted by the City, litigation that at the hands of the City already has cost over a million dollars of taxpayer money to pursue, for the best interests of the County’s residents and visitors.”

Last March, the city sued the county, claiming the county had been illegally collecting tens of millions of dollars a year through the hospitality fee.

On June 21, a judge ruled in favor of Myrtle Beach, which claimed in court documents that an agreement to give portions of hospitality taxes and fees to Horry County had expired. The judge denied an injunction which would have forced Myrtle Beach to continue giving the money to Horry County.

Days later, Horry County leaders said they intended to continue collecting the money from other municipalities in the county such as North Myrtle Beach, Conway, Surfside, Loris, Aynor, etc.

The judge later clarified his statement saying that the decision also applied for other municipalities in Horry County, not allowing them to take hospitality tax dollars from cities like Surfside Beach, Conway and North Myrtle Beach.

Count on News13 for updates on this ongoing legal battle.

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