Updated comprehensive plan showcases vision for Myrtle Beach over next decade

Grand Strand

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — A new comprehensive plan lays the groundwork for the next decade in the city of Myrtle Beach.

South Carolina requires cities to submit comprehensive plans every 10 years. The state requires the plan to include goals and objectives for the following 10 elements:

  • Population
  • Economic Development
  • Natural Resources
  • Cultural Resources
  • Community Facilities
  • Housing
  • Land Use
  • Transportation
  • Resilience
  • Priority Investment

The Myrtle Beach Planning Commission began working on the city’s plan in May, with a December deadline to adopt the plan. The city’s senior planner, Kelly Mezzapelle called the process of putting the plan together “time consuming.”

“We took all of the plans that the city has been adopting for individual things like housing, and neighborhoods, and bicycles and pedestrians, and all the plans that they’d been working on for the past 10 years, and consolidated them into one comprehensive plan,” Mezzapelle said.

Because of the pandemic,she said there weren’t as many opportunities for public input. However, she said there will be room for input when the plan needs updating.

She said the plan is also about accountability so that residents hold city leaders to their word and make sure they stick to the plan over the next 10 years.

“We want the people in our community to all be working towards the same thing and know what we’re working towards,” Mezzapelle said.

The 2011 plan contained 347 pages; the new plan has 100 pages. Mezzapelle said the 2011 plan was often ignored because of its length.

“It was so big, nobody wanted to pull it down to try to find what it was they were looking for because it was so large,” she said. “So the Planning Commission really wanted to create a document that was usable as a reference.” Hopefully, it’s a much more-usable document than the cumbersome one we’ve had before.”

Mezzapelle said the Planning Commission will refer to the new plan for every zoning request in the next decade to ensure the requests fit with the city’s plan.

“It has always been a challenge in the past to stick to the comprehensive plan,” Mezzapelle said. “The kind of ongoing joke that isn’t really all that funny anymore is that plans get adopted and they’re not dusted off until they need to be updated.”

Housing is one of the 10 elements in the plan. The city’s stated goal is to have housing that is “sustainable, attainable, diverse, and meets a broad range of consumer needs, including those in the education, entry-level/blue-collar, and service-oriented occupations.”

Carol McCall, operations director at the Housing Authority of Myrtle Beach, said there’s a shortage of affordable housing within city limits.

“It’s been a long-existing problem,” McCall said. “It’s getting worse.”

McCall said rent prices are increasing because more people are moving into the area who can afford higher rent prices, pricing many low-wage workers out of housing in Myrtle Beach.

As more people move into the city, and the Grand Strand region, Mezzapelle said the city is planning for more diversification of its economy over the next 10 years.

The city’s economic development goal is “to improve the economic and social well-being of a community through efforts that encourage the creation and retention of jobs, enhance the tax base and improve the quality of life.”

Mezzapelle said one of the challenges for the city in the next decade will be balancing the growing retirement community with the tourism industry.

Mezzapelle said downtown redevelopment is another key part of the city’s economic development considered in the 2021 plan.

“We’ve got some really good momentum going with our downtown redevelopment efforts,” Mezzapelle said. “How do make that the social center of town […] for locals and tourists to come and mingle and enjoy one another?”

At the heart of Myrtle Beach’s downtown redevelopment is a block of renovated buildings on 9th Avenue North. Kelvin Chu, owner of Mrs. Fish Seafood Grill, can see the improvements made to revitalize that block of properties from the front steps of his restaurant on Broadway.

Chu said he hopes that the city continues its efforts downtown so that businesses like his – and those around it – can feed off each other’s growth.

“If they can bring in more other kinds of business, because if you look at this strip, it’s just me, that office, and the coffee shop… so if there’s more business, it’s good for the strip, and for the city, too,” Chu said. “More business, bringing more people, bringing more money.”

The goals and objectives for the elements in the comprehensive plan have estimated time frames between 2022 and the 2030s for some.

City Council will decide on the plan’s adoption before the end of the year.

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