Horry County claims Myrtle Beach owes them money after sale of Seascape Properties; City responds

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CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) — At Horry County’s request, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) will open an investigation into the City of Myrtle Beach’s proposed sale of the federally-obligated Seascape Properties.

The City received the Seascape Properties from the United States at no cost, with the condition that the revenue from those properties would be used for airport purposes.

The FAA has repeatedly confirmed the City’s obligation to transfer that revenue to the County for airport purposes in the past, most recently in a March 2021 letter to the City of Myrtle Beach.

Because the City has stated that it intends to keep the sales proceeds for general municipal purposes, the County previously initiated a state court action in December 2020 due to the immediate nature of the City’s proposed sale.

However, the FAA’s jurisdiction to resolve these issues renders the current court action unnecessary, and the County has voluntarily dismissed the state court action while the FAA conducts its investigation. 

Ultimately, the County anticipates that the FAA will direct that all funds derived from any sale of the Seascape Properties must be transferred to the County for the specific benefit of the airport.

UPDATE: On Friday afternoon, the City of Myrtle Beach provided this response to Horry County’s initial media release:

The City of Myrtle Beach has learned that Horry County has dismissed its December 2020 State court lawsuit seeking to prevent the city from selling two tracts of real property (the “Seascape Properties”) to the current lessees who are operators of two campground sites. 

The County’s April 15, 2021, news release states that it dismissed this lawsuit because:  (1) “[a]t Horry County’s request” the “FAA will open an investigation into the City’s proposed sale of the federally-obligated Seascape Properties,” (2) “the current [State] court action is unnecessary” and (3) the “County anticipates that the FAA will direct that all funds derived from any sale of the Seascape Properties must be transferred to the County for the specific benefit of the airport.”

As the city pointed out in its filings in the now-dismissed State court action, for years the County repeatedly, but unsuccessfully, sought to have courts declare that the County possesses some interest in the Seascape Properties in lawsuits it has filed in both State and Federal courts, dating as far back as 1982.  Confronted with deadlines to appeal from the recent State court orders denying it an injunction to prevent the sale – which orders were based in part on the State court’s conclusion that the County has no interest in the Seascape Property – and to respond to the city’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit for that reason, the County appears to be asking the Federal government to overcome deficiencies in its legal position. 

Horry County filed what it now concedes was an unnecessary lawsuit.  As the city has consistently pointed out in multiple filings in the State court lawsuit, the Federal government has the right to make a claim in Federal court against the city if it believes that the Seascape Properties are subject to any restrictions imposed on the property by the Federal government.  

In its filings, the city also asserted that any restrictions on the Seascape Properties imposed by the Federal government never required that the city use the property for the benefit of Horry County.  Further, any restrictions were long ago released by the Federal government and waived by Horry County.  Please note the attached historical correspondence from current and former Myrtle Beach city attorneys to officials of the Federal Aviation Administration, detailing the city’s position.  

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