Horry County Council members took their first step toward rezoning land for a 21,000-seat amphitheater this week, but that project’s approval remains far from certain.
Councilman Danny Hardee, whose district includes the proposed site, asked the council to postpone voting on the project earlier this year when the panel was not holding traditional public hearings because of COVID-19 protocols. With those hearings expected to return next month, he brought the issue back to council Tuesday. A public hearing is expected to be held in May. Hardee also wants the developer behind the project to show neighbors detailed plans for the amphitheater, specifically what would be done to alleviate traffic and noise concerns.
“I’m going to do what the people want to do,” Hardee said, adding that the amphitheater developers will have drawings to show residents. “The people behind this, they’ll do their presentation at public input [at a council meeting]. … Then the people will have a chance to come to the podium and say they want it or don’t want it.”
The proposed venue, tentatively dubbed the Myrtle Beach Grand Amphitheater, is planned for a site just north of the S.C. 905/S.C. 22 intersection. Representatives for the organization behind the project said they intend for the site to attract some of the most recognizable names in music, including Drake, Taylor Swift and Metallica.
But many nearby residents oppose the amphitheater idea. During a town hall meeting in February, most speakers blasted the proposal, saying the venue would transform their rural way of life.
“We can’t control who sells land,” neighbor Terri Capps said at the February meeting. “We get that. All we’re asking is don’t put that here please. It will change everything that we stand for. Our chickens will be hollering all night, our goats won’t sleep and our children will cry their heads off. Please don’t do this to us.”
On Tuesday night, council members amended their agenda to pass the first of three votes needed to approve the amphitheater. Hardee said that was done as a procedural strategy so that when the council begins holding regular public input sessions on rezonings next month, residents will have an opportunity to appear before council to share their concerns; they won’t have to call in or provide written comments.
"The people want to be heard," Hardee said. "Instead of just killing it — because I've got some that want it and I've got more that don't want it — I want it to be able to be heard, not by two people on the phone and that's it."
Council members said there likely wouldn’t be enough time to meet the legal requirements for advertising the rezoning hearing before their next meeting on May 4. Therefore, the hearing will likely be at the May 18 meeting.
Marvin Heyd, a representative for the land buyer, said he’s not sure how many people will attend the hearing, but he hopes to persuade them that this proposal is not like the unsuccessful Swamp Fox Entertainment Complex in Marion County. He said his client’s goal is to build the fifth largest amphitheater in the United States.
“Everybody equates it to the Marion kind of amphitheater,” he said. “Typically to get big entertainers across the country … you have to have a bigger amphitheater.”
Heyd and other representatives for the project have said the facility would employ about 25 workers full time and generate about 425 part-time jobs, mostly in security. The venue would hold 24-26 concerts each year, usually on Friday and Saturday nights from 7-11 p.m.
In response to the concerns about noise, the developer plans to use reflecting panels and other design features to mitigate the sound, though Heyd has acknowledged the community would still hear the shows. As for traffic, the state Department of Transportation and county officials would review the developer's plans for improving the roads near the proposed facility. The developer anticipates widening McKinley Shortcut Road to three lanes and possibly making additional changes to S.C. 905.
If the developer is able to secure all the necessary approvals, the target date for opening is April 2023.
Hardee maintains he’s going to listen to his constituents. And if they show up to council chambers and oppose the project, he insists he’ll do the same.
“If they don’t want it, I represent them,” he said. “I ain’t got no investments or nothing to do with that amphitheater. Whatever they want to do, that’s what we’ll do.”