Rural amphitheater

A developer wants to build a venue near the intersection of S.C. 22 and S.C. 905 that can accommodate 21,000 spectators.

Terri Capps can rattle off the names of families that surround her farm near the intersection of S.C. 905 and S.C. 22.

Some are friends but others are relatives, part of a clan that years ago divided a 100-acre tract into a series of smaller homesteads. Her husband is the fourth generation to own land in this area.

“We live in rural America,” said Capps, who moved from the five-acre farm, where her son now resides, to nearby Royals Circle about two years ago. “We have gardens. We have horses. We have chickens and goats. We didn’t sign up for this.”

“This” would be the proposed Myrtle Beach Grand Amphitheater, an outdoor entertainment complex that a developer said would “become the premier entertainment destination for the Myrtle Beach area,” according to documents submitted to Horry County Government.

Plans call for a sprawling venue on a nearly 77-acre tract that could host major acts such as Blake Shelton, Taylor Swift, Metallica, the Zac Brown Band and Drake.

The complex would hold about 21,000 spectators, records show.   

Despite the proposed venue’s name, the project doesn’t fall inside the Myrtle Beach city limits or those of any other municipality. The land lies in a corridor that county officials have said is more suitable for industrial development, but they have noted that amusement facilities are considered appropriate near highway interchanges.

The landowner does need a rezoning to accommodate the project, which would sit along McKinley Shortcut Road adjacent to a Coca-Cola distribution center. The county’s planning commission has recommended that Horry County Council not approve the rezoning, but that decision ultimately rests with the council.

When the project went before county council last month, councilman Danny Hardee, whose district includes the site, recommended the panel defer voting on the rezoning until neighbors could hold a town hall meeting to discuss the project with county staff. Other council members agreed, and that meeting has been scheduled for 6 p.m. Feb. 25 at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church.

“Planning and zoning and the county councilman wanted to bring the folks in the community together where they could voice their concerns,” said the Rev. Mack Hutson, the church’s pastor. “There is some folks that’s concerned about it.”

Marvin Heyd, the agent representing the developer, said the group planning the project spent two years looking for land.

“It was kind of like the perfect location, being close to the hotels and the beach,” he said. “It seemed like it would less intrusive because there are not a lot of subdivisions [there].”

Heyd said the developer does understand that there are people who live near the property and he doesn’t want them to feel “invaded.” He hopes that next week’s meeting will allow the developer to address residents’ concerns about noise and traffic. 

He stressed that the venue would host just 24 concerts each year; those would typically happen on Saturdays and be over by 11 p.m.

Although he acknowledged that some concertgoers would travel S.C. 905, he suspects most would take S.C. 22, limiting the traffic in the area.

“By all means, we don’t want something where it’s going to destroy a community,” Heyd said.

The council has not indicated when it will vote on the rezoning. The next council meeting after the town hall event is scheduled for March 2.

Hardee said he hasn’t decided how he will vote, but he stressed that his decision will depend on the response from the community. So far, he said he’s heard from about eight people opposed to the project. Neighbors voiced concerns about how noise and traffic would disturb their peaceful life in the country.

“I represent the people and I’m going to do what the people want to do,” Hardee said. “It doesn’t matter whether I want it or I don’t want it.”

But the councilman cautioned that he doesn’t expect this corridor to remain rural.

“That area is probably going to grow like Socastee did years ago — just boom, take off,” he said. “What do you want? You can’t tell everything, ‘No, you can’t come. No, you can’t come. No, you can’t come.’”

Hardee also remains sympathetic to the rural landowners. But a common story he’s heard from older farmers is that they need to sell their property to have some sort of retirement income.

“They don’t get a retirement check from a company or the state or whatever,” he said. “Their retirement is that piece of dirt.”

Hardee envisions that location working as a concert venue, and he wouldn’t be surprised to see other businesses such as restaurants and hotels popping up to support it.

For some neighbors, that’s worrisome. They don’t want the character of the community to change.

“We might as well live in Myrtle Beach because that’s what it will bring,” Capps said of the additional commercial development. “That’s what that amphitheater will bring to this rural area.”

When she raised her objections to the project late last year, Capps said supporters told her the venue could hold educational events or host Christian groups. However, the promotional materials provided to the county mainly highlight mainstream acts such as Ariana Grande, Pitbull and Justin Bieber. 

“You’re going to have Lil’ Wayne,” Capps said. “You’re going to have whoever sells tickets. And that won’t be The McKameys and the Gaither Vocal Band. Don’t even throw that at us. We’re not stupid.”

Contact Charles D. Perry at 843-488-7236

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I'm the editor of myhorrynews.com and the Carolina Forest Chronicle, a weekly newspaper in Horry County, South Carolina. I cover county government, the justice system and agriculture. Know of a story that needs to be covered? Call me at 843-488-7236.

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