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DaShauna Johnson of Detroit, Michigan, is flying home from the Myrtle Beach International Airport. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

Myrtle Beach officials want to get out of the campground leasing business by selling about 145 acres inside Lakewood Camping Resort and PirateLand Family Camping Resort.

But the sale could cost Myrtle Beach International Airport millions of dollars. The proposal upset county officials, who are concerned about the impact of the city’s decision on the airport.

“It’s absolutely needed,” Horry County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner said of the airport funding. Gardner questions whether the city should even be selling the property. And if that happens, should the city split the proceeds of the sale with the county? “You better believe that we’re going to be talking about it."

In the first of two required approvals, the Myrtle Beach City Council voted Tuesday to sell the land to the owners of the two campgrounds for $60 million. The five-year deal begins with $10 million being paid by the end of the year and the remaining $50 million paid over the next five years.

City Manager John Pedersen said there are 700 privately-owned structures that sit on city-owned land inside the two campgrounds.

Currently, the city leases the land to the two campground owners with a take of $3.6 million annually. In a deal struck in 2004, the city agreed to send 75% of the lease revenue, or $2.7 million, to the county to be used at the airport.

Pedersen said the county’s cut is not addressed in the sale agreement. But, he said, the split applies only to lease revenue.

“We believe it does not apply to proceeds of the sale,” he said.

County officials disagree.

On Nov. 6, Horry County Administrator Steve Gosnell sent a letter to Pedersen outlining the county’s concerns. In the letter, Gosnell wrote that the county’s attorneys have looked into the matter and found that both the 1948 deed to the property from the U.S. Government and the 1953 release from the federal government “are expressly premised on agreement that these properties are intended for the use and benefit of the airport.”

Gosnell noted that “this fundamental understanding” was the basis for the 2004 city-county agreement. 

“These properties provide critical revenue for the operation of the Myrtle Beach International Airport,” Gosnell wrote.

In the letter, Gosnell gave the city 10 days to confirm that the city intends to comply with the 1953 release, “wherein the city obligated itself to ‘utilize any revenue derived from the use, lease, or disposition’ of the properties for the benefit of the airport.”

Gosnell concluded by stating that the county may take action to protect the interests of the airport.    

County spokeswoman Kelly Moore declined to offer any comment about the county’s plans in this matter. 

Last year, the city increased the fees associated with the lease in a five-year agreement with the campground owners. Pedersen said at the time the five-year agreement was designed to give the owners time to decide if they wanted to purchase the property and to negotiate a price.

Pedersen said on Tuesday the owners of the 700 structures have had a difficult time selling the structures because of the city’s lease agreement. If the sale is approved, he said the structure owners will be able to enter into a long-term agreement with the campground owners and allow them latitude to sell their structures.

Lakewood’s share of the $60 million deal is about $33.5 million for the more than 81 acres inside of its boundaries.

PirateLand’s share of the deal is more than $26 million for nearly 64 acres inside of its boundaries.

Pedersen said the land was appraised at more than $46 million by the campground owners and more than $76 million by the city. While the land was not offered for sale on the public market, Pedersen said the three parties agreed on the sale price of $60 million since it’s in the middle of the two appraisals.

The city acquired the land from the federal government after World War II as the government deeded the city the land as surplus property.

It sits about a mile south of the current city limits.

If the sale is approved, Pedersen said the campground owners have agreed to allow the city to annex the property no sooner than 2025. If the annexation occurs, he said, the city would take over the stormwater maintenance on the 145 acres. Currently there is no land that connects the campground property to the city limits.

The nearly 145 acres inside the campgrounds is divided into five parcels that include the southern end of PirateLand and the northern tip of Lakewood. The five parcels include a lake that straddles the line between the two campgrounds. The city’s land reaches from Kings Highway to the ocean.

The current lease dates to 1990 with amendments in 1999, 2009 and 2019. Pedersen said the campgrounds have been leasing the land from the city for decades, and would like to continue using the land as a campground without plans of other types of development.

Carl Perry founded Lakewood in 1961. The campground is operated by the second and third generation of the Perry family. It is located at 5901 South Kings Highway.

PirateLand is located just north at 5401 South Kings Highway.

It was founded in the 1960s. It currently operates on 180 acres, according to the campground’s website.

The agreement calls for the city to finance the $50 million, five-year payment with rising interest rates each year beginning with 1.5% the first year, 2% the second, 3.25% the third, 4% the fourth year and capped off at 5% the last year of the financing.

“The city has no desire to be a bank,” Pedersen said. “These are the incentives to pay it off early.”

Contact Charles D. Perry at 843-488-7236

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(4) comments

uncgirlmb

I have one correction to make to my above comments. The campgrounds are not presently in the city which makes me wonder how they were even included in the original agreements instead of the govt. deeding the property to Horry County alone. That being said, it is certain that regardless of what happens to the properties, MB will certainly annex them in the near future. Does this mean the city will be giving up future property taxes which would only go up if the leases were increased by 2x or 3x which I believe is the solution for all. Cutting the county out of the agreement, therefore the income necessary for airport operations is just another dirty dang trick by the city to scam the county! They are crooks & everyone should know it before trying to do anything in the city limits.

uncgirlmb

Let's talk about the 145 Oceanfront acres which was meant to make money for the use, by the county, to operate the Myrtle Beach Airport. So, it is on City land & 25-30 years ago, after much debate, the city & county agreed to split the campground lease money 75% to the county, 25% to the city. Now the city plans to sell this property & keep the money for almost $20 million less than the appraisal which in itself could be $50 million less than oceanfront land should be worth. There are so many problems w/ this I don't even know where to start. First of all why sell it for such a low price?

1) This property was intended to be used to fund operations of the Regional Airport. So we are killing the goose that has been laying a golden egg every year in lease money from the 2 Campgrounds to keep our airport going. Who would have to make that money up? The county? That means that every landowner in Horry County, whether it be residential or commercial would experience a sizeable increase in property taxes! The city residents who will no longer get the benefit of the property taxes from these properties. ( At least for a while)

2)The city is financing it for 5 years,

during which time they will not get the $3.3 million in rent it has been bringing in.

3) It is all but certain the result will be High Rise Resort(s) which will mean more miles of no visibility of ocean which belongs to everyone, not just the ones who can afford to live oceanfront.

thom01801

The City of Myrtle Beach wants its cake and eat it! I live outside the city limits but i as other have to pay Myrtle beach sales tax, and for what? No services from the city, no discounts on parking at the beach and we are funding the city through the county for the Airport and other things.

If the city wants to enter into another law suit that we all will wind up paying for, then Stop the funding for the airport now!

It is big source of the city of Myrtle Beaches revenue, So tell the city to eat cake!

trocarman1

The way I see it if Myrtle Beach city leaders don't want to share the money with the county for the airport which benefits the city by bringing people into Myrtle Beach city limits which benefits them more than the people who live outside the city then don't worry about it when the money that the county runs out and they have to shut down the airport the city will have a different tune then they may step up to the plate.

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