Oceanfront redevelopment tax district

The proposed oceanfront redevelopment tax district for Myrtle Beach includes the Arts and Innovation District. The blue area represents the original redvelpment area and the red represents the expanded redvelpment district. drawing courtesy of the city of Myrtle Beach

Zeroing in on downtown again, city leaders are discussing expanding boundaries in a 30-year redevelopment plan with a $258 million project price tag.

But the ordinance doesn’t call for taxes to be raised nor projects to be committed to. Still, the Myrtle Beach City Council agreed there is an urgency to passing a tax increment financing (TIF) plan before the end of the year.

Mayor Brenda Bethune said there are $97 million in private investment from the oceanfront to the Arts and Innovation District. If the city doesn’t pass the new TIF plan by the end of the year, it will lose out on applying 2020 taxes to the specific area for public infrastructure needs.

The way the TIF works, according to the city’s Chief Financial Officer Mike Shelton, the city picks an area to target, lops off the improved tax revenue and is then bound by state law to use that money within the targeted area. The only exception, he said, is money can be used outside of the district if it can be directly tied to improving the district.

For instance, a building is taxed at $5,000 as of January 2020, developers renovate and improve the building so the value increases and the taxes increase to $7,000. The city can then take the $2,000 to apply to improving lighting and sidewalks within the district.

It’s not reinventing the wheel, Shelton said.

The city has been using TIF districts for decades. There’s the current oceanfront redevelopment district that has been around since 2008, Broadway at the Beach from 1995 to 2009 and redevelopment at the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base since 2005.

The council’s next meeting is slated for Dec. 8 and the oceanfront TIF ordinance is expected to be up for a final vote.

The ordinance is twofold — more than double the boundaries of the existing oceanfront TIF district and outline the projects stating $90 million of tax revenue will fund the $258 million project list for 30 years.

Shelton and City Manager John Pedersen were quick to point out the city is not committing to spending money on any of the projects. They said each individual project, bond issuance and project cost will have to be granted council approval.

The current oceanfront redevelopment district is 245 acres and reaches from 16th Avenue North to 6th Avenue South between the ocean and Kings Highway. The redefined area is almost 286 acres from 21st Avenue North to 14th Avenue South reaching up to include a slice of Broadway Street and Oak Street through 9th Avenue North and Main Street along the Arts and Innovation District.

If the council agrees to the final reading of the oceanfront redevelopment TIF ordinance, the new district will be 531.28 acres.

Shelton explained the 30-year plan allows the city to issue bonds and pay for $90 million of the $258 million project list. He said if the project list is to be completed, most of it will be done through grants, private investments and other sources.

“If you just look at that figure alone, that’s a pretty scary figure,” he said. “These are all projects that the city would hope would be done over a, perhaps, 20- or 30-year period.”

Shelton said the overlapping tax districts, Horry County and Horry County Schools, opted out of participating in the new TIF district, just as they opted out of participating in the original 2008 oceanfront redevelopment district. The overlapping districts still received the additional tax revenue from redevelopment but were not obligated to spend the money in the district.

All of the projects in the 30-year TIF plan are tied to the Downtown Master Plan, Bethune said.

The projects include a $9.2 million performing arts theater in partnership with Coastal Carolina University, an $18.1 million new library and children’s museum, $6.8 million renovations to the existing library for future use, a $8.5 million city square, improve public utilities and streetscapes, and $9.1 million for renovations on the Boardwalk and adding in a Withers Swash extension.

The plan also includes spending $20 million to buy and demolish transitional properties identified as “pockets of blight” that could be used for eventual sale or lease.

City-owned property within the proposed new oceanfront district include 807, 809 and 811 Main Street that will be the CCU-city performing arts theater. The theater will be about 16,200 square feet and seat about 300 people.

The city also has six parcels on 9th Avenue North (505, 507, 509, 513, 515 and 571) that are to be renovated. Some of the units will be left upgraded, but gutted so tenants can complete while other intended uses include a city-owned co-work space.

The city’s new library plan is to be along 9th Avenue North and Oak Street. It is planned to be a nearly 39,000 square foot facility with a lobby shared with EdVenture Children’s Museum.

The existing library, Chapin Library, “will be preserved and renovated for other recreational or educational uses.”

The public facilities portion of the new plan are to help businesses by generating foot traffic. The facilities include a new city hall, law enforcement center on Oak Street. Other public facilities include $32 million for municipal parking garages with office and residential space for lease.

There is also a plan to realign Jackson Street to open traffic flow to the proposed library. The realignment is estimated at $875,000.

“How many people does this raise taxes on?” councilman Gregg Smith asked Shelton.

“None,” Shelton said.

“How many people does this lower taxes on?” Smith continued. “None,” Shelton said.

“What property does this ordinance purchase?” Smith again. “None,” answered Shelton.

“How much debt does this ordinance issue,” Smith concluded. “None,” Shelton repeated.

Council member Phil Render speculated the current council is merely passing on a plan to future council without the obligation to follow it. He also wondered if the city could have too many TIF districts and “poor old 48th Avenue gets shorthanded.”

Shelton nodded and agreed.

“I question the timing,” city resident Ann Dunham said during the Nov. 10 council meeting. She pointed out Pedersen and Shelton will be retiring soon. Additionally, she said Bethune, Smith, Mike Lowder and Jackie Vereen Hatley each have terms set to expire in 2021.

Janet Morgan is the editor of the Myrtle Beach Herald. Contact her at 843-488-7258 or at janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com.

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