Myrtle Beach could use eminent domain to take over businesses in the Superblock

(Image Source: News13's Taylor Herlong)

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Myrtle Beach City Council will hear a motion during Tuesday’s meeting that would allow the city to take over two properties located in the Superblock through eminent domain.

According to the city’s meeting agenda, the motion would allow Myrtle Beach City Manager John Pedersen and city attorney Thomas Ellenburg “to take the necessary legal actions to acquire properties located at 505 9th Avenue North and 801 North Kings Highway, by the use of eminent domain.”

The city announced Jan. 24 that the Superblock area of Myrtle Beach would essentially be torn down to make way for a rebuild of Chapin Memorial Library and The Children’s Museum of South Carolina.

Lacy Paulussen opened her house parts store in downtown Myrtle Beach ten years ago and says it wasn’t until that press conference that she found out city leaders had other plans for her building.

“This is my livelihood and, you know, beginning of the year, everything looked great and then they had their meeting and now my life is going to be in an upheaval and that’s very scary,” said Lacy Paulussen, owner of house parts. “This is where I want to be and where I wanted to be a part of the growth and be included in that and to learn that you’re not in the picture is very hurtful and upsetting.”

City Manager John Pedersen says they’ve made offers on Paulussen’s propety and the property where popular photographer Jack Thompson’s business is, but because the price hasn’t been right officials are looking to use eminent domain.

“We have looked at a number of different venues, but this is an area where let’s face it, we’ve had numerous challenges from the community to clean up the Superblock. This is a way to do it and this is traditionally the way that we’ve done it and traditionally a way that government helps to add value to an area that’s in distress,” City Manager John Pedersen.

The city reported on Jan. 24 following the press conference and development announcement that the “property sales are occurring at fair market value, between willing sellers and a willing buyer. Last year, the city established a $10 million line of credit to be used for public investment in the Downtown Redevelopment area, and the DRC will draw from that for the purchases.”

The motion, which needs only one majority vote to pass, suggests there are at least two property owners who are refusing to give up their lots, but Myrtle Beach City Councilman Wayne Gray says the majority of businesses have willingly agreed to sell their properties.

“Obviously, that gives you evidence that they found it challenging to find a use of that property,” says Gray. “We recognize that as well, you know, there’s limited parking in this area, there’s limited density of people which makes it challenging for a retail operation whether it’s a store, a drinking establishment, or a restaurant to survive and thrive.”

Eminent domain lawyer Robert Shelton confirms all the city would have to do to is prove the properties would be used for public purposes.

“You have to prove that the taking is for a public purpose and that’s been the source of a lot of controversy over the years what is and what is not a public purpose,” Robert Shelton with Bellamy Law Firm said.

City leaders note that “public purposes” include parks, plazas, museums, and libraries.

With the big vote just a day away, business owners like Paulussen say they can only hope someone will stand up for them.

A few of the businesses like Jack Thompson’s are leased buildings but Shelton says under South Carolina law, the tenant renting the building would also be entitled to just compensation if the city does use eminent domain.

City council will meet Tuesday at 2 p.m. at the Ted C. Collins Law Enforcement Center. Property owners opposed to selling their lots will have an opportunity to speak.