Permit shows North Myrtle Beach ok’d seawall construction in 2007

NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – After seawalls collapsed following a Cherry Grove dredging project more than a week ago, North Myrtle Beach city officials explained the walls were built improperly, which is what caused the collapse, not the dredging.

Documents requested by News13 show the building of the seawall was permitted in 2007 and closed in 2009. So News13 went to the City of North Myrtle Beach to understand why, if the city approved for the seawall to built, it is not responsible for the wall’s collapse.

Homeowners off of 49th Avenue North say the seawalls were sturdy before the dredging project brought them down.

Building the seawalls requires permits from DHEC, the city, and a final inspection. Following the collapse of the walls at the beginning of the month, North Myrtle Beach officials said the walls had not been built to code.

North Myrtle Beach Spokesperson Pat Dowling says the building permit approved by the city shows the seawall was to code, but after the wall failed, the city’s investigation proved differently.

“You’re supposed to do what the permit says and if you haven’t, then you need to correct it,” says Dowling. “If DHEC requires that, and the city requires that. In this instance, probably, just eyeballing the situation, the original bulkhead was installed into the state right-of-way.”

The city said it wasn’t responsible for the damage because the dredgers never hit the walls.

“Why aren’t they responsible?” questions Tom Hutchens, who lives on 49th Avenue North. “They’re responsible for developing this whole area. They’re responsible for digging out these canals in here and this water.”

The permit approved by the city in 2007 lists Hoyt Sanderson as the original contractor. News13 reached out to Sanderson to question why he didn’t build the seawall as it was originally permitted.

Sanderson denied to go on camera, not wanting to “get tied up” in the issue more than his current state, he explained on the phone.

Even if the seawall was built incorrectly, the City of North Myrtle Beach closed the permit in 2009. Dowling says a city inspector may not have visited the finished product if the contractor didn’t make officials aware that the work was done.

“Sometimes a contractor may not notify the building inspectors that the work is done,” says Dowling. “So, really, honestly, it will not get inspected. You can’t expect a limited building staff in any city or county to be traveling around checking on work intermittently to make sure things are done.”

Right now, Dowling says there’s no legislation in North Myrtle Beach that requires people to keep up with, repair, or have their seawalls inspected periodically. He says the city may soon look to pass laws that would require homeowners to do that.

Despite the city signing off on the permit that allowed the seawall to be built, North Myrtle Beach officials maintain the city is not responsible for costs associated with repairing the damage.