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Horry County Council sends fireworks ordinance back to public safety committee for revisions

By Ruben Lowman

Horry County Council may be about to press the detonate button on their fireworks ordinance.

Council met Tuesday, April 4, where they were seemingly set to approve the ordinance, which would establish “fireworks-free” or “no fireworks” zones throughout the county, before councilmembers said they needed a little more time to work out and tweak some of the specifics. 

This is something that has been to public safety and then back and back to public safety,” said District 10 Councilmember Danny Hardee. “Based on some questions that have arisen just recently after we passed this, I still think we need to fine tune a couple things. We’re not putting it off, we’re not trying to sweep it under the table.”

Councilmembers voted 8-4 in support of sending the ordinance back to the county’s public safety committee for a few revisions. The ordinance was brought forward by councilmember Bill Howard after constituents in his district complained that people were shooting off loud, aggressive fireworks at all hours of the night. Howard represents District 2, which includes Briarcliffe Acres and Arcadian Shores, where much of the complaints have come from. 

“We have worked real hard on this,” Howard said. “We would like to see this resolved so we have something to lean on to try and deter a lot of these fireworks that are going on on the beaches and that’s what we did. It’s the constituents that want this. And it’s very important that we move forward. If you want to change it down the road, we can change it down the road.”

With the way the ordinance is currently written, resolutions declaring “no-fireworks” zones in the county would be brought forward by individual councilmembers after receiving complaints from residents. They would then map out a zone that would make shooting fireworks illegal in that specific area or neighborhood upon final approval by council. Penalties would be a $50 fine that could increase over time up to $200.    

The ordinance has been in the works since late last year when it was first brought before council. It was expected to pass second reading last week. There were already two no-fireworks resolutions that were lined up on the agenda for the night by councilmembers Howard and Harold Worley, who represents District 1 encompassing North Myrtle Beach and Little River. They were deferred until the ordinance is resolved with council. 

One was for Arcadia Beach, across the Intracoastal from where Waterway Hills Golf Club used to be. The other was for the Ocean Creek Drive area within Ocean Creek Resort, which lies across Highway 17 from Barefoot Landing. Both of these areas have seen some of the heaviest volume of fireworks being shot off, especially late at night.

“I have several subdivisions that want this passed,” said Worley. “They want it in their communities.”

Worley said he was in support of the ordinance but, along with the majority of council, couldn’t vote for it the way it was currently proposed. One issue councilmembers had was that it placed the emphasis on a councilmember’s discretion to devise the zones. Councilmember Johnny Vaught, District 8, said that he didn’t think it should be up to an individual councilmember’s opinion to decide this, as it essentially came down to subdivisions. 

“I think there needs to be some clearer-cut rules for determining how we go about making this happen,” said Vaught. 

A revision proposed by Worley would have the homeowners’ association of the subdivision get petitions signed first that would show councilmembers there’s a majority in that area who want the prohibition on fireworks. 

“At that time I will present it to the chairman and this council for approval,” Worley said. “But until then I will not be voting for it.” 

Many of the surrounding municipalities, including North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach, have already passed ordinances prohibiting fireworks completely within their city limits. Howard said that has essentially funneled more people into the unincorporated areas of the county where there are no restrictions. This has caused the stretch of beach between the two coastal cities to become the unofficial go-to spot for late-night fireworks. Howard said it leads the county in complaints. 

Several councilmembers explained their problems with the current ordinance during the discussion. Hardee said the issue is one that pertains more to the beach and not the rural parts of the county, and the ordinance has a few questions that need to be answered by the state attorney general before proceeding. Vaught said that the potential resolutions would not carry the force of law, which he said needs to be rethought. Worley said the issue originated in neighborhoods, and so should be brought forward first by the HOA. 

“This is a neighborhood problem,” Worley said. “Shooting fireworks in Lafayette Park in Little River is not going to have anything to do with another subdivision a half-mile or a mile down the road. This is a neighborhood issue.”

Worley said he wants to revise the ordinance so that the HOA of the neighborhood would petition its residents for a no-fireworks zone and then bring that to their councilmember.

“Once they get it back to us I’m going to draw a line around the area, probably a quarter of a mile or half a mile, and I’m going to present it to the chairman and ask him to pass this, I want this area free of fireworks,” said Worley. “But I’m not going to do that to everybody around them, just those.”

There are a few areas of the county on the north end that already have fireworks bans in place. A map provided by the county showed the Rivergate neighborhood in Little River, Aberdeen Country Club in Longs, the Briarcliffe Forest and Myrtle Beach Travel Park in Arcadian Shores as already restricting fireworks. 

“We want to make sure we get it right,” said Hardee. “We don’t want to pass it and then have to turn around in three or four months and repeal it and all, so let’s get it right to start with.”

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