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Myrtle Beach's 10-year plan gets initial approval despite COVID-19 complications

Myrtle Beach traffic isn't all tourists (copy)

Visitors walk along the boardwalk in downtown Myrtle Beach. File/Bruce Smith/AP

MYRTLE BEACH — Myrtle Beach City Council will give a final vote to the city's 2021 comprehensive plan Dec. 14 despite a need for more public input, according to city officials.

Everything from the area's rapid growth and the rising homeless population to affordable housing and economic development is detailed in the 10-year plan's 100 pages.

Myrtle Beach Senior Planner Kelly Mezzapelle, along with others within the Planning and Zoning Department, created the plan without the area resident's input due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Myrtle Beach officials have move the plan along because cities throughout South Carolina are required to update their comprehensive plans once every 10 years, according to state law. The city's last comprehensive plan was updated in 2011.

"The plan will not be complete until we get the community involved, we get all of the city council and city staff involved," Mayor Brenda Bethune said. "But it really needs to be the community's plan."

Now, city officials are approving the plan and intend to revise it over the course of the next few years going over one to two priorities a year in order to incorporate residents' feedback.

The plan covers 10 priorities including; population, economic development, natural resources, cultural resources, community facilities, housing, land use, transportation, resilience and priority investment.

Typically, the department would have started the process in 2020, but due to staffing issues along with COVID-19, the department started the plan in May, Mezzapelle said.

Additionally, South Carolina requires cities to update zoning plans every 10 years — even though the plans aren't law.

Here are three priorities from the proposed plan that city officials expect will get much attention. Read the full plan at bit.ly/mbcompplan.

.here.

Population

It’s no surprise that Myrtle Beach’s population has boomed as Horry County is the state’s fastest-growing county.

Back in 2010, Myrtle Beach had a population of around 27,000 and now, it’s reached to over 36,000.

Myrtle Beach’s average age has increased by almost 10 years since 2010. One out of every five residents is 65 years or older.

The comprehensive plan outlines steps to build a better environment for older residents, like more accessible infrastructure. The city will use its Senior Advisory Committee, an arm of City Council, to identify issues impacting older residents.

The explosion in growth caused Horry County to have the highest rate of people experiencing homelessness in the Palmetto State surpassing other major cities — including Greenville, Charleston and Lexington.

Under the comprehensive plan, the city is looking to tackle a large goal to end homelessness in Myrtle Beach by supporting New Directions, a non-profit organization that is the county’s largest provider of shelter services.

The nonprofit currently has 170 available beds for Horry County’s roughly 700 homeless people. The plan also outlines its goals to support other faith-based organizations to decrease the city’s homeless population.

Economic Development

Myrtle Beach's top industry remains hospitality and foodservice accounting for over 35 percent of the city's workforce, according to the plan.

Retail jobs fall right behind at 15 percent of the workforce, with health care, arts, entertainment and recreation making up another 15 percent.

But the hospitality industry took a large hit in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, Myrtle Beach wants to boost employment in other industries — including science, technology, finance and manufacturing — by working with current business owners to figure out what they need.

Roughly 8 percent of the county’s job force comes from three businesses: Horry County school district, Walmart and Coastal Carolina University.

Another aspect of the city’s development plan is Mayor Bethune’s plan to revitalize downtown.

So far, the downtown plan has added businesses, including Grand Strand Brewing Company, and opened a park, Nance Plaza, which goes along with building renovations along Ninth Avenue North.

Housing

City leaders are looking to focus in on affordable housing with less than 15 percent of Myrtle Beach's workforce live in the city.

The plan will examine how to increase the supply of rental housing in Myrtle Beach and push for rent below $875 a month. Additionally, the plan wants to increase the supply of homes below $200,000.

Roughly 40 percent of Myrtle Beach residents are cost-burned when it comes to housing, spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing.

Plus, Myrtle Beach is the most expensive area when it comes to the cost of buying a home. As the average sale cost of a home along the Grand Strand was $297,000.

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Reach Alex Brizee at 843-637-9881. Follow her on Twitter @alex_brizee. 

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