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SC Court of Appeals rules local Conway business cannot recycle outside construction debris

SC Court of Appeals rules local business cannot recycle construction debris (copy) (copy)

Venture Engineering, a civil engineering firm in Conway, client Thompkins & Associates will not be able to recycle construction and demolition debris from outside sources due to a South Carolina Court of Appeals. File

CONWAY — When Thompkins & Associates, a Myrtle Beach demolition company, decided to sell their business in 2015, they ran into issues regarding the property's zoning and whether it was correct for the business type. 

Now, six years later, the South Carolina Court of Appeals ruled the Thompkins & Associates' property will not be able to recycle construction and demolition debris from outside sources, something they has previously done. 

Venture Engineering President Steve Powell, whose company assisted Thompkins & Associates in 2016 said he thinks the case will go to the South Carolina Supreme Court. 

Powell said he hasn't been involved much since then.

The case started in 2014 when a potential buyer of Thompkins & Associates property went to get a "zoning compliance letter," which is when the Horry County Zoning Administrator said Thompkins could not accept construction materials from outside sources, as it went against zoning. 

Thompkins then appealed the decision, which was heard over four meetings in 2015 and the Horry County Zoning Board of Appeals voted to reverse the decision. But due to some issues with how the motion was entered, residents spoke up against the project and the Zoning Board decided to maintain the administrator's decision.

So then, Thompkins filed an appeal against the Zoning Board's decision to the South Carolina Circuit Court, which is when Venture Engineering got involved. 

Venture Engineering filed a variance petition on behalf of Thompkins, which was heard in 2016 and denied. 

It was appealed again, and then on April 5, 2018, the circuit revered the original decision allowing Thompkins & Associates to use the land for outside recycling services. 

Now, on May 12 that decision was reversed. 

"I haven't had any real involvement — it's been in litigation — since then," Powell said. "The wheels of justice turn slowly." 

When Thompkins & Associates founder Arthur Thompkins started the business in 1981, Horry County did not have zoning as it's known today, as Horry County passed its first zoning ordinance in 1987. 

That same year, the business was zoned as limited industrial to allow for industrial use that does not disturb surrounding properties with noise, odor and fumes.

While Thompkins & Associates was zoned for limited industrial use, the issue came up with the recycling of construction materials and debris, which caused excessive noise to surrounding residents, according to the South Caroling Court of Appeals document. 

In court documents, Thompkins argued they had been crushing block and reinforced concrete from their own business and others since they began operating.

Powell agreed, testifying his company had taken demolition material from another firm in 1985.  

" .. I can state from personal experience that materials have been going to this site since well before the zoning was adopted in 1987," Powell said in court documents. "It was the only site that almost any contractor in building demolitions could take material to for recycling."

Residents who testified disagreed.

"I'm coming up on my 30th anniversary, and I can guarantee you there was no plant there 30 years ago ... There was no noise there," said Wesley Finley, a resident near the business, said in court documents.

Horry County declined to comment on the case as it is still pending, Spokesperson Kelly Moore said.

Neither Horry County's lawyer or Venture Engineering's lawyer were available for comment.

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

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