COLUMBIA — The South Carolina House has sustained Gov. Henry McMaster's veto of a bill that would have given a gated beach community special permission to rebuild a sea wall erected before the state banned them.
Though a majority of lawmakers voted Monday to override the veto, the 60-43 margin did not clear the two-thirds supermajority needed to defeat it.
DeBordieu Colony, a wealthy enclave in Georgetown County, has tried several workarounds to reconstruct a timber bulkhead built in 1982, but its efforts have been beaten back by challenges from environmentalists.
The bulkhead is protecting about 17 homes.
After lawmakers amended a broader bill to try to give DeBordieu permission to build the sea wall, McMaster said the exception for a single neighborhood was “tantamount to enacting local or special legislation, prohibited by our constitution."
State Rep. Lee Hewitt, whose district includes DeBordieu, argued residents living there bought their houses with the understanding the sea wall would protect them, and that losing the homes would hurt the area's property tax base.
"What good does it do for us to allow houses to start falling into the ocean?" said Hewitt, R-Georgetown. "No one wins in that scenario."
State Reps. Justin Bamberg, D-Bamberg, and Mandy Powers Norrell, D-Lancaster, spoke in favor of McMaster's veto.
"We’re talking about the idea of bending state law for a small community of extremely wealthy people, where only residents, their guests, club members and confirmed renters are even allowed past the guardhouse," Bamberg said.
State Rep. Davey Hiott, the Pickens Republican who attached the amendment, said he did not understand McMaster's reasoning and contrasted it with his support for tax breaks for a proposed Carolina Panthers' practice facility in Rock Hill.
“He stands with folks in North Carolina and Pittsburgh but he’s against the property owners in South Carolina," Hiott said. "That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Maybe he needs to decide which state he wants to be the governor of.”
A representative for DeBordieu Colony could not be reached by phone Monday.
Emily Cedzo of the Coastal Conservation League said the group is "heartened" by McMaster's veto and the vote to sustain it. Lawmakers could still attempt to get the measure reconsidered Tuesday.
"We believe strongly that permitting exists for a reason, so I think this flies in the face of that and that's the real problem here," Cedzo said.