Crime & Courts

Bikers beware: Breaking Myrtle Beach helmet law could cost you $100

MYRTLE BEACH -- Get caught in Myrtle Beach riding a motorcycle without a helmet after the end of February, breaking curfew as a juvenile, partying in a parking lot or parking an oversized vehicle on public streets and you'll pay a $100 fine.

The Myrtle Beach City Council on Tuesday gave final approval to several changes to the ordinances and amendments it passed this fall targeting the May bike rallies that draw about 500,000 people to the beach. Those changes include:

Setting the fines for all administrative infractions at $100;

Setting the date for administrative infraction-related rules to go into effect Feb. 28. They were supposed to be implemented Dec. 21, but City Manager Tom Leath asked for more time to set up the administrative hearing court that will take care of those cases;

Giving the final OK to the amended noise ordinance, setting the acceptable upper limit for all idling, nonemergency vehicles at 89 decibels.

Tom McGrath, a Virginia-based attorney representing a local couple in a lawsuit challenging two of the city's 15 rally-related ordinances, asked the council Tuesday to include motorized items such as lawn mowers and leaf blowers in the noise ordinance.

Council members did not add those items to the ordinance.

The city also postponed discussion of the downtown redevelopment municipal improvement district, which needs a second vote before it is put in place. Consultants preparing the assessment rolls did not finish in time for city staff members to review the plan before Tuesday's council meeting.

The district will levy an assessment against commercial property owners from 31st Avenue North to the southern city limits, from Kings Highway to the beach, to help cover the costs of additional police enforcement, maintenance and promotion once the downtown area begins to redevelop. Until that time, the assessment - if the council chooses to implement it - would help cover the bond debt the city will issue to build a $12 million, mile-long boardwalk between First and 14th avenues North.

Many hope the boardwalk will become an iconic feature that will focus redevelopment efforts downtown to help draw and retain more tourists.

The city is setting the district framework in place but will have to vote to announce the start of collecting the revenue from it. The city had hoped to start building the boardwalk this winter, but when the economy turned, so did the municipal bond market. Staff members have advised the council to wait before issuing debt.

Downtown Redevelopment Corp. Executive Director David Sebok said the earliest construction could start is after Labor Day. He added that this is the time to set up all the mechanisms, "so we can proceed when circumstances are favorable."

City spokesman Mark Kruea said the city might want to consider using property tax revenue from all over Myrtle Beach to pay for the boardwalk because "an argument can be made that it will benefit the whole city."

But Sebok said the council rejected that idea last year.

In other business, the council:

Heard an update on the fiscally troubled Grand Strand Humane Society, which runs the city animal shelter. Interim director Sandy Brown said the shelter is stable, that the Dollars for Dogs fundraiser and a generous "guardian angel" helped the shelter overcome a $30,000 shortfall to carry it through the end of the year, and that she has applied to fill the director's job permanently. Executive Director Peter Bine resigned last month after almost nine months on the job.

Approved the first draft of a motion to grant a franchise agreement to Joey Mincey of Nichols to run horse-drawn carriage rides at Broadway at the Beach and The Market Common on a year-round basis. Mincey has been running free rides at The Market Common on weekends this month and said interest has been so strong, both venues asked him if he'd consider running the rides all year. The franchise will require a second vote.

Scheduled a special meeting for 9 a.m. Tuesday at City Hall to wrap up some last votes relating to The Market Common, including maintenance agreements; vote on the horse-drawn carriage franchise; and give final approval to the downtown redevelopment municipal improvement district.

-- The (Myrtle Beach) Sun News