Myrtle Beach hopes extension of oceanfront TIF district will lead to new improvements | Myrtle Beach Politics

MYRTLE BEACH — The Myrtle Beach City Council is moving forward with plans to extend the oceanfront redevelopment area in the heart of the city as a part of a broader effort to revitalize downtown. 

For years, Myrtle Beach has worked to redevelop its downtown areas including those closest to the ocean. State laws allow local governments to use a Tax Increment Financing plan as a tax strategy to pay for redevelopment efforts in “blighted areas” without explicitly raising taxes on citizens. 

The Market Common and Broadway at the Beach were built in the mid-2000s and early 1990s, respectively, with TIF districts in place. There is already an oceanfront TIF district, but currently council is considering an ordinance to extend its area to bring in an estimated $258 million in revenue throughout the decades the TIF will be in place.

The new borders, if approved, would extend to 14th Avenue South and up to 21st Avenue North. Generally, Kings Highway and the ocean are the east-west boundaries. This extension will connect the oceanfront redevelopment area with the arts and innovation district. 

“This is not a tool we came up with. We didn’t invent this. It is a tool used statewide and nationwide for redevelopment,” Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune said moments before council unanimously approved first reading of an ordinance to expand where the TIF strategy would be applied. “We didn’t create this but it is a smart strategy for funding projects long term without raising taxes to do so.”

Essentially council approved the first of two required readings to approve it. Chief Financial Officer emeritus Mike Shelton briefed council again on what the program would and would not entail. His presentation on the merits and trade offs of a TIF ultimately won over a few council members on the fence. 

“Today made a lot of difference on how I look at this particular ordinance,” City Councilmember Mike Lowder said. He added that after hearing Shelton’s answers to his questions, he sees how the TIF plan could lead to more revenue for revitalizing an area he knows residents would like to see improved. “Again, to the public it isn’t costing my taxpayers anything. ”

The TIF strategy essentially divides up how tax revenue is used and it does not inherently raise taxes. When the TIF is implemented, the amount a property owner pays in taxes at that moment will continue to go into the city’s coffers for as long as the program is enacted. But any additional increases in tax revenues — namely through property values increasing due to redevelopment — will be earmarked for future redevelopment projects. 

Essentially a TIF is a way for a city to attempt to let redevelopment pay for its success over the long term. If the tax revenue from a property does not change or go down, then no additional money goes toward redevelopment costs.

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The $258 million in potential revenue is essentially the amount of money that could be generated based on current estimates over time. Any potential project identified now is also purely a suggestion that future councils will need to address. 

“That’s just the dream list. It doesn’t mean it will necessarily happen,” Lowder said. 

For this TIF, however, Horry County and the school district will not participate unlike in previous usages of the tax strategy. This means only the Myrtle Beach property tax revenue will be used for the TIF. 

The additional funds could go to finance projects like a new Myrtle Beach library or general infrastructure improvement. Still, Shelton informed the council that before any money can be spent or debt incurred, a future city council would need to approve the specific project plans through an ordinance. 

While the TIF identifies projects that could be built with the funds, it doesn’t guarantee any money. The TIF also does not contribute or take away from the amount of debt the city can take on for other projects. Likely any project will require other grants, a private partnership or third party funding sources beyond that TIF revenue. 

“This is by no means a final step, it is a plan,” Shelton said. 

Ann Dunham, a Myrtle Beach resident, spoke out against the TIF, questioning the strategy’s long-term goals and how the expansion will affect properties. Particularly, with an upcoming municipal election in 2021 and an outgoing city manager, Dunham questioned why the city is in such a hurry. 

“The timing of this is very odd,” Dunham said. 

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