Pier legislation picking up support in Columbia

SURFSIDE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - New legislation moving through Columbia could soon make it easier for coastal towns to have more control over piers.

Legislation introduced by Rep. Nelson Hardwick (R-Surfside Beach) is picking up steam among lawmakers in both the South Carolina Senate and House of Representatives.

The proposed bill would give individual towns the power to make additions to piers, as long as they follow individual town zoning laws and ordinances.

"It basically goes back to home rules," Surfside Beach Mayor Allen Deaton said. "As long as it fits in our codes and zoning regulation, the governing body takes control of what can and can't be done."

Current permitting regulations imposed on piers across South Carolina recently caused trouble for Surfside Beach when it wanted to add an entertainment deck to the front of its pier. The town proposed and began building a 1,000 square foot deck but learned it was limited to building a 144 square foot addition, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

"We got to the end of the process and realized there was no hope to find a regulation that would fit our needs," Deaton said. "The only choice was to change the regulations and that's where they stepped up to the plate."

When Deaton was asked what additions could be tacked onto the pier if Hardwick's bill would pass, he said the "possibilities are endless."

"We could take that entertainment deck and wrap it to the beginning of the pier," he explained. "The new restaurant would be able to expand out to the front of the deck."

Surfside Beach Police Chief Mike Frederick says the police department could also benefit from the pending legislation. Frederick says transporting beach patrol equipment each day during the summer is time consuming for his officers.

Frederick says if the legislation passes, he'd like to see the town consider building a storage area underneath the pier for patrol equipment, including ATVs and jet skis.

Hardwick's proposed bill has successfully passed three readings in the South Carolina House of Representatives. After a first reading in the Senate, the bill has been recommended to the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources.

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