Surfside Beach changes controversial overlay zone

SURFSIDE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Town leaders are taking a second look at a controversial ordinance designed to improve the appearance of Surfside Beach businesses.

The ordinance, also known as an overlay zone, is designed to give businesses along Highway 17 Business a standard look while updating the town's image. Many businesses would be forced to alter their signs, landscaping, and in some cases even the materials used to side their buildings.

It's a move many people who live in Surfside Beach say is long overdue to improve the look of deteriorating buildings. One woman who spoke at the meeting said she's tired of run-down looking buildings.

"As a resident of this town we are required to keep our homes up to certain standards," the woman said. "I don't know why the business community thinks they get a free ride with not having to."

Many business owners at the meeting said they were in the favor of the overlay district, but worry some of the changes would create a big financial burden, especially on smaller businesses.

During Tuesday night's meeting, the owner of Home Accents II on Highway 17 Business, Amelia Toney, said it would be too expensive to bring their building up to town standards if the new ordinance is passed. Part of the ordinance includes a provision to eliminate metal siding on buildings.

"We own a metal building, one of the larger ones in town," Toney said. "That's a big problem for us."

Toney said the ordinance could cost her tens of thousands of dollars, on a business she just opened two years ago.

Aside from the cost of making the improvements, some business owners worried the wording of the ordinance was too vague. Some town council members, like Randle Stevens agreed.

"There's a lot of things that need to be tweaked on there," Stevens said. "I would think we don't need to jump in on this just because it's here, we've got a little time."

Council members held a workshop after Tuesday night's public hearing that lasted more than 3 hours. Council went through the ordinance line by line, and tweaked dozens of provisions and clarified parts explaining when a business does or does not have to meet the new appearance standards.

Town administrators say they'll make those changes to the ordinance over the next couple weeks and they say the earliest council could vote on the overlay zone is their council meeting on November 13.

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