Controversy over Special Tax District heats up in Hidden Woods

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) Residents of one Horry County neighborhood are weeks away from finding out if their currently privately-owned roads will be turned over to the county.

The project has been underway for years, and will come to fruition in January if Horry County Council votes in favor of providing the issuance and sale of a general obligation bond not to exceed $850,000 to the Hidden Woods neighborhood.

The purpose of the bond will be to provide road and drainage improvements and other public works improvements within the Hidden Woods Special Tax District.

In November of 2011, the homeowners passed a referendum making Hidden Woods a Special Tax District. Of the 250 qualified voters, 104 voted. 89 voted in favor of the referendum, 15 voted in opposition. To be qualified, residents had to be a registered voter in that particular district.

Residents received their first bill for the new tax in October of 2012, causing a group of Hidden Woods homeowners to attend the December 18th council meeting to publicly announce their disapproval of the Special Tax District.

Fred Motta has lived in Hidden Woods for 16 years. He said the additional tax is too much for his family during the rough economy right now.

"For some of the homeowners, we're barely scraping by right now to make our mortgage payments, and this is just gonna take us over the top," Motta said.

Motta said he wants the referendum repealed.

If council approves the final reading for the loan in January, the money collected from the special tax will be used to pay the county back. Hidden Wood's Property Owner Association President Tom Brown said the loan amount could end up being less than the requested $850,000, which would reduce the tax the residents will pay over the next 15 years. Brown said the POA is also seeking additional outlets for funding, which would also reduce the amount homeowner's will pay.

"The amount of tax the property owners pay can actually be reduced later on. It may be based on a higher number now but in years to come as we reduce the amount that's actually used for the improvements the amount of tax would decrease."

Motta said right now he is set to pay approximately $60/month for the next 15 years, which could force him and his family to move out of the neighborhood. But, he fears he won't be able to sell his home.

"You're going to be hit with a special tax that nobody else has. So why would you want to move into our community? There's so many other available homes," Motta said.

Supporters of the Special Tax District and the bond from Horry County said the county control of the roads will provide improvements to the streets, sidewalks and drainage systems. It will also allow for speed bumps to be installed, and law enforcement to patrol the roads.

"Homes will be more marketable because the roads are freshly paved, newly paved and are maintained by the county. We will be entitled to law enforcement as a public road that we wouldn't have had if it had maintained as private," Brown said.

Horry County Councilman Gary Loftus will meet with POA representatives and homeowners in January, before the third and final reading of the bond will be voted on to  find out what the vast majority of the residents want to do.

"Whatever it is, we'll do it," Councilman Loftus said.

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