NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - A major project in North Myrtle Beach is getting the final green light after decades of discussion, planning and legal hoops.
North Myrtle Beach councilman Fred Coyne represents Cherry Grove and says the project has been in the works since the 1980s. The city didn't know where to find the money for the dredge, but now they have. The plan is to charge a maximum annual fee of $2,400 on Cherry Grove homeowner's taxes. That's $200 a month to help pay each person's share of dredging costs. The fee will only be applied to those living on or nearby canals along 42nd to 63rd Avenues North.
"The goal is to have three feet of water at low tide. So what'll happen is a machine comes through, dig deeper than that, knowing some of the slides will, as they call it, sloughing. Basically the slides will start to fill in," Councilman Coyne said.
The dredge stops at 63rd Avenue because the water past that point has already returned to marsh. Once this happens, the area is exempt from city maintenance like dredging. Nobody can fish or boat in that area, which is exactly what would happen to the other canals if the city doesn't act.
"It's one of those things some people think it's a value some people don't...the biggest thing is if we don't do something, we'll lose the canals forever. And we have several right below us here, those canals...they're just, they're gone."
Money, planning and time just weren't all there until this year. This dredge will be the first ever for the community. The city is contributing about $3 million to the $6 million project. However, the city did not propose dredging to the Cherry Grove community. The community proposed it to the city.
Councilman Coyne said if the canals are dredged, water sports can return to the area. Right now, there's a three to four hour window for boating. If they're dredged, people won't have to strategize their outings on the canals. At low tide, Cherry Grove is nothing but mud beds in some places.
Out of 700 homeowners in the area, there's not a lot of opposition. About 190 letters of written objections were collected last year. The biggest complaint is the cost. One resident said he believes the city should be fully responsible because the canals have public access.
DREDGE WILL INCREASE PROPERTY VALUE
Whether you're for or against the Cherry Grove dredging, the project will ensure a home value increase. North Myrtle Beach councilman and real estate agent Hank Thomas says home value will increase 20 to 25 percent after the first dredge.
If everything continues to go according to plan, the project is expected to start in October and be finished by March 2017. The dredge will clean out 24 feet of muck and make the canals 3 1/2 feet deeper so they stay canals at low tide...instead of mud beds.
Part of the entire project was making dock-building permits more obtainable through DHEC for homes. Thomas says a consistently flowing canal can encourage homes to build a private dock and update sea walls. Right now, 42 homes are up for sale in the area.
Cherry Grove's Councilman Fred Coyne fully supports the dredge and agrees this might be the right time to buy. "Ya know, one of my homeowners had suggested why would you sell now? Why would you not wait until after that first dredge occurs? Because we do anticipate a significant property value to rise there...so perhaps that offsets it...in some situations if that house is a rental home, it certainly is going to bring more to that rental fee,' Councilman Coyne said.
North Myrtle Beach Council and engineers visited Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina for tips on a successful dredge and modeling. Ocean Isla successfully dredged their canals and costs have decreased over time for those residents.
The city of North Myrtle Beach has a budget of almost $94 million for fiscal year 2016-2017. All changes go into effect July 1 of this year. Cherry Grove homeowners should expect to see a line on their taxes for the dredging cost.