MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – The Myrtle Beach City Council approved the use of eminent domain to acquire two properties in the Superblock area of downtown Myrtle Beach so that plans to build a public library and children's museum can move forward.
"We will not use it right away," City Manager John Pedersen said. "Our hope is we will still be able to sit down and have a productive conversation and arrive at a price that the seller is willing to sell for and a price that we're willing to pay."
Myrtle Beach announced in January plans to relocate the Chapin Memorial Library and the Children's Museum of South Carolina to the Superblock area near Nance Plaza.
The motion to use eminent domain to acquire the two remaining private properties, 503 9th Avenue North, which is the building that houses Jack Thompson Photography, and 801 Kings Highway, which is House Parts, passed during the city council's regular agenda Tuesday, but not unanimously. Councilmen Mike Lowder and Philip Render voted against it.
Several people spoke during public comment in opposition to the use of eminent domain.
One person who spoke to council was the owner of the building that houses Jack Thompson's Studio and Art Gallery. Tom Davis asked the council members to use good judgment and fairness when coming to their decision.
He said he bought the property years ago with his future in mind.
"I wanted it for longevity. I wanted a piece of Myrtle Beach," he said. "We moved here in 50's and my family liked to have a little piece of Myrtle Beach to keep."
Now, that future could involve selling his property to the city of Myrtle Beach under eminent domain.
"The only thing I could say to the guy is, 'Well, I don't really want to sell the property. It never has been on the market for sale and I gave you a price of which I was offered. I was offered this back before the recession started. I turned it down,'" Davis said.
Davis' daughter, Pam Davis Guthrie, is worried about the stress her father is going through with this.
She's also concerned about how she says the city is going about building a children's museum and library.
"Things like not happening the right way, especially when we know so many of y'all," she said. "Things could've been worked differently. Better. Calmly."
Other people who spoke at Tuesday's city council meeting agreed.
"It just doesn't look good," said John S. Pruett, who knows Davis and Jack Thompson. "I hope you guys will think about that. I don't blame the owners of these properties for holding out."
"Everybody is excited about having a new library, parking and a children's museum," Nell Ciaccio said. "Those things are needed, but not at the expense of people's livelihoods when there are alternatives."
City Manager John Pedersen said this motion doesn't mean the city will definitely use eminent domain.
However, he said the city has to keep in mind who is paying.
"At some point we need to weigh the fairness to the property owner with the fairness to the taxpayer who is ultimately paying the bill," Pedersen said.
City spokesman Mark Kruea confirmed that the motion to use eminent domain did not need a second reading - now that it is approved by the city council, the city manager and city attorney can move forward with eminent domain proceedings if they desire to do so.
Davis, the owner of 503 9th Avenue North, spoke with WMBF News earlier this week.
"I don't have a bad tenant, I don't have shootings and things like that," he said.
He also worries about what he himself will do, since he doesn't believe the price the City offered him is enough.
"You don't go just by the market value, you go by historic value, sentimental value, future value," said Davis.
He also disagrees with the way the City has gone about the potential purchasing so far.
"I'm really surprised that they would bring up the subject of eminent domain so quick, like telling the property owners 'or else! you will lose your property or you won't get that 30 percent higher than!' I think that's kind of abrupt and early without any kind of sit-down negotiation before hand," said Davis.