MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – The city of Myrtle Beach has stepped in and demanded that action be taken in reference to the Palace Theatre, which was damaged during Hurricane Matthew.
According to court documents, the city filed a lis pendens, which city spokesperson Mark Kruea describes as a notice of potential legal action, in the Court of Common Pleas against the Palace Theatre's owner, Chapin Co., on Jan. 31.
The documents state that an on-site inspection was held on Jan. 10, and the building was found to be in violation of city codes and ordinances in one or more of the following areas:
- Structure unfit for human occupancy
- Unsafe conditions
- Mechanical appliances
- Roofs and drainage
- Premises identification
"The violations listed above constitute conditions that are dangerous or injurious to the health, safety or morals of the occupants of such structure or the occupants of neighboring structures or other residents of such municipality," the court documents state.
The documents state a public hearing was set to take place on Feb. 8 before Bruce Boulineau, the city of Myrtle Beach's chief building official.
According to Kruea, that hearing did not take place. He expects it will now be held in April.
"We do it when a property owner has allowed the property to not meet the codes, whether it's a life safety issue, whether it's a property maintenance issue," Kruea said. "There's something that needs to be tended to on the building and the property owner hasn't done it through normal channels and this is a more serious way of getting their attention."
A large piece of the Palace Theatre's front facade was ripped off during the hurricane.
"It's been open and exposed to the elements. The condition inside is not good," Kruea said. "I have not been there, but from what I have gathered, it is not a good thing."
Kruea said the lis pendens is the first step in the city's process to get the problem remedied.
"Due process takes a lot of time. It's been six months since the hurricane basically. We may be halfway through at this point. We'll see. It takes time," Kruea said. "You have to notify the property owner. You have to give them a chance to repair the property. There are a number of steps involved in that notification. Usually the problem gets resolved sooner rather than later, but it does take time."
He said the property maintenance hearing comes next.
If nothing happens after that, city council could request the property owner explain why the building shouldn't have to meet city codes.
If the city decides that reasoning isn't valid and the property owner still refuses to fix the problem, then the city could repair or demolish the building.
A lien is put on those kinds of properties, requiring some of the profit when the property is sold to go back to the city to reimburse public funds used on the private property.
WMBF News worked to find out who is responsible for fixing the property.
"We sent the lis pendens in this case to the recorded property owner, Chapin Company, and the P.O. Box," Kruea said.
However, the city doesn't have a specific contact right now for Chapin Company.
"The Chapin Company has been around here for a long, long time here in Myrtle Beach. We have a name on record. However, the person on our records for the property and the business license has recently passed away," Kruea said. "I'm sure there's legal representation for the company here in town."
The South Carolina Secretary of State's website showed Claude Epps Jr. as the contact person for Chapin Company. He has worked as an attorney in the area. Attempts to reach him were not successful.
Chapin Company's address is listed online as 744 Main St., which is an office in the Five Points area. The office has a sign in the window reading, "Chapin Company Corporate Office."
The woman who came to the door said she couldn't answer questions. When asked who owns the company, she said shareholders do.
The person she then referred WMBF News to said he doesn't know anything about who has responsibility for the Palace Theatre. He added that Chapin Company does have a board of directors that makes decisions.
He said he's not on the board of directors.
The operator of the Palace Theatre did not respond to WMBF News.
The court documents can be read in their entirety below: