MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - Myrtle Beach city officials are looking for a way to tackle nuisance issues, like abandoned cars and properties being left unkempt.
Right now, all code and nuisance cases within the city are mixed in with the city’s municipal court proceedings. Many get lost in the shuffle and it can take up to six months to be resolved.
But that all could change with the addition of a new city court officials are calling a "Quality of Life” court. Think of it as a traffic court or homeless court. The Quality of Life court will only deal with code and nuisance cases and would speed up the process of cleaning up the city and ensuring the safety of residents and visitors. It would be held twice a month, settling cases within three to four weeks.
City of Myrtle Beach spokesperson Mark Kruea says the idea is modeled after surrounding cities, like Charleston. In 2002, Charleston initiated a "Livability Court.”
Right now in the current system, the final say is up to the city council. But with the new court, the decision would be left up to a municipal judge.
Cases heard in the Quality of Life court would not only deal with properties in disrepair and abandoned vehicles, but also problems such as repeated noise ordinance violations, illegal dumping, signage and zoning, and fire code violations. If implemented, city officials agree this proposed court would be a positive addition to the city, noting it would raise the bar within the community by holding property owners to a higher standard.
“Well I think the community will benefit from this. You’ll hear from neighbors who say, ‘Gee that yard hasn’t been cut all year, or that house is falling down, what can we do about that or there’s an unintended car that’s parked in the yard’ so having these issues dealt with faster will make the whole community look better, but it will also make the residents and the businesses feel better about their community,” said Kruea.
If implemented, a property owner would receive a municipal summons from Myrtle Beach police and a code enforcement officer to appear in court. A first-time violator could instead receive a warning, giving them 20 days to abate or take steps to abate the nuisance, but property owners who do nothing will have to go to court and face a judge.
Once in court, the judge has the discretion to wave any fines if the defendant is showing good faith progress. Those who continue to violate the code would receive a fine of up to $1,087 a day or 30 days in jail. The judge could also issue a court order allowing staff to abate the nuisance and lien the property.
City officials say another issue the city faces is tracking down absentee property owners when problems arise.
A resolution establishing the Quality of Life court is set to be presented at Tuesday’s city council meeting. It would then take about a month or so to make some procedural changes in the city code of ordinances.
Officials stress the court isn’t meant to be a revenue generator for the city, but rather a means to clean up the city and make it safer.