Horry County, Myrtle Beach closer to resolution in hospitality fee battle

Updated: Oct. 31, 2019 at 10:27 PM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) – The saga surrounding hospitality fees could be closer to a resolution.

Horry County leaders and attorneys for Myrtle Beach took part in a nearly 10-hour mediation meeting on Thursday to try and resolve the legal feud.

Myrtle Beach filed a lawsuit in March, accusing the county of illegally collecting hospitality tax money without consent. At issue is a resolution passed in 1996 that allowed Horry County to collect a 1.5% hospitality tax.

That resolution was set to expire in 2017, but the county passed an ordinance in December 2016 that extends the Sunset Provision on the 1.5% hospitality fee to Jan. 1, 2022. City leaders said they did not give their consent to this.

Since then, there has been an onslaught of appeals and injunctions in the case that has brought confusion, so a judge ordered the two parties into mediation. There were two meetings in August, but no deal was reached.

Horry County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner told WMBF News Thursday night that they came to a resolution, but there are several steps that need to happen before it is all resolved.

Gardner said that the resolution must be presented to Myrtle Beach City Council where they will look over it and decide whether to approve it. It will also have to be presented to other Horry County municipalities involved in the hospitality fee battle.

Gardner said that the resolution must also be brought to Horry County Council and put on the agenda for a vote.

“If council agrees or votes to support it then we still have the court case going on so we’ll go to court and tell the judge that we have an agreement once it’s an official agreement," Gardner said.

WMBF News reached out to Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune about the tentative resolution and she sent us this statement:

“The negotiators have made progress in their discussions, but it’s too early to say whether any agreement has been reached. No decision has been made. The next step is to take the idea to our respective councils and the other municipalities for their consideration.”

The hospitality tax issue has put Interstate 73 in jeopardy because Horry County was counting on money from the fee to help pay for the roadway.

Horry County has until Dec. 1 to let SCDOT know if it will cancel the I-73 contract.

Gardner said he doesn’t believe the hospitality fee will be fully resolved by then, so leaders may ask the SCDOT for another extension on their decision.

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