Pool enclosure decision a 'watch-and-wait' game for hotels

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - It's a watch-and-wait game for local tourism officials hoping a drafted amendment could be the game changer that keeps enclosed pools open for business along the coast.

Right now, National Flood Insurance legislation is being tackled by the U.S. Senate and has gained overwhelming support from the U.S. House. However, local officials hope an amendment will be added to the bill that allows for hard enclosures to cover pools in flood zones.

FEMA claims having those hard enclosures over pools in a flood zone could put Grand Strand visitors in danger during a hurricane.

It's a claim that Stephen Greene, of the Myrtle Beach Area Hospitality Association, says many hoteliers and tourism professionals disagree with along the Grand Strand.

"From the federal perspective and FEMA's perspective, they felt there are changes that need to be made," he explained. "Obviously we disagree with that. [It's] another additional cost on small businesses, and there's been no research to show the changes they're looking to make has an impact on the safety of our guests."

Greene and Nora Hembree, spokeswoman for the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, say the issue goes beyond the luxury of having indoor pools along the Grand Strand.

If hard pool enclosures are no longer allowed in a flood zone, the MBACC says that decision could result in the loss of 3,000 off-season tourism jobs because of less visitors in the area's shoulder season.

"Businesses have said if they don't have the pool enclosures to support their business during the winter months, they're going to have to scale back on employees," Hembree said. "It's important to note this amendment comes at no cost to the government... and it's a job-saver."

The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce had hoped the amendment allowing hard pool enclosures would be drafted for the National Flood Insurance bill, but Sen. Jim DeMint's office says no movement on the issue has been made.

Copyright 2011 WMBF News. All rights reserved.