City looks to clean up downtown storefronts to keep area ‘family friendly’

City looks to clean up downtown storefronts to keep area ‘family friendly’

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Myrtle Beach city leaders and long-time business owners alike will say the city is what it is today because it was known as a family-friendly destination.

Now, there's a push to keep that reputation.

According to city manager John Pederson, the biggest criticism regarding the downtown area is that it is not a "family-friendly environment." That is why the planning commission is considering creating what's called an overlay district from 16th Avenue North to Sixth Avenue South, and up to Kings Highway. It will not include the businesses facing Kings Highway.

That district would prohibit the sale of items like drug paraphernalia, some sexually- or anatomically-specific clothing, and weapons.

Pederson admits that he can see where complaints are coming from regarding the downtown's reputation and the sell of that type of merchandise.

"You don't want to take your 6-year-old into that place and have to explain what that is," Pederson said.

It's an experience Victor Shamah, a long-time downtown business owner, knows all too well.

"I have been by plenty of shops with my grandchildren or my kids and just said, 'Oh my God, this shouldn't be in the window," Shamah said. "I was walking by with my mother and I was like this shouldn't be displayed in the window."

While Shamah said the overlay district is certainly something to consider, he's seen similar efforts and it's hard to enforce.

"If it's legal, then how can one person sell it and the other person can't sell it?" he said.

The city's response is it would be a code enforcement issue.

"It would be not against a person who was to go into a shop and purchase that. The enforcement of that would be the shop itself. It would be a zoning matter, so it would be perceived as a violation of the zoning code and our code enforcement people would handle it," Pederson said.

Shamah foresees a compromise in which shop owners still sell the items, but don't display them in the front windows.

While Shamah cannot say he is for or against the overlay district as it's being considered, he is certainly not for showcasing the items in question in the downtown area.

"Let me reiterate, this area is an amusement area. It is for families," he said.

According to Shamah, the downtown grew to what it is today because of what it used to be, and that is strictly family-friendly.

The planning commission is looking for the public's input on the proposed district. The next meeting is Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. in the city services building.

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