COVID-19 UPDATE ON CLOSURES, ETC

One of the jewels of South Carolina’s Hammock Coast is the beautiful and pristine Huntington Beach State Park. (Photo by Mark A. Stevens/ Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce)

For generations, South Carolina’s Hammock Coast has been sought out for its pristine beaches and the healing power of relaxation and tranquility, but several changes have come about in recent days in regards to short-term rentals and beach access.

The latest, on Monday, March 30, is the closure of all of South Carolina’s public beach access points, as well as piers, wharfs, docks, boat ramps and landings on state lakes, rivers and waterways providing public access. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster announced the closures on Monday evening, via Twitter.

“As a result of behavior observed this past weekend by the Department of Natural Resources and SLED, it has become necessary to close public access to our state’s beaches, and close boat ramps and landings on our state’s lakes, rivers and waterways,” McMaster said. “This is unfortunate for those who chose to responsibly follow the instructions of our public health officials, but a necessary action to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.”

An executive order from the governor also details that public access parking lots and any other public facilities  at the above locations will also be closed “for the duration of the State of Emergency.”

On March 24, the Town of Pawleys Island and the County of Georgetown County have both passed emergency ordinances concerning short-term rentals. The City of Georgetown has not passed a resolution, so short-term rentals there are still allowed, but if that changes, we will update the information here.

Also, South Carolina state parks, which includes Huntington Beach State Park, are now closed.

The following information is the official ordinances for the town of Pawleys Island the county government, as well as the official press release from SC state parks.

GEORGETOWN COUNTY

EMERGENCY ORDINANCE 20-16 — COUNTY OF GEORGETOWN 

WHEREAS, Georgetown County Council is empowered by section 4-9-130 of the South Carolina Code of Laws and Section 2-487 of the Georgetown County Code of Ordinances to adopt emergency ordinances, enacted by the affirmative vote of at least two-thirds of the members of council present, and effective immediately upon enactment without regard to any reading, public hearing, publication requirements, or public notice requirements, to meet public emergencies affecting life, health, safety or the property of the people; and 

WHEREAS, due to the recognition that COVID-19 poses a significant public health threat for infectious disease spread to County citizens, Council enacted emergency Ordinance 20-14 on March 16, 2020 declaring a localized State of Emergency for Georgetown County; and 

WHEREAS, on March 24, 2020, Council enacted emergency Ordinance 20-15, providing for Council meetings to be held by electronic means; and  

WHEREAS, the County has taken these steps and others, following the lead of the President of the United States, the Governor of the State of South Carolina, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, and other health agencies and authorities, to “flatten the curve” and spread of COVID-19 in Georgetown County; and 

WHEREAS, despite those actions and after considering the CDC’s guidelines for “community mitigation strategies” coupled with the immediate increase in tourist visitors from other states with higher infection rates than South Carolina, Georgetown County Council believes the ability of the virus to spread rapidly warrants further steps be taken to promote the public health and welfare of our citizens, including suspending the rental and use of short-term rentals, hotels, and other overnight accommodations; and  

WHEREAS, it is hereby determined that a public emergency affecting life, health, and safety continues to exist, and therefore, it is appropriate and necessary to enact this emergency ordinance.

NOW THEREFORE, be it hereby ordained and ordered in this emergency meeting of Georgetown County Council the following: 

1.  PROHIBITION.  All accommodations businesses in the unincorporated area of Georgetown County, including hotels, motels, condo hotels, rental properties, inclusive of private management companies and HOA’s, Airbnb, VRBO style lodging, public and private campgrounds and other overnight accommodations for 29 DAYS OR LESS, shall not accept new reservations for any period of time from Saturday March 28, 2020 through April 30, 2020 (such time limit is subject to further modification).  

Existing reservations made for a period beginning Saturday, March 28, 2020 through April 30, 2020 will be rescheduled or canceled. Visitors currently checked in PRIOR TO MARCH 28, 2020 may remain until the end of their existing reservations, but such reservations shall not be extended. 

2.  EXEMPT.  Those units consistently occupied by the same occupant since March 1, 2020 are exempt, but rental occupancy in the same unit may not be increased by others, including friends or family members. 

Also exempted are short-term rentals extended to Government, Hospital, Health Agency, Law Enforcement, Military and other Critical Personnel actively responding to the COVID-19 emergency. 

Any violation of this Emergency Ordinance shall be punishable as provided in Section 1-6, General Penalty, Georgetown County Code of Ordinances, being $200 or 30 days imprisonment, such penalty shall be cumulative for each day of violation.   

3.  TERMINATION/EXPIRATION.  This Ordinance will remain in effect until April 30, 2020 unless sooner terminated by Resolution of Georgetown County Council.   

4.   SEVERABILITY.  If any Section, Subsection, or part of this Ordinance shall be deemed or found to conflict with a provision of South Carolina law, or other pre-emptive legal principle, then that Section, Sub-section or part of this Ordinance shall be deemed ineffective, but the remaining parts of this Ordinance shall remain in full force and effect. 

5. CONFLICT WITH PRECEDING ORDINANCES.  If a Section, Sub-section or provision of this Ordinance shall conflict with the provisions of a Section, Sub-section or part of a preceding Ordinance of Georgetown County, unless expressly so providing, then the preceding Section, Sub-section or part shall be deemed repealed and no longer in effect.

6. EFFECTIVE DATE.  This Ordinance shall become effective immediately.

DONE AS AN EMERGENCY ORDINANCE and approved at a meeting duly assembled by no less than an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members of Georgetown County Council attending this 27th day of March, 2020. 

TOWN OF PAWLEYS ISLAND

TOWN OF PAWLEYS ISLAND EMERGENCY ORDINANCE NO. 2020-02

WHEREAS, the United States of America, the State of South Carolina, and the Town of Pawleys Island have declared emergencies related to the spread of COVID-19 virus; and

WHEREAS, in order to lessen the intensity and duration of the crisis, reduce the stress of our first responders and healthcare system, and to prevent unnecessary death, all citizens must prepare to make sacrifices; and

WHEREAS, as a tourist destination, short term rentals inflate the population of the Town of Pawleys Island placing an additional strain on Town resources, for example the number of citizens in the Town is approximately 200 and during a typical tourism week, the population is 5,000; and

WHEREAS, the population change increases the risk of virus transmission; and

WHEREAS, certain additional measures need to be taken to continue to protect our citizens and

guests from this pandemic.

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT ORDAINED by the Mayor and Council of the Town of Pawleys Island, in Council assembled, that:

1. Short-Term Rentals (STR) and Other Overnight Accommodations: No new check ins are permitted beginning 5:00 p.m. Saturday, March 28, 2020 through April 30, 2020. Visitors currently checked in may remain until the end of their existing reservations. Long-term rentals of 30 days or more are still permitted by showing a valid lease agreement.

2. Any violation of any rule or regulation issued and set forth herein shall be punishable as provided in the Code of Ordinance for the Town of Pawleys Island, Chapter 1, Section 1- 7, General Penalty.

Enacted this 27th day of March, 2020, by Town Council of the Town of Pawleys Island, South Carolina.

This ordinance shall take effect immediately.

HUNTINGTON BEACH STATE PARK

Beginning Saturday, March 28, all state parks in South Carolina will be closed through Thursday, April 30, to support the state’s response to COVID-19. The closure is designed to keep visitors and employees as safe as possible by mitigating the spread of the Coronavirus.

Visitors who are currently occupying campsites and cabins can remain through the duration of their rental reservation as long as they continue to practice the state’s recommendations for social distancing. All new reservation arrivals, however, from Saturday, March 28, to Thursday, April 30, will be canceled and refunds issued.

This is the third limited-access directive the Park Service has made this month in response to public health advisories. Earlier, state parks canceled all large-group gathering reservations and suspended all interpretive programming and special events for March. Those suspensions remain in place through April. For two days this week, parks closed day-use areas like picnic grounds, lakefronts and trails. Those areas will remain closed through April 30 as well.

The Park Service continues to be engaged with their fans and followers, however, by hosting Facebook Live events regularly. The first one was held March 18 from Hunting Island State Park and can be viewed here. Follow @SC.State.Parks on Facebook for more information on Live events.

For more information, contact Dawn Dawson-House at ddawson@scprt.com or 803-467-0202.


Our beaches in Garden City, Murrells Inlet, Litchfield and Pawleys are still open. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has asked that groups must be three or less, even on beaches. Local police departments are tasked with patrolling and enforcing the governor’s directive. With the cooperation of everyone, our beaches will remain open, but, in the current climate, this could change at any time. So that everyone can still find some peace and needed space, please be respectful on our beaches.

In addition, on March 25, the governor issued a request that all out-of-state visitors already here are to self-quarantine for two weeks immediately upon arrival.  “If they’re planning a stay of two or more nights,” the governor’s office said, “they need to quarantine while they are here up to two weeks.”

The Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce and the Georgetown County Tourism Management Commission, both of which oversee the marketing efforts for the Hammock Coast, remain in constant communication with local, state and federal officials to have the most up-to-date information on the constantly evolving Covid-19 pandemic.

By order of the state of South Carolina, all indoor and outdoor seating at restaurants and bars is prohibited until the order is lifted, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy food from your favorite Hammock Coast restaurants. Many restaurants — from fast-food to fine dining — are offering drive-thru, drive-up, curbside and delivery options. For a list of participating restaurants (updated regularly), go to www.VisitGeorge.com. You will also find a list of any event postponements that have been announced in our region due to the ongoing health concerns.

As always, the Chamber of Commerce and everyone with the Hammock Coast’s tourism commission wish our local community and our visitors, warm salutations, and we are committed to your safety. 

Most of all, please look for information from official sources. We urge you to continue following the recommendations of the federal government, CDC, SCDHEC, our local healthcare system, Tidelands Health, and local officials as we navigate these uncertain times together.

This we know … We will see you again!