Inlet Affairs handling catering for Murrells Inlet reality TV show
While publicly concerns continue to flow over filming of a reality show in the Murrells Inlet, privately things are moving toward a future that addresses some of the issues raised by residents.
“We are not taking this lightly,” said Boyd Johnson, Georgetown County's director of planning and zoning. “We're definitely not ignoring the residents' concerns.”
Some of those concerns were aired Aug. 14 before the Georgetown County Council, others have been posted on a Facebook page, “We 'Just Said NO' to the Dirty South” and still others have been expressed over Marsh Walk lunches, dinners and walks.
“I have huge sympathy for what the Stedmans are suffering,” said Jerry Oakley, the council's vice chairman, whose district includes Murrells Inlet. Beth and Warren Stedman have filed with the zoning board of appeals to have Johnson's ruling that filming of the show at the cast's base, Kings Krest, a rental property in an area of the inlet zoned residential, does not violate the county's zoning ordinance.
“There are multiple issues here,” said Oakley. “First, you cannot regulate content of the filming. The issue of filming is about as basic a right as there is. The Constitution prohibits any law abridging freedom of speech and of the press.”
“You want to stay away from regulating content,” Johnson said. “If we tell one business they have to follow the regulations, then all businesses have to follow that same regulation.”
Opponents of the filming have suggested, however, that Georgetown County's rules do apply to 495 Productions, the producers of the hit reality show “Jersey Shore,” citing the numbers of family members who can stay in a rental property and the approval of the trailers and generators near Kings Krest.
Some residents contend that the property should be covered under the incidental uses portion of the zoning ordinance, which limits home-based businesses to “one nonresident assistant.” But Johnson pointed out that part of the zoning refers to a home-based business such as an accounting firm, a hairdresser and the like, which uses up to no more than 25 percent of the residence for the business.
“That's not the case here,” said Johnson. “This doesn't apply.”
Nor, he said, do the offices and generators near the site violate the portion of the ordinance that deals with tractor-trailers or cargo boxes. “These are not tractor-trailers or cargo boxes, but temporary offices,” he said.
“Believe me, long before any member of the public raised the question about zoning violations, the county attorney, and council members in collaboration with the administrator were researching what other municipalities do to regulate situations like this in the future,” Oakley said. “We cannot act arbitrarily or capriciously.”
“Nor can we regulate content. We can, however, regulate conduct.”
Both Johnson and Oakley say they expect to see an ordinance covering filming in the future. But even if work begins on the ordinance today, it is unlikely anything will be on the books much before Christmas.
“Government must follow due process. We can't stop on a dime. There are rules in place that we must follow,” Oakley said.
Those rules do not necessarily apply to the Facebook posters. One person wrote “I can assure you Mr. Jerry Oakley, we will be campaigning someone to run against you and you WILL lose, even if I have to run against you myself. …I send my sympathy to the Stedman family…buy a gun and use it if you have to … if I am on the jury, you won't be convicted.” Oakley said he does not respond to messages like that, and he has not notified law enforcement officials. The owners of the Facebook page eliminated the post.
Johnson said he had not seen the post, but was aware of it. He said he would continue to do his job and enforce the county ordinances.
By Anita Crone
For Inlet Outlook
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