City of Myrtle Beach v. Juel P. Corp.

Decision Date12 March 2001
Docket NumberNo. 25261.,25261.
Citation344 S.C. 43,543 S.E.2d 538
CourtSouth Carolina Supreme Court
PartiesCITY OF MYRTLE BEACH, Respondent, v. JUEL P. CORPORATION and Gay Dolphin, Inc., Petitioners.

Howell V. Bellamy, Jr., and Douglas M. Zayicek, of Bellamy, Rutenberg, Copeland, Epps, Gravely & Bowers, of Myrtle Beach, for petitioners.

Michael W. Battle, of Battle & Vaught, of Conway, for respondent. BURNETT, Justice:

This case involves the proper construction of a Myrtle Beach city ordinance concerning abandoned and obsolete signs. Myrtle Beach Code § 902.4.7. We granted certiorari to review a decision of the Court of Appeals holding petitioners' sign could be deemed abandoned regardless of petitioners' intent. City of Myrtle Beach v. Juel P. Corp. and Gay Dolphin, Inc., 337 S.C. 157, 522 S.E.2d 153 (Ct.App.1999). We reverse.


In the early 1970s, petitioners purchased Ed's Hobby Shop in Myrtle Beach. The shop includes a rooftop sign, which is arguably the most prominent sign location in Myrtle Beach.

In 1979, Myrtle Beach enacted a zoning ordinance which prohibited rooftop signs in certain areas of the city, including the area where petitioners' sign was located. Section 902.8.3 of the zoning ordinance provided that rooftop signs had an amortization period of three years. In 1985, after the conclusion of a lengthy legal challenge to the city's comprehensive sign ordinance, the city notified petitioners that its ordinance had been declared legal, constitutional, and enforceable, and ordered petitioners to remove the rooftop sign from Ed's Hobby Shop. Petitioners, through an agent, responded by alerting the city to former S.C.Code Ann. § 57-25-195 (Supp. 1980) (repealed in 1990), which would have required the city to pay just compensation for the sign. Rather than compensate petitioners for the sign's removal, the city chose not to enforce its 1985 letter.

In 1989, in the imminence of Hurricane Hugo, petitioners removed the sign facing to minimize damage from the storm. Shortly after the storm had passed, petitioners received a letter from the city informing them the sign was more than 50% damaged and could not be restored. Petitioners asked for repair estimates from three different sign companies, all of which agreed with petitioners' estimate that the sign was only 10% damaged. Petitioners approached the city's Director of Construction Services with these estimates, and, when he refused to concede their damage estimate, presented the estimates to the city manager. Petitioners attempted to reach a settlement with the city manager in which petitioners would agree to remove the rooftop sign in exchange for a permit for a unipole sign.

For the next five years, the sign remained vacant. Neither petitioners nor the city pursued formal appeals or informal negotiations. During this time, however, petitioners continued to pay Highway Department fees and maintain electricity to the sign. In the fall of 1994, petitioners installed new sign facing. On November 8, 1994, the city notified petitioners that the sign violated the city zoning ordinance, § 902.4.8, which prohibits rooftop signs. When petitioners did not remove the sign, the city sought an injunction. In its second amended complaint, dated September 24, 1996, the city for the first time claimed petitioners had abandoned their sign. Section 902.4.7 of the Myrtle Beach Code provides:

Any sign which advertises or pertains to a business, product, service, event, activity or purpose which is no longer conducted or that has not been in use for three months or which is no longer imminent, or any sign structure that no longer displays any sign copy shall be deemed to be an obsolete or abandoned sign.

The Master-in-Equity for Horry County conducted a hearing on the city's injunction action and petitioners' takings counterclaim. The Master ruled the city could not rely on its ordinance because to do so would retroactively deprive petitioners of a vested right. He further ruled intent is a necessary element of abandonment, and found petitioners "did not simply abandon the most prominent and valuable sign in Myrtle Beach." The Court of Appeals reversed, holding a property owner's intent is irrelevant when an ordinance specifies an objective time frame after which a nonconforming use shall be deemed abandoned. City of Myrtle Beach v. Juel P. Corp. and Gay Dolphin, Inc., 337 S.C. 157, 522 S.E.2d 153 (Ct.App.1999).


Petitioners argue several issues on appeal. We decline to reach these issues because we conclude the city's ordinance does not provide an objective time frame for...

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  • Heilker v. Zoning Bd. of Appeals
    • United States
    • South Carolina Court of Appeals
    • July 23, 2001 so hold.") (quoting Conway v. City of Greenville, 254 S.C. 96, 101, 173 S.E.2d 648, 650 (1970)), rev'd on other grounds, 344 S.C. 43, 543 S.E.2d 538 (2001); Historic Charleston Found. v. Krawcheck, 313 S.C. 500, 505-06, 443 S.E.2d 401, 405 (Ct.App.1994) ("[W]e will not reverse ... unless......
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    ...344 S.C. 129, 542 S.E.2d 743 (Ct.App.2001). The determination of legislative intent is a matter of law. City of Myrtle Beach v. Juel P. Corp., 344 S.C. 43, 543 S.E.2d 538 (2001); Charleston County Parks Recreation Comm'n v. Somers, 319 S.C. 65, 459 S.E.2d 841 (1995); Goldston v. State Farm ......
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    • South Carolina Court of Appeals
    • March 28, 2018
    ...S.E.2d at 897 (quoting City of Myrtle Beach v. Juel P. Corp. , 337 S.C. 157, 177, 522 S.E.2d 153, 164 (Ct. App. 1999), rev'd , 344 S.C. 43, 543 S.E.2d 538 (2001) ). "As with statutes, the lawmakers' intent embodied in an ordinance ‘must prevail if it can be reasonably discovered in the lang......
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