Helsel v. City of North Myrtle Beach, 23556

Decision Date21 November 1991
Docket NumberNo. 23556,23556
CourtSouth Carolina Supreme Court
PartiesCharles F. HELSEL, Judine B. Helsel, and Helsel Realty Company, Inc., Appellants-Respondents, v. The CITY OF NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, Respondent-Appellant. . Heard

Howell V. Bellamy and Preston B. Haines, III, of Bellamy, Rutenberg, Copeland, Epps, Gravely & Powers, P.A., Myrtle Beach, for appellants-respondents.

Louis M. Cook, N. Myrtle Beach, and Roy D. Bates, Columbia, for respondent-appellant.

HARWELL, Justice:

Appellants-Respondents Charles F. Helsel, Judine B. Helsel, and Helsel Realty Company, Inc. (the Helsels) contend the trial judge erred in ruling that a street end was dedicated to the public. We affirm.


The Helsels sought a declaratory judgment and an injunction prohibiting the City from exercising authority and control over a portion of a street end which provides public parking and access to the beach. The Helsels contend they possess exclusive parking rights on the section of the street end which borders their lot.

The street end originally was a portion of undeveloped property lying within a tract of land in what used to be known as Windy Hill Beach. 1 The original owner subdivided the tract into lots for development, recorded a plat of the proposed subdivision in the Office of the Horry County Clerk of Court in 1941, and sold lots in accordance with the plat. The plat shows Windy Hill Road running east-west, terminating at the beach. The plat also shows that Lot 12, now owned by the Helsels, is a corner lot bounded to the east by the beach, to the south by Lot 11, to the west by Ocean Boulevard, and to the north by the Windy Hill Road street end.

A motel was constructed on Lot 12 in 1962. The motel occupies nearly the entire lot, leaving little room on Lot 12 available for guest parking. Each owner of the motel has posted "private parking" signs facing the street end in an attempt to reserve guest parking in the street end alongside of the motel.

The City passed a general resolution in 1971 formally accepting all public roads, alleys, and rights-of-way within its venue. At that time, the City was not cognizant of the exact boundaries of many of the public roads, alleys, and rights-of-way it accepted. The City passed a second resolution in 1989 formally accepting, by specific property description, many public street ends, walkways, and public lands dedicated for the use of the public, including the street end abutting Lot 12.


Perfecting a dedication of property to public use involves two steps. First, an owner must express an intention to dedicate his property to public use in a positive and unmistakable manner. Boyd v. Hyatt, 294 S.C. 360, 364, 364 S.E.2d 478, 480 (Ct.App.1988). Second, there must be a public acceptance of the property offered for dedication. Id. at 365, 364 S.E.2d at 481.

As to the first step, the Helsels urge that the 1941 plat merely implies an offer of dedication to the public of the streets shown on the plat. We disagree. Where land is divided into lots according to a plat, showing streets, and lots are sold and conveyed with reference to said plat, the owner thereby dedicates the streets to the use of the lot owners, their successors in title, and the public. Blue Ridge Realty Co. v. Williamson, 247 S.C. 112, 118, 145 S.E.2d 922, 925 (1965). We find that the acts of the original owner in developing the property in accordance with a recorded plat evidence an intent to dedicate the street end to public use.

As to the second step, the Helsels assert that even if the original owner made an offer of dedication, there was no acceptance by the public. There ordinarily must be an express or implied acceptance of a dedication before the dedication is complete, and such acceptance must be made within a reasonable time. Outlaw v. Moise, 222 S.C. 24, 30, 71 S.E.2d 509, 511 (1952). No formal acceptance by a public authority is necessary to complete the dedication; acceptance may be implied by the public's continuous use of the property. Boyd, 294 S.C. at 365, 364 S.E.2d at 481. Acceptance of an offer of dedication also may be recognized through a public authority's using, repairing, or working the streets. Chaffee v. City of Aiken, 57 S.C. 507, 513, 35 S.E. 800, 802 (1900).

The City presented testimony at trial from long term residents of North Myrtle Beach which demonstrated that the street end has been utilized continuously by the public for beach access and parking since the road was opened in 1942. 2 The City also presented testimony showing that public authorities have maintained and policed the street end since at least 1944. We find sufficient evidence in the record to indicate the offer of dedication was accepted through...

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