Developer Discards Myrtle Beach Hangar Proposal

Former state Rep. Mark Kelley dropped plans Wednesday to lease land and build hangars at the Myrtle Beach International Airport.

A proposed lease agreement between Kelley and Horry County faced mounting opposition, including from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The FAA said last month that the deal might jeopardize future federal funding for the airport because it set Kelley's rent too low and required the county to buy the structures if the lease was not renewed.

Under the agreement, Kelley would have put up all the money to build 30 hangars and paid the county $25 to $38 per month in rent for each hangar, which is half the current cost of tying down an aircraft at the airport, according to the FAA.

The 30 hangars could have been subleased to owners of smaller, private airplanes.

At the end of the lease period, the airport would be obligated to purchase the hangars from the owner at fair market value.

"I don't need to do anything to help this county," Kelley said. "If that is the way they want to do it, they can bring in someone from outside the county.

"I was doing it as a favor to benefit and improve the aviation side of that airport."

Kelley said Thursday that the lease was based on an agreement at the Rock Hill airport and would have been a good deal for the county.

He was the only one to respond when the county was seeking bids to build the hangars.

In a Wednesday e-mail to the airport attorney, Kelley blamed the project's defeat partly on the "lack of support and ignorance" of the Horry County League of Women Voters, which filed a complaint with the FAA about the lease agreement.

"I think that sometimes people need to look up what 'ignorance' means in the dictionary," said Pam Creech, treasurer for the League of Women Voters. "I think our understanding came out fairly correct or the FAA would have accepted [the lease]."

The group would have supported the project if Kelley had been required to pay fair market rent on the land and the county had not agreed to set a precedent by buying the hangars, Creech said.

"I am not opposed to T-hangars, and I am not opposed to a businessman making money," she said. "I am opposed to anyone getting that kind of a deal when it entails taxpayers' money."

County Councilman Mark Lazarus said he was disappointed the project was dropped.

The project would have attracted 30 clients to pay airport fees and property taxes for the 25-year term of the lease, Lazarus said.

Lazarus said it is unlikely another developer will step up to build hangars and now the county must look for other ways to fill that need at the airport.

"We are going to have to figure out how to do it," he said, "and where to get the money from."