Myrtle Beach sues hoteliers over pool enclosures

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has decided the glass enclosures around the hotels' pools are illegal.

Oceanfront hotels in Myrtle Beach are caught up in a dilemma. The hotels are being forced to make expensive upgrades costing thousands of dollars or get sued by the city.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has decided the glass enclosures around the hotels' pools are illegal. That is a federal rule, but the City of Myrtle Beach is caught in the middle and has now gone to court, to force the hotels to comply.

For years, oceanfront hotels in Myrtle Beach have used glass enclosures to turn their outdoor pools into indoor pools during winter months. In 2007, FEMA found out about it and decided the glass enclosures could be hazardous in a hurricane.

FEMA told Myrtle Beach city officials, if you don't make the hotels give up their glass enclosures, the city will lose its eligibility for flood insurance. "The city has done everything it can do to work with the business community, but they're boxed in. They don't want to do anything to jeopardize the availability of flood insurance for residents and businesses," said Brad Dean, president of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.

So last week, the city filed a federal lawsuit against 11 hotels that city officials say are violating the rule. The hotels named in the suit are the Atlantica Resort, Dunes Village I, Dunes Village II, Captain's Quarters, The Patricia Grand, Meridian Plaza, Monterey Bay, Sea Crest Resort, Coral Beach Resort, The Palace Resort and the Windsurfer.

About 20 other hotels have either not enclosed their outdoor pools at all or spent thousands on vinyl or plexiglas enclosures that are FEMA-approved. "In many cases, for these hotels, this is a significant investment, perhaps the single biggest investment they would have to make over the next several years," Dean said.

The US House of Representatives has passed a bill that would allow glass enclosures, but the Senate hasn't acted on it. Until it does, Dean and other tourism leaders hope FEMA will back down. "Our congressional delegation, led by Congressman Clyburn, Congressman Brown and Senator Graham, have called FEMA, met with FEMA, written FEMA, on a daily watch with FEMA, trying to prod them to simply say they're going to back off, or at least give us time to get this bill passed."

We contacted all 11 hotels named in the suit, none of them would comment.

We contacted Senator Lindsey Graham's office and were told the senator is working directly with FEMA now on the issue. They don't believe it will come up during the lame duck session to vote on before end of year.

We did not hear back from Senator Jim DeMint's office.

The pool enclosure rule only affects hotels that are in the city's flood plain.