CONWAY — Myrtle Beach officials on Tuesday moved a step closer to a decision on the regulation of tents on the beach, while Horry County moved toward banning them altogether year-round and hopes Myrtle Beach follows its lead.
City Council voted 5-1 Tuesday to ban the use of beach tents from Memorial Day to Labor Day, with Councilwoman Susan Grissom Means voting against the ordinance. Councilman Randal Wallace was not at the meeting.
“I do not support this motion and I have not from the beginning,” she said. “I just think it’s wrong to say that a family with young children and/or elderly members of the family – or any member for that matter – can’t go to the beach and shield themselves from the sun. … I can’t support this Memorial Day to Labor Day, year round – whatever. I’m against it.”
Later Tuesday, however, Horry County voted unanimously without any discussion to ban the tents all year. It takes two more readings to make the county ban official.
“I think, right now, council’s feel is for consistency purposes,” said County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus. “It’s kind of hard for public safety to say you can have them this time of year, but you can’t have them that time of year.
“It’s a public safety issue. When it’s a public safety issue, it’s all of the time, not just some of the time.”
Lazarus said the cities of Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach have all worked closely together on the issue, and he hopes the two will follow the county’s lead.
“I’m hoping that from our vote [Tuesday night], they may see that and may follow suit,” Lazarus said. “We’re looking for some consistency across the board. We want people to know when they come to Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and Horry County’s unincorporated areas that it’s the same everywhere.”
Myrtle Beach passed first reading of the ordinance with the plan to amend it to match the county’s ordinance. One more vote is needed to make the change official in the city.
Myrtle Beach officials have said they will fall in line with Horry County once they pass first reading of their ordinance.
Tents have been discussed among officials in Grand Strand beach communities for the past few years and most recently resurfaced during a June meeting of Myrtle Beach’s Beach Advisory Committee.
North Myrtle Beach City Council has since passed first reading of an ordinance that bans tents in all areas of the city from the Saturday before Memorial Day through and including Labor Day. Only Councilman Bob Cavanaugh voted against the ban.
If the ordinance passes second reading, tentatively scheduled for March 17, the law in North Myrtle Beach would take effect this year.
Under the current law along the Grand Strand, beachgoers can’t use tents larger than 12 feet-by-12 feet, must have them set up on the land side of the lifeguard’s umbrella line and they must be at least 10 feet away from another tent. Tent users must secure their tents with lines that don’t stick out from the tent’s borders. Tents can’t go up before 8 a.m. and must be down by 7 p.m.
Law enforcement officers and lifeguards have said the tents block their view of the beach, as well as their paths when emergencies occur on the ocean.
Myrtle Beach City Council attempted to pass an ordinance regulating the tents two weeks ago but two votes on the issue failed – one that would ban them all together and one that still would allow them in residential areas. Three councilmen wanted a ban on all areas of the beach, three wanted the ban only in commercial areas and Means did not want a ban at all, city spokesman Mark Kruea said.
Both Mayor John Rhodes and Councilman Wayne Gray said while they would prefer to only enact the ban in commercial areas, they understood the need to restrict tents citywide.
“I recognize law enforcement’s request to make it as simple as possible as far as enforcing and educating and policing,” Gray said. “In an effort to … provide consistency between the three jurisdictions, I’m changing my position.”
Contact MAYA T. PRABHU at 444-1722. Contact JASON M. RODRIGUEZ at 626-0301.