The Horry County Council is plotting legal action against the City of Myrtle Beach to challenge beachfront parking fees they say unfairly charges county residents and restricts parking at public beaches.
The county attorney on Tuesday was directed to research the chances of a successful legal action and whether the county should immediately request that a court issue a restraining order to block parking fees this summer.
The council will be briefed on their legal options during an executive session at the March 7 meeting, and will afterwards decide publicly whether to fight the parking fees in court.
The legal action was requested by Councilman Harold Worley, who said locals living outside the Myrtle Beach city limits are “mad as hank about this thing and they want something done about it.”
Worley said the council needs to go on the record as either supporting or opposing the parking fees for county residents.
Councilman Dennis DiSabato who represents the Carolina Forest area, echoed sentiments from his constituents that locals keep Myrtle Beach businesses afloat during the off season and should not be treated unfairly when it comes to summer beach parking.
“The city seems to be turning their backs on them when it comes to protecting this Golden Mile area,” DiSabato said. “That was never meant to be a private beach, and in fact what they are trying to do is make it into a private beach for residents who live along that part of the Grand Strand.”
“I don’t want to be a bully to the City of Myrtle Beach, but at the same time we need to carry as many sticks as we can in an effort to try to negotiate with them fairly if they are not going to negotiate fairly on their own,” DiSabato said.
A couple of big sticks suggested by DiSabato, withdrawing county police support during Bike Week or withholding road fees collected by the county.
The discussion came during the council’s Administrative Committee meeting, and several legal options were explored including whether Surfside Beach should be a part of the legal action for their plans to increase parking charges for non-residents.
The county could ask both cities to join them in asking the court to decide whether the parking fees are legal in setting different rates for access to public beaches, or the county could go it alone.
And in filing the legal action, the councilmen appeared in agreement that a temporary restraining order to block the fees this summer should also be requested.
“I believe the residents of Horry County are fed up with taxes being raised, fees being increased, and now it’s getting to the point where going to the beach is costing an arm and a leg, and the residents are sick of it,” said Councilman Tyler Servant.
Mark Kruea, spokesman for Myrtle Beach, pointed out that Horry County charges for parking on most its beachfront lots, a point that was also raised during the county council discussion Tuesday.
The difference, county officials argued, is that they charge everyone the same parking fee regardless of their address.
All of the street-end beach parking lots were free until last summer, when the Myrtle Beach City Council voted to charge hourly and daily fees to everyone who lived outside the city limits.
The council originally tried to restrict street parking along the Golden Mile to local residents only, but rescinded that decision after the Sun News asked the Army Corps of Engineers for its opinion on the street parking restrictions.
The Army Corps’ of Engineers, which uses federal taxpayer dollars for beach renourishment projects along the Grand Strand, frowned on the street parking limitations for residents only.
The city council this year decided to issue parking decals to everyone living outside Myrtle Beach for $100, but that does not include the street-end parking lots along the Golden Mile.
Myrtle Beach residents are not charged separately for parking, because the council now considers vehicle taxes as payment.