The Horry County Council will not pursue legal action against the city of Myrtle Beach to challenge beachfront parking fees based on advice from their attorney that they don’t have the legal right.
The announcement was made after a 30-minute closed executive session Tuesday night to review their legal options.
“I am of the opinion that the county probably does not have standing to pursue action,” said Arrigo Carotti, Horry County attorney.
Mark Lazarus, chairman of the county council, said he plans to meet with Myrtle Beach city councilmen next week to try and renegotiate what county residents are charged and where they can park.
Myrtle Beach offers a $100 sticker for everyone living outside the city for restricted parking that excludes the Golden Mile beaches that are used by many county residents.
“There is a quality of life that a lot of people (expected) when they moved to the Myrtle Beach area and they’re consumers of the Myrtle Beach area, they come in to the city limits and spend their dollars. To make the remark that they’re treated as anyone else, I don’t agree with that,” Lazarus said.
Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes said prior to the county council meeting that a lawsuit would not have changed the city’s decision to charge all nonresidents for beach parking.
The city council maintains that vehicle taxes paid by city residents is now considered payment for beach parking, and that all other beachgoers should have to pay to park at the public beaches.
“Anywhere you go throughout this country today, you're gonna find that you've got to pay for parking, and our city residents pay for parking when they pay their property taxes on their vehicle,” Rhodes said.
“I don't see it changing. Our goal is that we have to make sure that we take care of our city residents and our city tourists, and that's our one objective,” Rhodes said.
Leslie Morgan, representing a group of 4,000 county and city residents called Make Myrtle Beach Free, Clean and Safe, addressed the council before the decision not to pursue legal action.
Morgan said her group supported a lawsuit, but also urged the council to use other leverage to force the city to compromise on a parking plan that is fair to all residents.
“We’re not tourists; we support the city on a year-round basis,” Morgan said.
Specifically, she said the council could consider defunding police support for the Bike Fest, and force Myrtle Beach to reroute the traffic loop farther away from Carolina Forest.
“If they’re not going to be nice … I don’t think we should be nice,” Morgan said. “Let them send the bikers into the city.”
Morgan also asked that the council hold the city and Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce accountable for how accommodation taxes are spent.
Lazarus later said that withholding public safety was not an option, and defended the Chamber of Commerce’s use of those taxes.
However, Lazarus and County Councilman Dennis DiSabato said the county had other leverage, which they declined to discuss, that might persuade Myrtle Beach officials to change their minds.
“I don’t think it’s over by any stretch of the imagination. There’s other things that we have that we support in our budget with the City of Myrtle Beach that we might be able to use as additional leverage,” DiSabato said. “I think there might be some things we can discuss with them to help bring them to the table.”
Chloe Johnson contributed to this report.