Surfside Beach’s push to remove tents from the sand might be delayed in a new compromise that will come to a vote Tuesday night.
The second reading of an ordinance would still ban larger tents, starting Jan. 1, 2018. But until then, visitors would only have to ensure that their tents are at least 10 feet apart and leave an emergency lane clear eight feet out from the dune line.
Surfside is the last area on the Grand Strand that allows tents on the beach.
“What you see there is hopefully a compromise from those who want tents and for those who are against tents,” Surfside Mayor Bob Childs said.
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Both versions of the ordinance continue to allow smaller “baby tents” for young children, as well as umbrellas. Some members of the town’s council have said that the tents obstruct the beach for emergency personnel, and that some tourists will stake out large sections of sand, sometimes for the whole day.
Councilman Tim Courtney, who was the original author of the rule, said the ties that secure the tents can get caught on emergency vehicles.
“I’m not gonna wait until an accident happens to pass an ordinance,” he said.
But Councilwoman Julie Samples said the town already has rules to keep shading devices away from beach accesses and clear of lifeguards’ lines of sight.
“We have rules in place already that are not being enforced,” said Samples, who opposes a general ban on tents.
Councilman David Pellegrino was the only dissenting vote on the measure in Surfside’s last town council meeting. Councilman Mark Johnson and Samples were absent.
“I’m still planning on voting against it,” Pellegrino said Monday. “To me, it’s competitive advantage for Surfside Beach, for the tourists who do want tents.”
Childs said he’d received a “pile of emails” from people who were planning to come to Surfside this season specifically because it allows tents.
He said keeping the rules the same this year will allow those visitors to proceed with plans they’ve already made. But he was skeptical that the change would scare tourists away.
“I don’t think any other municipality has suffered on account of doing away with tents,” he said.