North Myrtle Beach is pursuing a plan to give residents free beach parking at metered lots, but unlike the ocean-front parking scheme recently enacted by neighboring Myrtle Beach, this deal isn’t drawing criticism or threats of boycotts from county residents.
North Myrtle Beach officials say their parking strategy is different from the controversial plan enacted last summer by Myrtle Beach, because only a small percentage of all beach parking will require the $1 hourly charge for non-residents.
Myrtle Beach charges $2 an hour for all beach parking to non-residents, a move that angered those who live in Horry County outside the city limits.
North Myrtle Beach meters will be located at only four parking lots; oceanfront at 4th Avenue North and 3rd Avenue North, second row at 4th Avenue South, and oceanfront at 27th Avenue South.
North Myrtle Beach residents with a car sticker indicating that vehicle taxes have been paid will be permitted to park there for free. Non-residents who own property can purchase the same parking pass for $100.
Pat Dowling, North Myrtle Beach spokesman, says that out of 2,000 beach parking spaces provided by the city, only 123 spots will be metered for pay parking.
The intention was to dissuade nearby hotel employees from gobbling up prime beach parking, and officials say adding meters has solved the problem at these four locations.
Rich Malzone, spokesman for Make Myrtle Beaches Free, Clean and Safe, the leading opponent of Myrtle Beach’s paid parking plan, says North Myrtle Beach faced an issue of control over a few lots, and correctly handled the situation with a scalpel instead of a sledgehammer.
“Mayor (John) Rhodes took a chainsaw to everything and cut the whole tree down, when what he had was a bad twig,” Malzone said.
The Myrtle Beach City Council eliminated all free parking last year. City residents are considered paid after submitting annual vehicle taxes. County residents can buy a pass for $100, but parking is excluded along the Golden Mile.
County residents have protested the charges, boycotting some events and continue to pressure county officials to pull funding for projects in Myrtle Beach.
Several Horry County councilman are backing their constituents and urged Myrtle Beach to offer the same parking spots to county residents for the $100 fee. The city has refused to budge, and the county responded by eliminating $200,000 in funding.
North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley says she has not heard of any concerns from the county council.
“I could understand them calling if it was the whole entire beach area that was under paid parking,” Hatley said. “I’m hoping it’s because of the fact we basically still have free parking throughout the entire beach.”