Citing a safety issue, Myrtle Beach’s Beach Advisory Committee voted Wednesday to recommend that City Council pass an ordinance placing a moratorium on allowing tents on the beach during peak season.
The recommendation will be to ban the tents from May 1 to Labor Day to line up with other beach restrictions, such as when bicycles and pets are allowed on the beach and boardwalk.
City Council is expected to hear the first reading of the ordinance July 9.
If a first and second reading are approved, the law likely would not go into law until next year.
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George Lack with Lack’s Beach Service raised the tents issue during the meeting, saying his employees have difficulty getting to the water in case they need to render aid.
Lack said his employees had to clear a path of tents and canopies to get from the beach access to the water in their rescue vehicle last weekend to give medical attention to four people who had been caught in a rip tide. He said his lifeguards were able to get to the people in time, but it’s a constant battle to get there quickly.
“In some areas, the tents are causing a problem,” Lack said. “If you can’t get the people down there [to help], that’s a problem. … How many times do I have to fly by the seat of my britches to get this thing to work?”
Both Lack and Earl Huggins of Huggins Beach Service urged the committee to send a recommendation to council. Both are beach franchise holders that meet with the committee.
“These tents, we just don’t have enough beach for them,” Huggins said, talking about erosion that is seen in some areas.
Three years ago, Myrtle Beach came in line with Horry County and North Myrtle Beach by adding restrictions to allowing tents on the beach. The rules created lanes for emergency workers and pushed the tents behind the lifeguards so the structures don’t get in the way of the lifeguards’ view of the water.
Under the current law, beachgoers can’t use tents larger than 12 feet-by-12 feet, have to set them up on the land side of the lifeguard’s umbrella line and be at least 10 feet away from another tent. Tent users must secure the 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.
Sgt. Philip Cain with the city’s beach patrol said the tents impede officers from doing their jobs, stopping short of calling them a nuisance.
“Our role is to listen to our partners in this partnership,” committee member Steve Taylor said of Lack and Huggins. “I think it’s a nuisance and we need to do something about it.”
City manager Tom Leath urged the committee to make a compelling argument when the recommendation reaches City Council next month.
“You are going to get push back from tourists,” he told the committee. “You’re going to get pushback from locals who like tents, and you’ll get pushback from people who sell tents. I just want to make sure all of your ducks are in a row.”
Leath said the council could choose to send the issue to the Coastal Alliance – which represents coastal cities and towns along the Grand Strand, as well as Horry County – or if they deem the tents to be a serious threat, they could choose to enact the law immediately.