North Myrtle Beach leaders voted Monday to prohibit beach tents during the summer in what could be the first step toward a ban covering a majority of the Grand Strand.
Tents have been an issue in the area for a few years. Officials say they can clog the beach making it difficult for emergency personnel to maneuver and see potential dangers, while tent users say they need the shade while on the beach.
The city began discussing tents on the beach in December, when a proposal was made to ban the shade structures on portions of the beach where erosion rates are high, but did not approve the measure.
The approval Monday was the first of two needed to make the ban final in North Myrtle Beach, and it passed on a 6-1 vote with councilman Robert Cavanaugh opposing.
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Under the current laws along most of the Grand Strand, 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 must 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.
North Myrtle Beach looked at two options on Monday. One that would prohibit shade structures other than umbrellas in certain sections of the city starting the Saturday before Memorial Day and ending on Labor Day.
The council favored the second option, which would enforce the ban throughout the city’s stretch of beach. Umbrellas allowed would have to have a single center pole and be no greater than 7’6” tall and 6’2” in diameter.
Myrtle Beach City Council will look at a beach tent ordinance on Feb. 25, said city spokesman Mark Kruea.
Surfside Beach is taking a “wait and see” stance, said Mayor Doug Samples. He said Town Council discussed the issue last Tuesday and Councilwoman Ann Dodge was the only member in favor of a ban.
“We just don’t have that same problem,” Samples said. “We already have a line-of-sight ordinance in place, for probably close to 10 years now. Tents have to be 10 feet behind the lifeguard stands.”
But, he said if Horry County opts to prohibit tents on the beach and sends too many tents onto the sand in Surfside Beach then Town Council may revisit the issue.
Lisa Bourcier, spokeswoman for Horry County, said the topic will go to the county’s public safety committee first and could be on the Feb. 24 agenda, but said a meeting agenda won’t be finalized and released until Friday.
The committee in January chose to leave current rules in place and not move toward banning tents, citing the increased strain on beach patrol to enforce and educate beachgoers.
Horry County officers had more than 3,800 violators to current beach tent ordinances last summer and Police Chief Saundra Rhodes said each officer spends about 15 minutes per such violation. In January, she said explaining the ban to each violator likely would take too much time.
Following last week’s Coastal Alliance meeting, Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus said he would be watching the vote in North Myrtle Beach closely and plans to present an ordinance mirroring North Myrtle Beach’s for County Council members.
The alliance is composed of representatives from Horry County and municipalities within the county and can agree on principle but does not create or enforce any laws.