Business owners that rent mo-peds, scooters, golf carts and low-speed vehicles have 33 days to inspect, inventory and register their fleet with the Myrtle Beach Police Department under a new law that takes effect May 15.
Myrtle Beach City Council passed the final reading of the ordinance Tuesday aiming to curb the proliferation of slow-moving rentals that clog city streets. Under the new law, every rented mo-ped, scooter, golf cart and other low-speed vehicle in the city will need to bear tags that identify the type of conveyance on the road.
The ordinance is very intrusive into the business practices of these rental companies.
Jack Scoville, attorney for Moped Rentals of Myrtle Beach and Rent Me Superstore owner Ben Robinson
The rented vehicles will require a city-issued decal to operate legally on the streets of Myrtle Beach beginning May 15. The decals will be provided through an annual registration.
Jack Scoville, a lawyer representing one of Myrtle Beach’s largest rental agencies, predicted the law would put a lot of small rental shops out of business. He asked the City Council to postpone a final reading of the ordinance to give him time to see if the legislation would pass state muster, citing a couple of laws that have conflicting requirements for a city to be able to mandate vehicle registrations.
But city leaders hailed the legislation as a step towards safety.
Business owners unable to comply by May 15 can petition the city for a 30-day extension.
“We have received numerous citizen complaints regarding what appears to be the chaos of golf cart operation after dark, mo-ped operation that was at least negligent and sometimes reckless, a proliferation of mo-peds which apparently exceed operational limitations established by state law and we need to get those off the road,” said city attorney Tom Ellenburg, who drafted the legislation. “But the idea is to begin to shape how this alternative transportation is impacting our public safety.”
Under the new ordinance, renters under the age of 18 would need a parent or legal guardian to sign any rental agreement to rent the vehicles. And rental agencies would be required to train renters to operate the conveyances before they leave their lots.
Rental companies would have to display city-approved signs in their businesses reminding customers of the laws. Store clerks would have to certify a renter’s competency to operate the vehicles and not rent to anyone they believe to be incompetent due to “drunkenness, drugs, age or mental or physical incapacity.”
The idea is to begin to shape how this alternative transportation is impacting our public safety.
Tom Ellenburg, Myrtle Beach city attorney
Scoville previously noted that provision could raise potential issues with laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“The ordinance is very intrusive into the business practices of these rental companies,” Scoville said Tuesday. He said the requirements go beyond setting minimum standards and go so far as to define the background color and font styles of signs required to be displayed in businesses.
“The problem is it would make it a criminal offense if you fail to do this,” he said. “I don’t understand why y’all would want to criminalize such detailed business practices.”
Scoville was also concerned with what he said were conflicting definitions of a mo-ped and scooter.
The ordinance defines a mo-ped as a motorized cycle that does not exceed two horsepower. A scooter, however, is defined as a motor-driven vehicle “with a motor greater than one-and-one-half brake horsepower, but not exceeding five horsepower.”
Scoville’s client, Ben Robinson, owner of Moped Rentals of Myrtle Beach and Rent Me Superstore, has mo-peds in his fleet with 1.8 horsepower. Scoville says the conflicting definitions could throw some in Robinson’s fleet into the scooter category, requiring the vehicles to be registered, insured and tagged as scooters instead of mo-peds.
Any violations of the new law would be deemed misdemeanors and would be punishable by up to $500 and 30 days in jail. Rental agencies could also lose their license to operate in the city if convicted.