We are fortunate to have a city government that seems constantly to be exploring ways to improve the quality of life in our community. Recently, at the request of the City Council, the Planning Commission has been exploring the rezoning of a residential area at the southern end of Yaupon Drive to allow for transient accommodations (daily/weekly rental of homes).
Currently the area is zoned for primary residences, which does not allow for short-term rental. The stated purpose is to facilitate the development of rental beach homes, similar to what you find in Surfside Beach, of which the city believes there is a shortage in Myrtle Beach. This proposal has served a valuable purpose by provoking discussion and focusing thought on what makes for a strong, safe community and how zoning can help to achieve that end.
The Yaupon corridor extends the length of south Myrtle Beach, from Fifth Avenue South (Family Kingdom Amusement Park) to 29th Avenue South (Holiday Inn South Beach Resort). Except for the southern end, 22nd Avenue South to 29th Avenue South, the Yaupon corridor is currently zoned to permit transient accommodations. Notably, it is this southern end of Yaupon that has developed into a vibrant, cohesive community and has over the last few years become one of the safest areas in Myrtle Beach. (South Myrtle Beach Neighborhood Watch is now the second largest in the city).
City leaders have rightfully used the southern end of Yaupon as an example of how a proactive community in partnership with the police department can make a difference and turn a neighborhood around. All of this is in stark contrast to the dramatically higher crime rate and absence of cohesive neighborhoods in the northern stretch of the Yaupon corridor, which is zoned to permit transient accommodation. Although unintentional, the Yaupon corridor has in effect been a zoning experiment with results that bear careful consideration.
Fortuitously, the southern end of Yaupon seems to have benefited from a zoning mix that has fostered a strong core of primary residences. These residents care about the safety of the community, the well-being of their neighbors, the impact of any new development, and property values. As a result, they are highly motivated to partner with police and city officials to maintain a safe and attractive neighborhood.
As Crime Prevention Officer Pete Woods frequently reminds citizens, “neighborhoods with actively involved, concerned citizens are much safer.” You simply don’t have this advantage in highly transient areas. For this reason, there is strong opposition from south-end residents to any rezoning that would make the neighborhood more, not less transient. Indeed, the bulk of crime on the southern end of Yaupon emanates from the transient areas, such as the older hotels on South Ocean Boulevard converted to weekly rental. Thus, the Yaupon lesson that bears serious consideration is that while transient accommodations are important to a beach community, providing for a strong residential core in each neighborhood offers a tremendous advantage in maintaining the public’s safety and well-being. Consequently, perhaps the discussion should be whether the entire Yaupon corridor could be improved by building and preserving blocks of primary residences, versus the current discussion of making the southern end more transient in nature.
The writer lives in Myrtle Beach.