Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus asked Myrtle Beach for a compromise Tuesday that could make parking in the city easier for county residents.
Lazarus suggested “some type of a county sticker that could be purchased, that would allow county residents to park anywhere within the city limits, including the convention center,” but not including along avenues near the beach. He also asked Myrtle Beach City Council to shorten the paid parking season from May to Sept. 10 and to include county officials as they make parking decisions that will affect next year’s tourist season. Currently, those visiting the city have to pay for parking from March 1 to Oct. 31.
“I would like, since we have so many citizens interested in visiting the city limits of Myrtle Beach and spending their dollars here and utilizing the facilities here, to be able to at least sit down at the table with you as you possibly consider the future of this plan,” Lazarus said.
Mayor John Rhodes did not comment on any of the specific proposals to The Sun News.
“I would just say the council will probably discuss it later on in the year,” Rhodes said.
City residents with their cars registered in the city receive parking decals that exempt them from parking fees. City officials have said that when residents pay city taxes on their cars, they are also paying for parking.
Councilman Randal Wallace also chimed into the conversation, suggesting that the city waive parking fees downtown for the upcoming Seafood Festival, saying, “With all the devastation out there [from Hurricane Matthew], it would certainly be a good little gesture.”
Lazarus added, “Maybe it can entice more people, just for Saturday, to have no parking fees downtown.”
Later in the meeting, Wallace tried to bring the issue of free parking for the festival to a vote, and echoed a suggestion that Lazarus had made to suspend paid parking for the remainder of October.
City Attorney Tom Ellenburg said altering parking policy could not legally come to a vote because the public had not been given prior notification on the possible action.
Wallace then attempted a motion to initiate discussion on waiving parking fees for the event. No other member of council seconded the motion.
“I think from the silence, Mr. Wallace, you find no interest from the council,” Rhodes said.
The seafood festival has been singled out on social media as a vocal group of county residents, many from Carolina Forest, have expressed their displeasure with parking changes. New rules this July heralded paid parking along the Golden Mile, a residential stretch of beach. Many members of a Facebook group opposing the parking charges are urging people to boycott the festival.
“I’m aware that that festival was targeted a little bit,” Wallace told The Sun News, “but I can’t help but think it would be nice to reach out, because I think the whole county and the whole state’s seen a rough couple of days.”
He added, “There were no takers.”