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Why mopeds are staying on Myrtle Beach streets, for now

jlee@thesunnews.com

Myrtle Beach is delaying a final decision on rules for moped rentals after several business owners complained to council Tuesday that the ordinance did not consider the economics of rental shops.

David Stone, who owns Go Fast Scooters and Sunshine Scooters, said that the freeze was enacted at a time when many businesses are re-building inventory after a slow winter.

“For the city council to dictate what we can and can’t do is overstepping their boundary,” Stone told The Sun News. “From the first meeting to the second meeting, there were a few members that kind of recanted.”

On April 25, city council passed the first reading of the law as officials said that moped riders broke traffic laws and caused chaos during Myrtle Beach’s unexpectedly busy Easter weekend. That law immediately froze any business from expanding its moped and golf cart inventory, and city officials said they would take the next year to find ways to reduce the total amount of mopeds operating as rental vehicles in the city.

But Stone and others argued that enacting the freeze in the spring, as they were beginning to stock up for tourist season, was unfair. A rush of people applied to register vehicles after the first vote, City Manager John Pedersen said, and Myrtle Beach erroneously issued 112 new decals to rental companies in that roughly two-week period.

He also said that reckless driving issues should be fixed with more enforcement.

“The policing isn’t happening correctly,” he said. “Everything out there that you guys oppose, there is a law currently on the books with a penalty that deals with that.”

But Councilwoman Mary Jeffcoat said police officers in any number would have struggled to deal with the scores of riders who zipped down bike lanes and sidewalks Easter weekend.

“I don’t know how 100 police officers could have policed the problem,” she said.

Still, Stone’s arguments about the detriment to his business proved persuasive to several council members.

“These folks have already invested an enormous amount of money and they invested it before they knew this was going to take place,” Councilman Mike Lowder said.

Councilman Wayne Gray said he wanted to allow businesses to reach their maximum amount of vehicles on the road from last year, but, “I just don’t know how to fairly get to that number.”

Bayliss Spivey, of the Myrtle Beach KOA campground, presented a different issue to council. The regulations have unfairly affected his golf cart rental business, he said, arguing that he rented only to residents of the camping area.

“We’ve got a whole different situation going on with the campground,” Spivey told city council. “We have a tremendous amount more recourse” to control the drivers.

Ultimately, city council delayed the measure’s final vote until its next regularly scheduled meeting. Pedersen also said he would direct staff to allow business owners to replace their rental vehicles if one breaks or is stolen.

Also on Tuesday, the council approved first reading of another ordinance that will significantly affect Ocean Boulevard – the rules bar shops from 6th Avenue South to 16th Avenue North from selling drug paraphernalia, sexual items and weapons.

The zoning change will not go into immediate effect. City council directed the city manager to make sure that Planning Commission, which will next consider the measure, to work with local businesses as they prepare a recommendation on the ordinance.

“They must do it with cooperation of some individual retail stores working with them,” Mayor John Rhodes said.

Chloe Johnson: 843-626-0381, @_ChloeAJ

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