As Myrtle Beach City Council unanimously passed the final version of moped and golf cart rental rules Tuesday, a change from the original version has angered business owners: City Manager John Pedersen can call a rental business and compel it to close temporarily.
Pedersen said that decision would only be made in “extraordinary events” on the advice of the highest-ranking police officer working — such as when large groups of moped drivers zipped in and out of traffic and zoomed across sidewalks during Easter weekend. Several instances of reckless driving then inspired a reexamination of the city’s rules.
Pedersen said he would advise city council before using such a power. City council agreed Tuesday that Pedersen already had the ability to temporarily suspend business in this manner, based on city code.
“We have faith and confidence in the judgment of the manager to exercise that,” Councilman Wayne Gray said.
But to business owners, the provision was overreach.
“This goes way further than their first order,” said David Stone, owner of Go Fast Scooters and Sunshine Scooters.
He previously has argued that stricter police enforcement would be best to fix issues with renters breaking traffic laws.
Christian Sichitano, an owner of Myrtle Beach Golf Carts on Third Avenue South, said that the city manager’s power was not well defined in a meeting business owners had last Wednesday with Pedersen, which was billed as a brainstorming session to come up with solutions in tandem with the city.
It was not what she expected, Sichitano said.
“The meeting was supposed to be giving ideas,” she said. Instead, “It was ‘We’re telling you what you’re supposed to be doing.’ ”
Pedersen said he did present a specific plan to the businesses last week because he was eager to pass the final version of moped rules. When the first version of the rule passed April 25, it froze the amount of mopeds for rent on that day. The final version passed Tuesday allows businesses to raise their inventory for rent, up to the highest amount they’ve had in the past year.
“I did present something that I thought would work,” Pedersen said.
In addition to the reaffirmation of the city manager’s powers and the new, higher cap for rentals, mopeds and golf carts will be required to carry a new city-issued “plate” with an identification number.
Officials said the tags would make it easier for police to catch reckless drivers, but Sichitano was skeptical that the system would work on a golf cart, which does not have a place for a license plate.
Stone openly wondered if the provision would conflict with state rules.
“The state has a law on what we have to affix on the back of our mopeds,” he said.
More changes to vehicle rentals may arrive in the coming weeks, as city council is expected to consider additional provisions which would create a franchise system.
But Sichitano said Tuesday’s decision was only the latest to affect her business.
The first came last year, when the city restricted where golf carts could drive during Memorial Day weekend, she said, making it nearly impossible to rent out a vehicle. (Starting Thursday night, Pedersen said, golf carts are barred from entering part of Ocean Boulevard.) The weekend is when droves of bikers arrive for Atlantic Beach Bikefest.
At the same time, Sichitano said she does not close that weekend, because she feared a lawsuit by the NAACP for not serving the largely black crowd. She predicted a loss of $20,000 this weekend.
“It costs me money, on Memorial Day weekend, to have a business in Myrtle Beach,” she said.