Opposition to an elevated crosswalk over Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach is getting more vocal while city staff members continue to study any potential guidelines for the structures, were City Council to approve the proposal.
Local attorney Michael Barnett addressed Myrtle Beach City Council on Tuesday, urging members not to approve an elevated crosswalk proposed at 17th Avenue North on Ocean Boulevard.
“I believe that these overhead crosswalks are aesthetically displeasing and to some people they’re really aesthetically offensive,” Barnett said. “One is one thing, but now you’re talking about a second and that’s going to open the doors to others.”
The Sun News has received several letters to the editor and a group identifying itself as “Coalition for a Walkover Free Boulevard” purchased advertising space in the paper.
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Developers of the new, as yet unnamed, hotel would like to have an elevated crosswalk to help guests to get from their oceanfront rooms to amenities across the street. The hotel would be in place of the Palmetto Shores Oceanfront Resort.
Virginia-based Buchanan Motels LLC is proposing to build the 23-floor, 252-unit hotel across street from a 15,000-square-foot indoor water park and parking garage, and would like the elevated walkway to connect the two buildings.
Council approved first reading of the ordinance allowing the crosswalk on Oct. 28.
“It’s a safety issue,” said Bob Singleton, executive vice president with Buchanan Motels. “We’re trying to get people from the resort to the indoor water park and parking garage.”
Singleton said he anticipates about 1,000 people a day would cross Ocean Boulevard getting back and forth from the hotel to the pool or parking garage.
Singleton said it’s possible that the project would have to be altered or even abandoned if the walkover is not approved.
There only is one other elevated walkway in Myrtle Beach, built in 1998, which connects the guest rooms at Landmark Resort to a parking garage and meeting rooms across Ocean Boulevard.
Myrtle Beach Planning Department staff are working to come up with potential updated guidelines that would guide City Council were they to decide to allow the elevated crosswalk to be built.
City manager John Pedersen said staff is looking to give guidelines on things such as size, distance apart, height, and what type of criteria should be used to decide whether the walkover is justified.
The general public would be able to access the proposed elevated crosswalk, though Councilwoman Susan Grissom Means said she doubts how many pedestrians would use it.
Means said she was on the fence at first, but thinks that the walkover is a bad idea.
“I was wishy-washy at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I didn’t want to open that door,” she said. “If the walkovers were at the intersections, I would be for it.”
Councilman Michael Chestnut said he thinks the walkover could spur economic development.
“I don’t think that just because we do the second one that more are going to come,” he said. “It costs a lot of money to do one. ... Plus it could spur some redevelopment during these tough economic times and it wouldn’t be at a cost to the taxpayer.”
Both Barrett and Means pointed to the millions of dollars the city has spent to make Ocean Boulevard more pedestrian-friendly and aesthetically pleasing.
Means said she wasn’t sure that the developer’s argument that safety is an issue is valid. Planning Director Jack Walker has said the improvements to Ocean Boulevard traffic incidents have decreased by 400 percent and pedestrian-related incidents have been eliminated.
“After all the work has been done and all the good work has been done to make this premiere street in Myrtle Beach safe, I ask that you not turn that canyon into a tunnel,” Barnett said.
Staff is expected to present its proposed guidelines during the Dec. 9 council meet, at which time the City Council is expected to make a decision on the walkover.