After more than a year of back-and-forth between the City of Myrtle Beach and Horry County, Myrtle Beach Mayor-elect Brenda Bethune wants to reopen the conversation of making parking in the city more affordable to county residents.
“I have said it before that we need to sit back down and I need a better understanding on how and why the decisions were made,” Bethune said.
Currently, Bethune hopes to propose an annual pass for county residents, as well as a pass for people who work in the city. At this time she is not sure how much those passes could potentially cost.
Bethune said that no meetings have been scheduled with the county to discuss these options.
County councilman Johnny Vaught said that members of council plan to approach Bethune after she takes office, and that “it’s good news that she’s open to discussion.”
Vaught said that he wants to work out some sort of compromise that would allow county residents to purchase a decal costing between $50 and $100, which would allow people to park for free in Myrtle Beach where city residents can park.
“I think that would satisfy pretty much everybody,” Vaught said.
In May 2016 city council decided to charge for parking along the Golden Mile, a popular spot where county residents go to the beach. To park in the beach accesses along Ocean Boulevard north of 31st Avenue North costs $2 an hour or $10 a day.
The county charges $1.25 an hour or $6 per day for parking in the Shore Drive area and Garden City Beach, and allows free parking on Nash Street near the Springmaid Pier.
After receiving heat from county residents, and from the Facebook group Keep Myrtle Beaches Clean, Free and Safe, county officials pushed to work out a deal with the city, where they asked the city to collect parking fees from May 1 through Labor Day. City officials voted to charge for parking from March 1 through Oct. 31.
The city did come back with the option for county residents to purchase a parking sticker for $100, which county officials had to fight for. The city originally considered charging as much as $300 for the decal.
“We feel we’ve gone as far as we can go with the current administration,” Vaught said.
Members of the Facebook group said that they would not support paying $100 for the decal and still not have the option of parking in the end lots of the Golden Mile.
“Basically the old council decided to go to war with the county over what amounts to 400 [end] lots,” Rich Malzone, spokesman for the Facebook group, said.
The city argued that residents are able to have free parking because of the vehicle property taxes they pay.
For Malzone, he said that he would like to see meters on the east side of Ocean Boulevard, as well as a decal that would allow county residents to park at any metered spots in the city, costing $100 or less.
At this time it is not clear how the newly elected Myrtle Beach City Council would vote on the parking issue. Jackie Vereen and Gregg Smith recently won council seats, ousting incumbent Randal Wallace and filling Wayne Gray’s seat who did not run for reelection.
“The mayor elect and I have talked in passing and the key thing is she realizes that Myrtle Beach is a reason beyond the city,” Malzone said. “She wants to reach out to the county residents because she realizes we spend money in the city.”
Malzone said that he and Bethune have not discussed specifics on what a compromise between the city and county would look like, but that it is a “very good proposal.”
“We’re willing to work with the mayor if she’ll reach out to us,” Malzone said.
“I think it needs to be a group discussion,” Bethune said. “It shouldn’t be something that I should say ‘this is how it should be.’ ”