Fewer golf carts and mopeds could be on the City of Myrtle Beach’s streets, but the relief for citizens comes at a price for rental companies.
During Tuesday’s city council meeting, members passed the second reading of an ordinance that will force business owners to pay a yearly fee, and subject them to stiffer regulations from the city and police officers.
“All of this is taking a big effect on us, but we’ve worked directly with the city on working on the franchise agreement,” said Ben Robinson, owner of Moped Rentals Myrtle Beach. “The city took our recommendations and they either decided to go with some of them and they decided to not go with others.”
Various business owners realized there was a problem with the amount of golf carts and mopeds on the streets, Robinson said. Owners “have a responsibility to the city and the the citizens to maintain a reasonable level of chaos, or a minimum level of chaos,” he added.
Even as a rental business owner Robinson said he realizes people who are driving do not want to get stuck behind a moped. He also has issues with mopeds driving up and down his street.
However, Robinson argued that despite the nuisance, the rentals are something that vacationers come down to enjoy.
“We have to promise a fun environment,” Robinson said. “These people are on vacation, and when you’re on vacation, you have to have fun. It’s a necessary evil, if you will.”
Now, rental companies will be required to have a tag to identify their vehicles and the business they came from, much like a license plate, and city council will regulate where the businesses set up shop and the number of vehicles they can rent out.
The new rules also give police officers the option to tell a company to stop renting vehicles for up to four hours if they feel there are too many golf carts and mopeds on the road.
When the ordinance was first proposed in November, council members proposed the cost of the tags to be a yearly fee of $25 per vehicle. The ordinance passed with a yearly cost of $10 per vehicle.
“Let’s start out with something more manageable and if we have to adjust, we’ll adjust,” councilman Phil Render said during the workshop.
“At this point we’re just kind of guessing what it’s going to cost us to administer this,” said City Manager John Pedersen. There are 310 golf carts and 608 mopeds in the city that are being rented out, Pedersen said.
The ordinance comes after Easter weekend last year when officials had trouble regulating the rentals. A video presented at the meeting shows golf carts driving in the bike lanes and on sidewalks.
“It was a serious law enforcement problem last year,” Pedersen said. “It led to a feeling of not feeling safe in the downtown area, which is something we’ve been working on since last spring.”
The main downfall of the ordinance for businesses owners, Robinson said, is that companies are now limited in how much they can grow from year to year. Now, Robinson said he is looking to start businesses in other cities that do not regulate mopeds and golf carts as much.
“It’s keeping our business from ever growing, and that’s the really unfortunate part of the agreement,” Robinson said. “Anytime you go into a compromise you lose things. I would rather it be the way it was, but we’re the responsible ones. We’re paying for the businesses that weren’t responsible.”
The maximum fine for a business that does not comply to the ordinance is $500 per vehicle per day.