After complaining 3 years, residents file lawsuit against NMB for 'dangerous' parking

The median on Ocean Blvd. 4th and 5th Ave. N. in North Myrtle Beach, S.C.
The median on Ocean Blvd. 4th and 5th Ave. N. in North Myrtle Beach, S.C. jbell@thesunnews.com

Twenty-four residents have filed a lawsuit against the City of North Myrtle Beach, citing dangerous and unlawful parking in the median along North Ocean Boulevard between 3rd Avenue North and Shorehaven Drive, according to the lawsuit.

The median is a grassy area separating the north and southbound lanes.

The city started allowing parking in the median in spring 2015, which led to complaints from residents, the suit says.

The residents say in the lawsuit they hope to create new enforcement rules for the area.

"Enforcement should include erecting 'No parking' signs in the median, removal of the 'No parking from here to the corner' signs, issuing traffic citations to offenders, and otherwise performing its obligations under State law," the lawsuit reads.

According to Public Information Officer Pat Dowling, the South Carolina Department of Transportation sent city officials an email stating "the city had the option to do that if they wanted to."

Citing state law, the lawsuit says the law "prohibits parking vehicles in the median of a divided highway."

Local authorities cannot enact any rules or ordinances that conflict with the state law. They may, however, propose further traffic regulations, according to the lawsuit.

Dowling said the reason that the city chose to provide parking on the median was due to a lack of parking in the city and in the county itself.

"It's not a long-term fix for us, but it is short term," Dowling said.

The timeline

On June 15, 2015, four residents emailed North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley, Councilman Terry White and Director of Public Safety Jay Fernandez in separate emails regarding the parking situation.

The first email, sent by resident Edward Lee to Hatley states, "I seem to recall that parking in the median on Ocean Boulevard in the Ocean Drive section was not allowed. I think there were 'No Parking' signs up stating such. Anyway, it appears that parking is permitted there now and it is creating a dangerous situation."

The email continues, stating "This really does concern me as we have a lot of golf cart traffic on 8th Ave. North as well as foot traffic trying to get to the beach crossing Ocean Boulevard. I truly believe that something needs to be done to correct this situation."

On June 16, 2015, Dowling responded, "stating that '[p]arking is allowed in the median' and that the City was in discussions with the South Carolina Department of Transportation to address the 'challenges associated with parking in the median,' " the lawsuit reads.

Also on June 15, 2015, another resident emailed White, saying they "nearly ran over a child" in the Tilghman Estates area. According to the suit, the child ran between two cars parked in the median before running in front of the resident's truck.

In an email to Fernandez on the same day, residents claimed that parking in the median created a "safety hazard, and that it was their belief that such parking was illegal," the lawsuit reads.

Fernandez responded, stating that parking was allowed in the median.

In 2016, the city posted signs stating, "No parking from here to the corner," near each intersection along the highway, the lawsuit states. However, the signs suggest parking is allowed along other areas of the median, according to the lawsuit.

A No Parking sign on the median on Ocean Blvd. 4th and 5th Ave. N. in North Myrtle Beach, S.C. Josh Bell jbell@thesunnews.com

Complaints continued through into this year.

On Feb. 27, resident and Plaintiff Len Anthony sent a letter to the city, the South Carolina Attorney General, the Horry County Attorney, the S.C. Department of Transportation, the S.C. Department of Public Safety and the Governor of South Carolina, stating the city was "allowing and encouraging violation of state law," the lawsuit reads.

The only group to respond to the letter was the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, according to the lawsuit.

"In its letter the Department of Public Safety states that it has jurisdiction over State Highway 65 [North Ocean Boulevard] as it passes through North Myrtle Beach," the lawsuit reads. "However, the state Highway Patrol does not normally patrol areas inside city limits and relies upon the Defendant's law enforcement to enforce state law along North Ocean Boulevard."