City officials have received several complaints from tourists over private parking lots in downtown Myrtle Beach, and council is now working to combat misleading and changing rates.
Myrtle Beach City Manager John Pedersen’s recommendation to council requires lot owners to display a sign with contact information, times of operation, fixed cost of parking and towing information.
The city is not setting the rates for private lots, Pedersen stressed.
On Sept. 12, North Carolina resident Gay Fritzemeier submitted a complaint to city spokesman Mark Kruea regarding increasing parking rates.
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“Last night we went down to the boardwalk,” Fritzemeier wrote in the email. “We expected to pay for parking and found a lot that was $15. Tonight we went to the same lot and it was $20.”
The attendant explained he increased the lot price because there were only four spots left, Fritzemeier said.
Fritzemeier then moved to another lot, he said, but only stayed there for a few minutes. The attendant refused to return the $20 he paid to park there, he said.
“Overall, you can rest assured that we will not be returning to Myrtle Beach, since this is how callously and tritely tourists are treated.”
Kruea suggested in his response to Fritzemeier that he park at city-owned meters as a cheaper option. Meters cost $2 per hour or $10 for a whole day.
As expected, some lot owners are not happy about the proposed ordinance that will prohibit towing without a sign, booting vehicles or issuing tickets resembling government citations.
Buzz Plyler, owner of The Gay Dolphin, expressed concerns at Tuesday’s council meeting over having permanent signs when some lots change their rates depending on the season.
“The cost is more extreme than you might imagine, for them, for a small lot owner,” Plyler said at the council meeting.
Lot owner Chris Walker expressed similar concerns at the meeting.
Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune responded, saying, “I want you both to understand not everyone operates their lots as professionally as you do.”
The other goal of the ordinance, which passed first reading during the meeting, is to differentiate between city lots and private lots.
Several lots in the downtown area have a green parking sign that resemble the city’s, Pedersen said. Moving forward, the city will designate its lots with a blue parking sign, assistant city manager Fox Simmons said.
Parking in Myrtle Beach
Parking in Myrtle Beach has been on ongoing issue for city officials.
In 2016, council voted to charge for parking at beach accesses along Ocean Boulevard north of 31st Avenue North. The decision caused controversy for county residents who would come to the beach in city limits.
City residents are eligible for parking decals as long as they have a vehicle registered in the City of Myrtle Beach and city property taxes have been paid.
Those interested can register online and must have a 2018 Horry County Vehicle Paid Tax Receipt and a current South Carolina Vehicle Registration Card.
Paid parking typically runs from March 1 to Oct. 31. This year, Hurricane Florence caused city officials to take down parking meters in September.
First reading passed in a four to two vote. Council members Jackie Vereen and Phil Render voted against the ordinance, wanting to take more time to work with lot owners in the offseason.
Second reading will be Nov. 6.