‘Raising the rate is no big deal’: Surfside Beach aims to up beach parking price

Parking at oceanfront lots in Surfside Beach may soon cost more money after town officials proclaimed on Tuesday night that raising the rate isn’t a big deal.

With the town’s parking season starting March 1, the Surfside Town Council voted 6-1 to approve the first reading of an ordinance that would increase all oceanfront beach access parking east of Ocean Boulevard to $2 per hour. It currently costs $1.75.

“I have been down there during the summer and I’ve watched people circling the boulevard waiting for a spot to become available, so I don’t really think a quarter to a tourist in this town is going to be devastating to them,” Councilwoman Debbie Scoles said. “We have other lots that are at a cheaper rate if they want to walk and park there.”

Director of Finance Diana King explained the parking increase would mirror the Surfside Pier lot, which operates at $2 per hour, $10 per day or $40 per week. While residents with parking decals won’t be affected by the increase, eight lots are subject to change, she said.

Lots on Melody Lane, 13th Avenue South, 6th Avenue South, 5th Avenue South, 4th Avenue South, 3rd Avenue South, 3rd Avenue North and 6th Avenue North will increase if the board approves a second reading of the proposal.

“This is only at the beach accesses,” King said. “We need to do this and not wait for the budget.”

According to Town Administrator Dennis Pieper, the price of parking hasn’t been changed in three years and wouldn’t affect any other parking rates.

Councilman Mark Johnson, who cast the dissenting vote, pressed that raising the parking rate could run people off the beach due to parking regulations or a lack of spaces on Ocean Boulevard.

“In the past several years, this town has determined that we are an exclusive town as per parking near the beach,” Johnson said. “To add even a quarter to what we’re charging residents, I don’t agree.”

But Council members Ron Ott and Randle Stevens asserted the rate would only impact tourists and non-residents, with Stevens noting the “thousands upon thousands” of homes being built throughout Horry County.

Ott said the “extra quarter doesn’t hurt anything,” explaining how the price for parking is much lower compared to other beaches along the East Coast. Councilman David Pellegrino said the extra cash flow will help maintain the beaches, parking lots and fund other infrastructure projects as the number of visitors continues to grow.

“This all costs money,” Ott said. “That extra little bit of money is going to help pay for that.”

Stevens added how residents are getting the best deal at Surfside Beach. He suggested those who don’t agree with the increase visit Myrtle Beach where he said it costs more to park and safety is an issue.

“We have a family beach, and people are going to come here and they come here because we’re the third safest town in the state of South Carolina,” Stevens said. “You’re only charging the people who come to our town and use our beaches, and some of them leave a big mess and don’t even clean up. Raising the rate is no big deal.”

A public hearing on the proposed ordinance is scheduled for Feb. 26.