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Myrtle Beach leaders put end to last free parking on Ocean Blvd.

"Golden Mile" residents ask city leaders to protect neighborhood from strangers

After hours of contentious debate and months of meetings with residents complaining of parking congestion that hampered safety along the north end of Ocean Boulevard, city leaders adopted a plan to limit parking. But many avenue residents weren't
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After hours of contentious debate and months of meetings with residents complaining of parking congestion that hampered safety along the north end of Ocean Boulevard, city leaders adopted a plan to limit parking. But many avenue residents weren't

Parking will be limited and non-city residents will be charged double for the spaces that remain along the last stretch of Ocean Boulevard that has been free to beachgoers.

But much like the decision to limit parking that came after hours of contentious debate and months of discussions with residents, enforcement of the new rules won’t happen overnight and won’t please everyone.

The new parking plan is, however, intended to take effect for this summer tourism season.

Each summer, beachgoers descend on the stretch of Ocean Boulevard from 31st Avenue North to 52nd Avenue North – unspoiled by high-rise hotels and the crowds they accommodate – claiming unmarked parking spaces on each side of the four-lane roadway.

The free-for-all parking created a nightmare for traffic and pedestrian safety in a popular, mostly residential section known as “The Golden Mile.” Residents asked the city for help.

But several neighbors, who wanted avenue parking limited to avenue residents only, weren’t pleased with a final decision to allow city residents with parking decals to park in their front yards.

There is absolutely no perfect solution to this.

John Pedersen, Myrtle Beach city manager

“This is a black day for the city,” said “Golden Mile” resident David Martin. “This is a bad decision for Myrtle Beach.”

Nearly 30 neighbors, who surrounded him at the Myrtle Beach City Council workshop Tuesday morning, agreed, with applause.

“The cars that are coming to park, they are not going to go away,” Martin said. “The day-trippers, the people that do not live in the city, they’re not going away either.”

He said the extra cars would move to the avenues. To avoid that spillover, city leaders planned to reserve right-of-way parking along the avenues for city residents with parking decals.

Councilwoman Mary Jeffcoat said she and other council members studied the area over the weekend, personally counting the cars parked along Ocean Boulevard, in street-end public beach accesses and along the avenues. More than 90 percent of the cars in the unmetered spaces did not bear city parking decals. But a good portion of the cars in metered spaces north of 52nd Avenue North did bear the decals, suggesting most of the cars are coming from out-of-town and the drivers want to avoid paying to park.

After two other motions failed, the council narrowly approved a plan to limit parking to the east side only of Ocean Boulevard and open only to city residents with parking decals. Parking in the street-ends and beach accesses, which are currently free in the area, will be pay-by-phone spaces that fetch double the amount of center city spots at $4 an hour and $20 a day. Beach Drive will be off-limits to right-of-way parking and its few marked spaces will be open to city residents with parking decals only.

But the bone of contention between residents and city officials under the adopted plan came with the parking proposal for the avenues. The avenues were included in plans after city leaders realized whatever changes were made to the boulevard would move to the neighboring streets.

Work with us and help us do this first step to address public safety.

Mary Jeffcoat, Myrtle Beach city councilwoman

Under the adopted plan, right-of-way parking along the avenues from 31st Avenue North to 82nd Avenue North will be open only to city residents with parking decals. The measure narrowly passed a 4-3 vote after council members learned another plan to reserve the on-street parking to avenue residents and their guests only would take extra time to establish and enforce.

Councilman Randal Wallace said he wanted the city to fix the problem now and return to address a neighborhood parking plan for the avenues between 31st North and 52nd North later this year.

Residents in that area complained of seeing strangers sitting in front of their homes, urinating, littering and committing other heinous acts in their yards. They said they feared the activity and attention that would come to their homes with strangers being allowed to park in the front of their yards. They asked for their on-street parking to be reserved for them.

But Councilwoman Mary Jeffcoat said it was their job to protect not only the residents of “The Golden Mile,” but also the rights of other city residents and their access to public rights of way and the beach.

“Golden Mile” neighbors, however, said they feared for their safety with strangers being allowed to park in front of their homes.

This is a black day for the city. This is a bad decision for Myrtle Beach.

David Martin, “Golden Mile” resident

Councilman Phil Render floated an idea to reserve on-street parking on avenues from 31st Avenue North to 52nd Avenue North for avenue residents only and their guests. Under his motion, he offered to keep streets north of 52nd Avenue North to 82nd Avenue North open to city residents with decals.

But Jeffcoat argued that plan was worse than the first one that proposed to deny on-street avenue parking for city residents from 31st Avenue North to 82nd Avenue North. Only allowing city resident parking along the avenues north of 52nd, she said, divides “the city and treats the people on the north end as second class citizens.”

“This is about the worst answer that we could come up with,” she said. “Why would you make private streets for so many blocks in the city, but nowhere else?”

At the morning’s workshop, Jeffcoat pleaded with the crowd to give this first parking plan that limited Ocean Boulevard parking, created pay-to-park spaces and limited avenue parking to city residents only, a chance.

“Work with us and help us do this first step to address public safety,” she said, adding that if it doesn’t solve the issues she would lead the charge to have residential parking only.

“There is absolutely no perfect solution to this,” City Manager John Pedersen said during the workshop Tuesday.

But with the summer season fast approaching, city leaders said they had to make a decision.

Councilmen Wayne Gray, Mike Lowder and Phil Render opposed the final parking plan, initially voting for a plan that would reserve on-street avenue parking for avenue residents and their guests. That plan failed.

Emily Weaver: 843-444-1722, @TSNEmily

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