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Myrtle Beach parking restrictions not to be enforced anytime soon

"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

Inboxes of Myrtle Beach City Council members lit up with emails last week after the council passed new parking regulations that will strip the last free oceanfront parking from the city.

Residents haven’t been happy with the changes. Some have even started petitions. But council members say the complaints are coming from locals who live in other parts of Horry County -- not full-time city residents.

“I’ve had a lot of emails,” said Councilwoman Mary Jeffcoat. But “there is nobody from the city of Myrtle Beach who has emailed me on this matter since the vote.”

The controversial new parking regulations for the Golden Mile to the city’s northern border starting at 31st Avenue North through 82nd Avenue North might not go into effect as planned. City Council will talk about it again Tuesday, with some council members saying they are rethinking the plan and others saying they are ready to move on.

“There very well could be some tweaking here and there,” said Councilman Phil Render, who voted against the new parking rules.

You can’t be happy with affecting the things that people have been used to doing. And what we’ve had to do is make a tough decision because of the exploding growth that’s happening outside of Myrtle Beach.

Mary Jeffcoat, Myrtle Beach city councilwoman

The council approved the parking regulations May 10 after hours of debate that included three motions to adopt and tweak different aspects of the plan. Council members said earlier this week they were confused on what was voted on and approved, and asked for clarification from city staff during a meeting Tuesday.

Some appeared uneasy to learn that under the motion that passed, all spaces including metered spaces near north-end hotels would charge the higher parking rates that they thought they passed just for the Golden Mile.

“The motion that got passed was different than the one that I offered,” Councilman Wayne Gray said Tuesday. His initial motion was to make the street-end beach accesses only between 31st Avenue North and 52nd Avenue North pay-by-phone at double the city’s rate. But with the season already started he said he didn’t see a need to change the ordinance now.

Council members said they had to make a decision, but no solution would have pleased everyone.

“You can’t be happy with affecting the things that people have been used to doing,” Jeffcoat said. “And what we’ve had to do is make a tough decision because of the exploding growth that’s happening outside of Myrtle Beach.”

For years beach-goers have parked on both sides of Ocean Boulevard in the Golden Mile area, which officials say created a nightmare for traffic and pedestrian safety.

The motion that got passed was different than the one that I offered.

Wayne Gray, Myrtle Beach city councilman

The recently approved parking plan would limit Boulevard parking in that stretch to the east side only with setbacks from driveways that would trim options down to 57 spaces only open to city residents with parking decals. The street-end beach accesses would offer 198 spots free to city residents with parking decals or at a cost of $2 an hour or $20 a day for non-city residents.

The new parking rules allow city residents with parking decals to park along the rights-of-way of all streets, except for Beach Drive, between Kings Highway and Ocean Boulevard from 31st Avenue North to 82nd Avenue North.

In discussions at the end of Tuesday’s specially-called council meeting, Render said he favored making the street-end beach access spaces free.

“I just have an aversion to paid parking for those street ends,” he said at the meeting.

Mayor John Rhodes said that if the parking has to be paid, fees should match the rates of other city spaces.

Even if the new parking rules don’t change after Tuesday’s discussion, enforcement is at least a month away as the city works out the details, including signage.

“I would expect that may take us into mid- to late-June before there’s full enforcement,” Gray said.

City spokesman Mark Kruea said the council will vote on some “minor details” at the meeting Tuesday.

One detail may include whether or not to proceed with placing signs or using paint to let folks know of the new parking rules on Ocean Boulevard.

I just have an aversion to paid parking for those street ends.

Phil Render, Myrtle Beach city councilman

City Manager John Pedersen told the council that they would need to put up 147 signs along the Golden Mile of Ocean Boulevard from 31st Avenue North to 52nd Avenue North to inform people of the new parking rules. But at least one resident of the strip is not in favor of the proliferation of signs, Pedersen told the council, adding that they would hammer out details on implementation of the new parking rules at the next meeting.

Any tweaks to the parking ordinance, which passed May 10, will need to pass two readings before any amendments are officially adopted.

But any significant amendments to the ordinance could add more delays.

With a county population of more than 300,000 and millions of tourists flocking to the Grand Strand each year, leaders say they had to address parking in the city’s north-end.

“It simply is not safe to have hundreds and hundreds of cars riding around residential neighborhoods looking for parking places -- to say nothing of what that kind of traffic does to the quality of life for the residents in those neighborhoods. In the end, I think the current ordinance is the best we could have developed given the facts and circumstances,” Jeffcoat said.

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