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Myrtle Beach to rethink cost of Golden Mile parking, but it won’t be free

Carolina Forest students Bailey Provencal and William Zevgolis address Myrtle Beach City Council in regards to new parking rules on Ocean Boulevard. Carolina Forest students who started a petition protesting new parking regulations on Ocean Boulevard had a chance to talk with Myrtle Beach City Council members Tuesday. After the meeting, in which no change was made to the new plan, students met with council members Randal Wallace, Mayor John Rhodes, Mary Jeffcoat, and Wayne Gray.
Carolina Forest students Bailey Provencal and William Zevgolis address Myrtle Beach City Council in regards to new parking rules on Ocean Boulevard. Carolina Forest students who started a petition protesting new parking regulations on Ocean Boulevard had a chance to talk with Myrtle Beach City Council members Tuesday. After the meeting, in which no change was made to the new plan, students met with council members Randal Wallace, Mayor John Rhodes, Mary Jeffcoat, and Wayne Gray. jlee@thesunnews

A new north-end parking plan that inspired thousands of people to object in petitions and emails to city leaders remains intact, although the parking rates proposed for beach access parking along the Golden Mile may change next month.

“Now that it’s passed and it’s law, I feel obligated to explain it, to accept it and to support it the best that I can,” Councilman Wayne Gray told a crowd after the meeting. “Over time it may begin to get tweaked and amended as we continue to deal with the fact that we’re growing in both permanent residents inside and outside the city limits, we’re growing in second home owners … (and) we’re growing with tourists.”

Council members have cited those growing pains as the catalyst that led to the new parking rules after a decade of safety and public nuisance concerns grew in the mostly residential beachfront area.

In a workshop Tuesday morning, Myrtle Beach City Council members agreed to tweak part of the new parking plan that called for beach access spaces – once free – to cost double the amount of other city spots. But city leaders told a crowd of nearly 30 people, including 16 students from Carolina Forest High School, that they refuse to keep the beach accesses free to non-city residents because of the parking problem in the area.

“One of the ways you manage parking is you create a paid parking plan,” Gray said.

City council members said their goal wasn’t to raise more revenue by making the beach access spaces paid; they simply wanted to encourage beach goers to use cheaper lots in other parts of the city.

The more people you get to sign your petitions, the more you make my case.

Mary Jeffcoat, Myrtle Beach city councilwoman

At the council’s morning workshop, Mayor John Rhodes and Mayor pro tem Mike Lowder said the rates in the beachfront lots should be uniform with other city parking fees.

The council will tweak the rates proposed in the north end lots in meetings next month.

The idea of double rates helped inspire students in Jonathan “J.J.” Iagulli’s senior AP Government class to start a petition against the parking changes. The students began researching laws related to the issue last week. The change.org petition had more than 3,000 signatures on Sunday. By Tuesday, the tally was up to more than 4,300 signatures.

“We have 200 parking spaces in this area that we’re talking about, 200 that we have deemed to be safe and your petition actually makes our case,” Councilwoman Mary Jeffcoat told the students. “You’ve got 3,000 people saying they want to park in our 200 parking spaces. … The more people you get to sign your petitions, the more you make my case.”

But students said they were concerned with what the new cost for parking would do to tourism and businesses in the area.

One student asked why parking in the beach accesses couldn’t remain free.

One of the ways you manage parking is you create a paid parking plan.

Wayne Gray, Myrtle Beach city councilman

“Too many people,” Jeffcoat said. “Too many people live in the county and if they know that this is free they’re all going to want to try to get those 200 spaces. That affects the quality of life (of residents in that area) and it affects safety.”

Gray, Jeffcoat, Rhodes and Councilman Randal Wallace stayed after the meeting to address the crowd’s concerns.

Wallace thanked the students for the work they had put into looking at the parking issue.

Emily Weaver: 843-444-1722, @TSNEmily

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