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County council chairman asks Myrtle Beach to rethink parking plan

Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus, who is also a resident of Myrtle Beach, suggests changes to the new Ocean Boulevard parking regulations at a Myrtle Beach City Council meeting Tuesday.
Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus, who is also a resident of Myrtle Beach, suggests changes to the new Ocean Boulevard parking regulations at a Myrtle Beach City Council meeting Tuesday. jlee@thesunnews

Two weeks after the Myrtle Beach City Council passed a plan that will strip the last free beachfront parking spaces from the city’s shoreline, council members have been inundated with complaints and suggestions – mostly from county residents.

But council members appear reluctant to backpedal on the plan they finally approved May 10 after months of research, multiple meetings with residents and hours of debate.

Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus, who lives in Myrtle Beach, asked city leaders Tuesday to “slow down” and reconsider other possible solutions to a parking problem that has plagued the Golden Mile for close to a decade.

“You have a tough decision to make and, no, you won’t make everyone happy,” Lazarus said. “I know in my heart and I know because I know each of you that your first concern is the safety of our residents and our visitors alike.”

But he encouraged the council to look at a more “comprehensive parking plan” that would include a partnership with the county.

He asked leaders to consider making Ocean Boulevard from 31st Avenue North to 52nd Avenue North uniform with changes made to other parts of the boulevard.

“Create metered parking on the east side of Ocean Boulevard, bike lane on the west side,” he said. “Just think of our citizens and visitors being able to ride a bicycle basically from the Dunes Club all the way to Market Common on a bike path.”

We then need to develop park-and-ride areas. As our county continues to grow more demand for beach access will occur. Horry County should partner with the cities to accomplish this and in my role as chairman of Horry County Council I will advocate to either purchase or lease property for this purpose.

Mark Lazarus, Horry County Council chairman

He suggested the city have two driving lanes on that stretch of Ocean Boulevard with turn lanes at the avenues.

City leaders previously considered narrowing the four-lane boulevard to two lanes with bike lanes, turn lanes, crosswalks and parking on the west side of the street. But under the adopted plan, the boulevard will stay much like it is with 57 on-street parking spaces only open on the east side of the street to city residents with parking decals.

Instead of making the beach access lots pay-by-phone, Lazarus said, those lots should be metered.

“No, I repeat, no parking in the avenues except for those property owners and their guests,” he said. “These easements are for utility and emergency uses plain and simple and for the residents that maintain those properties on a daily basis.”

City leaders were split on how to configure the right-of-way parking along the side streets from 31st Avenue North to 82nd Avenue North between Ocean Boulevard and Kings Highway. Under the approved plan, the allowed right-of-way spaces will be open to city residents with parking decals.

Lazarus suggested the city create an Horry County annual parking pass available for sale to residents living in the unincorporated areas of the county and for city property owners who may not live in Myrtle Beach year-round.

“You (could) have a two-tiered plan. A regular parking pass that would be used in areas where there’s more available parking, places such as the old Pavilion area and the parking garage. Then possibly a premium parking pass for areas that have less available parking such as the Golden Mile area,” he said.

The premium passes would fetch a higher price.

You have a tough decision to make and, no, you won’t make everyone happy. ... I know in my heart and I know because I know each of you that your first concern is the safety of our residents and our visitors alike.

Mark Lazarus, Horry County Council chairman

“We then need to develop park-and-ride areas,” Lazarus told the council. “As our county continues to grow more demand for beach access will occur. Horry County should partner with the cities to accomplish this and in my role as chairman of Horry County Council I will advocate to either purchase or lease property for this purpose.”

But the cities will need to do their part by creating the lots with restrooms and drop-off areas, he said.

Lazarus offered Coast RTA as another partner in the park-and-ride initiative to provide “consistent and dependable times for pick-up and drop-off.”

He also suggested creating an “Horry County parking commission or authority to develop this comprehensive parking plan for all of Horry County.”

Myrtle Beach leaders have been looking at properties where they could create extra parking and possible park-to-ride lots for years. At the council’s April budget retreat council members eyed lots on the city’s south end as possibilities.

“We’ll consider looking at a joint venture (with the county) in trying to find some property that we can use for parking,” Mayor John Rhodes said, but added the other suggestions likely won’t be considered.

Myrtle Beach City Council will be considering new parking fees for the beach access lots in the north end next month, after some members wanted to back down from a plan to charge double the city’s other rates at $4 an hour and $20 a day. Other tweaks are expected in the plan over time, but the council has been reluctant to make parking in the Golden Mile free to non-city residents.

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

Emily Weaver: 843-444-1722, @TSNEmily

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