MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - After months of discussion, the City of Myrtle Beach has officially passed a ban on tents at the beach during the busy summer season.
The resolution passed its second reading with a vote of 5 to 1 during the city council meeting Tuesday, and will be signed into law. The ban will take place from Memorial Day through Labor Day each year, starting this summer.
The ordinance passed its first reading earlier this month, and it regulates beach tents, which comes in addition to an existing ordinance restricting "shading devices," such as umbrellas and lean-tos, that are over 7.5 feet in diameter.
The ordinance passed in spite of several concerns raised earlier in the day Tuesday during the City Council's workshop session.
The difference in times that tents would be banned spurred discussion about whether the dates should be consistent across the board during the workshop. Several council members said that doesn't matter, because people usually don't go from one beach to another during their visit.
Then, of course, there is the issue of what year this should go into effect. A concern business owners voiced was that their clients have no way of knowing about the change this year. One councilman said he's not sure people will pay attention until they need to.
Myrtle Beach spokesman Mark Kruea said the beach tent problem is a relatively new one.
"People are very much attached to their tents," Kruea said. "But again, the tents have only grown in popularity over the last five, six 10 years or so, so you went to the beach a long time before the tents existed too."
Several council members worried that families may be chased away if they cannot bring a baby tent to the beach for their infants or children.
An alternate ordinance was brought to the table that would allow pup tents and baby shades for those families who want to enjoy the beach with their babies. It allows smaller shading devices like sun-domes, lean-to's, and pop-up tents that are smaller than eight-feet tall, but still bans large tents, which are primarily the problem.
The original ordinance was ultimately passed without any changes or amendments.
Some of the beaches in Myrtle Beach have become so popular in the summer, that the city says beach tents have become a huge issue for several reasons:
"First of all, safety, making sure you can get through a wall of tents to get to the beach in the event of an emergency, making sure emergency responders can get there," said city spokesman Mark Kruea. "The fact that they take up a lot of real estate, more people could enjoy the beach with fewer tents out there. And then over the last five years, we've essentially added two million extra visitors, so there are more people trying to use the beach."
For some frequent tourists, this new rule could be a deal breaker.
"It would deter us from coming to the beach," said Emily Jager, a frequent visitor. "Not having them, not being able to use them - we ourselves are not necessarily full sun people, so we need the little protection and the shade."
The City of North Myrtle Beach passed a similar ordinance last week, banning shading devices during the same time on all of its beaches. The ban will be in effect from May 15 to Sept. 15, and in addition to tents, bans any umbrella with a diameter over nine feet.
Many viewers spoke in favor of this ban when it was announced last week.
"Hope the rest of the Strand follows suit! Tired of seeing empty "tents" reserving space for hours on end!" commented viewing Galen Ruppert on the WMBF News Facebook page.
Read more about North Myrtle Beach's ban here: http://www.wmbfnews.com/story/25000358/north-myrtle-beach-bans-use-of-shading-devices-other-than-umbrellas
Different cities are moving forward and working on different beach tent bans. But since there's literally no line in the sand, the concern is different bans along the Grand Strand will confuse tourists. The Horry County Council is still considering two proposed county ordinances: a seasonal ban or just a flat-out, year-round ban.
"We'd all like to be on the same page," explained Myrtle Beach City Spokesperson Mark Kruea, "whatever the rule is, so it eliminates confusion and makes it easier to enforce."
Horry County Council discussed the issue earlier this month at their council meeting. A year-long ban of beach tents passed a first reading unanimously. The county is expected to vote on the second reading of the year-round ban that would prohibit anything except umbrellas on April 1.