Horry County residents upset with parking changes; council speak - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Horry County residents upset with parking changes; council speaks out

Horry County Council chairman Mark Lazarus said the county wants to accommodate the frustrated county residents, and is looking into other options for easier beach access.  (Source: WMBF News) Horry County Council chairman Mark Lazarus said the county wants to accommodate the frustrated county residents, and is looking into other options for easier beach access.  (Source: WMBF News)

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF/MyHorryNews.com) - The new parking changes from 31st Avenue North and up along Ocean Boulevard have people upset.  Most of those people live just outside the city limits in Horry County.

The main complaint is these residents who contribute year around to the Myrtle Beach economy now have to pay to park at a beach that's always been free to them. Horry County Council chairman Mark Lazarus said the county wants to accommodate the frustrated county residents, and is looking into other options for easier beach access.  

Most notably, he said the county is looking at park and ride lots and forming a parking commission.  

“The people that're living on the west side, they may not live in the city limits, but they work in the city.  Whether it's down at a hotel, or one of the restaurants or a law firm, accounting firm or whatever it may be, you know they are residents of Horry County...and they're helping provide for this economy. I think they need to be treated fairly...just because they don’t pay a car tax within the city limits I don’t think that should eliminate them from at least being able to get a parking permit whether it's to pay for it or otherwise, in certain areas they like to go to ….not to be forced in to a certain area,” Lazarus said about the parking changes.

Lazarus said the county cannot overturn city rulings, but he plans to work with the city to find a win-win alternative.  "We're going to obviously try to work with the city, the municipalities.  I have a plan to try to put together a comprehensive parking commission for all of the Grand Strand to look at some park and ride lots.  That we can, people can park and we can have a nice facility to drop them off where there may be bathrooms and changing facilities and things like that where they can access the beach," Lazarus said.

Despite his efforts, Lazarus said he’s been unable to persuade city leaders to see his point of view. He plans to discuss the issue with county council and the county attorney. He said the county may ask the state Attorney General’s Office to review the matter and provide an opinion on the law.

County officials contend that a 1995 agreement between the local and federal governments for funding beach renourishment doesn’t allow the city to charge its residents a different rate for beachfront parking than other users.

“It looks to me like them boys have got a problem,” County Councilman Harold Worley said. “You can’t charge county residents and not city residents.”

Worley pointed out that the city and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have a contract that deals with who pays for replenishing sand on eroding shorelines. The agreement provides the city with millions of dollars in renourishment funding, but it stipulates that access roads, parking areas and other public facilities at the beach must be “open and available to all on equal terms.”

“You can’t pick and choose who’s going to use the beach,” Worley said.

City officials disagree with the county’s interpretation of the contract.

“The city considers city residents' taxes as paying for any parking,” city spokesman Mark Kruea said. “Therefore, it puts everyone on equal footing. For a number of years, the city has charged for parking in beach access parking in other parts of the city.” 

County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus said if the city’s position is that residents’ pay for parking via property taxes, that fee should be itemized on their tax bills, which it is not.

As of July 5 of this year, people could no longer park for free along Ocean Boulevard from 31st Avenue N to 82nd Avenue N.  It's $2 an hour and $10 for the entire day.  Residents of those city areas who have a Myrtle Beach decal can park on the east side of Ocean Boulevard for free and in the beach access lots.  Non-residents are eligible for city decals, but they will cost $100.  However, a non-resident decal allows for parking in the Entertainment District only.  The city decal, non-resident parking locations are:  Buchanan No. 2 Lot, Second Avenue North, and the Driftwood Lot, 16th Avenue North at Withers Drive. 

Horry County residents are also frustrated with the changes.  Some told WMBF News they're going to start going to other beaches.  Other residents said the parking changes "aren't fair."

A petition started by Horry County Students is circulating Change.org.  It has almost 5,000 signatures.  WMBF News reporter Meredith Helline spoke with one 10-year Horry County resident who signed it.  She said she pays the parking charges on the city's ParkMobile phone app.  She said the app is a hassle and charges the user 35 cents as a surcharge.  

"You know, I pay the same taxes and everything else so I don't know why they've done this...and I can see maybe for tourists, but for locals who live here this should be our beach just as much as every body else's and be able to go here," local Gwen Watts said.

Watts also said her kids like to go the the beach access at 48th Avenue North, but teenagers paying $10 a day during the summer months for that access is a lot.

Watts wanted to remind everyone to stop the app when you leave the beach, or it will continue to charge your parking.

For more on the rules, visit the city's website here.

Myrtle Beach leaders say the Ocean Boulevard changes were made by request from the residents who live there.

WMBF News partner MyHorryNews.com contributed to this report. View their article here.

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