By Paul Gable
The more parking fees for non-city residents are discussed by Myrtle Beach City Council, the more flaws come to light in the distorted arguments of council members.
Since instituting parking fees along the “Golden Mile” strip of the oceanfront in July, city officials have heard increasing complaints from county residents and business owners.
The parking fees appear to violate deed restrictions included when Myrtle Beach Farms transferred company owned land to the city along the oceanfront. This violation not only applies to parking areas charging fees along the Golden Mile, but also to the many areas in the south end of the city where parking fees have been charged for a number of years.
One of the deed restrictions states, “…property shall not be used for commercial purposes by any person, private corporation, municipal corporation or agency of government.”
At a community forum last week where the parking issue was addressed, several city council members tried to argue that parking fees charged by the city are not a commercial venture. Instead, the arguments framed the fees as ‘more of a tax.’
However, taxing citizens for using city owned property is also a commercial venture. To argue any differently is to attempt to cloud the issue with semantics.
Mayor John Rhodes, reportedly, offered the possibility of selling parking decals to local, non-city residents for $300 per year. Rhodes said the $300 would equate to what city residents pay to the city in vehicle taxes each year.
This is ridiculous on several levels. I submit $300 equates to the average city tax paid on vehicles multiplied by a factor of five.
Additionally, the city “taxing” non-resident locals through the vehicle of a parking decal fee probably violates the settlement of a dual taxation lawsuit the city brought against the county a couple of decades ago.
The settlement of that lawsuit requires the county to remit back to the city 85 percent of the $50 road maintenance fee charged on county vehicle taxes for vehicles owned by city residents.
I submit the first parking decal fee (tax or whatever you want to call it) collected by the city from a county resident puts the entire settlement of that lawsuit in jeopardy.
The issue is nowhere near as black and white as city council members would like you to believe.
It is probable that parking fees (taxes) charged on land transferred by those long ago deeds are illegal.
Myrtle Beach City Council is willing to push the limits on its actions, forcing those with standing to sue the city to make it comply with the law.
Witness the helmet law requirement for bikers that the city instituted several years ago. The city lost that lawsuit and, I believe, it would lose this one.
But, until legal action is taken, city officials will continue to push the envelope on parking fees along city streets and street ends.