By Paul Gable
A lawsuit against the City of Myrtle Beach for its paid parking areas along the oceanfront is being considered by property owners.
The basis of the lawsuit would be city violations of deed restrictions and covenants included in property transfers years ago.
Deeds from 1940 and 1968 in which Myrtle Beach Farms gave oceanfront property to the city include restrictions against commercial activity on the deeded property.
In the intervening years, some of that property has been converted to street ends and beach access on which the city now charges visitors to park.
According to a real estate attorney with considerable experience in the county, the deed restrictions do not go away on the portions of the property converted to public thoroughfares.
The deeds restrictions prohibit commercial activity by any “person, private corporation, municipal corporation or agency or instrumentality of government.” The land is specifically designated to be kept as a public park or common.
The city appears to violate these restrictions in several ways. The parking fees and fines are collected and disbursed by a private corporation contracted by city government. The city’s portion of the revenue goes to fund the Downtown Redevelopment Corporation, an agency created by the city.
The DRC is its own challenged organization, having accomplished little in the way of redevelopment and virtually none in the city’s historic downtown in the area of City Hall, Five Points and adjacent areas.
The DRC has set its sights on the oceanfront and rumored major new development projects that would first require the squeezing out of small business owners currently operating along sections of Ocean Boulevard.
Many have speculated that the parking fees in question will help squeeze out small business owners by limiting tourist traffic to their businesses.
Whether the parking fees are part of some draconian scheme to squeeze out small businesses or just another example of city council doing what it wants to do in spite of legal restrictions, developments in the next several months should be closely watched.
Copies of the 1940 and 1968 deeds: 1940-1968 deeds for beachfront perhaps