By Paul Gable
The parking fee issue in Myrtle Beach seems to get a little more convoluted each week.
Earlier this week, a group called the Beach Coalition held a meeting at Longbeard’s in Carolina Forest to discuss issues surrounding the parking fees.
Attending the meeting were county council chairman Mark Lazarus and council members Bill Howard, Jimmy Washington and Johnny Vaught. Randal Wallace from Myrtle Beach City Council was also in attendance.
Members of the coalition group are unhappy with the rather cavalier manner in which Myrtle Beach city council treats issues such as parking fees.
With regard to the fee itself, Lazarus said there is going to be a parking fee for county residents when they park in beach access areas.
Additionally, Lazarus said the fee has to be reasonable for everybody and nobody is going to pay $300 (for a parking decal). The $300 figure was thrown out by Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes at a recent forum held with citizens.
Lazarus said the city and county would establish a “steering committee” to address the issue.
Wallace said something had to be done about parking in beach access in the Golden Mile and surrounding areas. He seemed to blame the fee on litter finding its way to the properties of Golden Mile residents.
Wallace said maybe the $10 per day parking fee now being charged to non-city residents wasn’t the best answer to the problem. He said he was sure city council wants to work with county council to address the parking fee issue.
Wallace admitted to the crowd that all parking fees collected in the city go to the Downtown Redevelopment Corporation. For many years, the DRC has 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 small business owners have stated the parking fees in question will help squeeze them out of business by limiting tourist traffic to their businesses.
What no elected official addressed was the probable illegality of charging any parking fee in at least some of the beach access areas in which they are now charged.
Deed restrictions placed on property Myrtle Beach Farms deeded to the City of Myrtle Beach in 1940, 1968 and 1992 restrict the property from being used for any commercial purposes.
Many of today’s beach access areas were included in those property transfers.
Charging parking fees must be considered a commercial purpose.