North Myrtle Beach City Council looks at parking fee exemption program for residents

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NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – North Myrtle Beach now has four parking lots where people have to pay to park, but soon, people with property in the city could be able to park in those lots by the beach without paying for it each time.

City spokesperson Pat Dowling said the vast majority of parking in North Myrtle Beach is still free, but the city is charging people to park at beach access lots at Fourth and Third avenues north and 27th Avenue South, as well as the lot across Ocean Boulevard on Fourth Avenue South.

Those lots have been converted to paid parking because the city found employees working in the area were taking up the free parking spaces.

Some people living in North Myrtle Beach are upset they have to pay at their closest beach access and they don’t want to go to another to park for free.

“When I’m surfing, I still bring my truck and just park at a friend’s house across the street,” said Jon Hoffnagle, who lives along 27th Avenue South. “I’m not going to pay to park on my own street end.”

Hoffnagle pointed out 27th Avenue South is a surf zone, so he can’t surf at every beach access.

However, city council passed the first reading of a parking fee exemption program that could go into effect in July.

“I do appreciate the city working to alleviate that for the locals. It’s just the timely manner,” said Hoffnagle, noting half the summer will have passed by that point.

People who have property and live in North Myrtle Beach year-round pay vehicle property taxes, so they’ll be able to pay an annual fee of $5 to register up to two cars and a low-speed vehicle per residential property for free parking in those paid lots.

Those resident property owners would need to present their current vehicle registration, driver’s license showing an address in the city and the year’s proof of payment of vehicle property taxes.

Dowling said this is not a sticker program, but instead, the information will be entered into a city database, where parking enforcement will be able to access it

People who have property in North Myrtle Beach – but aren’t residents – will be able to pay $100 for the parking fee exemption for one vehicle per residential property, which can be either a car, golf cart or a low-speed vehicle.

In the meantime, people like Hoffnagle are using other means to avoid paying parking fees at 27th Avenue South.

Hoffnagle rides his motorized bicycle.

“That’s free and always will be,” he said.

Hoffnagle added he wasn’t informed ahead of time about the conversion of the 27th Avenue South lot to a paid parking lot.

“I noticed the numbers on the parking spaces first,” he said. “About a week and a half later, signs were up and there was no pre-warning about any of it to local residents.”

City council gave the city manager the authority to create paid parking lots as needed through an ordinance, according to Dowling. However, he said information about those changes is usually spread through social media and email groups.

Dowling said information was given out for the other lots that have been switched to paid parking, but that didn’t really happen with 27th Avenue South.

“Total surprise to us,” Hoffnagle said.

Hoffnagle also said he thinks the city needs to invest more in creating more parking.

“The infrastructure that the city has and the growth of the area, they’re going to need to accommodate all of these future tourists and residents,” he said. “So they need to start making some green zones or setting aside some land to where they can build in more parking spots. Otherwise, you’re going to have issues with safety, people parking on Ocean Boulevard.”

Dowling said residential and tourism growth are affecting parking along with development in Little River and west of the Intracoastal Waterway because those people enjoy the city’s beaches.

“This puts a great deal of pressure on what is already limited parking opportunities,” he said.

He added the cost of buying land, constructing a parking lot or garage, putting in lighting, and then policing the lot is all very expensive.

“City council has been intent on looking for new sources of revenue with which to potentially buy land and create new public parking. Funding is not readily available, and how all of that plays out into the future has yet to be determined,” Dowling said. “But it is a reality that everyone involved—residents, nearby non-residents and tourists — are going to have to be a part of.”

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