Paid parking on side streets and non-resident parking permits were among the recommendations presented by North Myrtle Beach’s parking consultants during a meeting Wednesday afternoon.
Consultant group Kimley-Horn helped the city develop its inaugural paid parking program for the summer of 2019, and on Wednesday laid out their proposed changes for 2020.
Their recommendations include:
1: Charging $2 an hour on designated side streets using a mobile app but not kiosks. North of Atlantic Beach, the various side streets would fall between Ocean Boulevard and Perrin Drive and, and between Ocean Boulevard and Hillside Drive. South of Atlantic Beach, the paid side streets parking would fall between Ocean Boulevard and Seaview Street.
2: On high-demand side streets, improving public rights-of-way for parking and delineating allowable parking spots from people’s yards. (There’s not enough time for the construction necessary to build side street parking spaces before parking starts this year, said city spokesman Pat Dowling, but paid parking on various side streets using a mobile app and signs is still workable.)
3: Allowing full-time residents who already get two free parking permits per household to purchase a third parking permit for $200.
4: Allowing part-time residents who own property in North Myrtle, but don’t live here, to get one free golf cart or vehicle parking permit per household, and purchase a second for $200. (Non-resident property owners can currently get one free parking permit for a golf cart if it's permitted to the owner's North Myrtle Beach address.)
5: Starting a non-resident parking program to allow county folk to buy annual parking permits for $200, limiting the number of permits sold to 200 on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The recommendations were well-received by city council.
“What we’re trying to do here is not encourage people to park on the side streets, but discourage them,” said North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley. “If they have a parking pass, then they have a tendency to park their car closer to the beach. That’s why we’re going to paid parking on these side streets and really encouraging people to buy a parking pass.”
Here’s the city’s rationale: people who have parking permits can park for free on beach-front lots. Those who don’t can still park near their favorite section of the beach without paying if they park on side streets. But that often means they’re parking in public rights-of-way that butt up to residents’ yards.
By making those side streets paid parking, and giving more part-time residents and non-residents access to parking permits, the city hopes to drive visitors away from the side streets and to more desirable beach-front parking, with side-street parking as the last option if all the beach-front lots are full.
So far, the city hasn’t decided which streets, or how many streets, would be subject to paid parking this summer. Dowling said the city would focus on the most congested streets for this summer’s parking season.
Last summer, the city began the paid parking program by charging $2 an hour for lots connected to Ocean Boulevard. The city said it made an initial $750,000 investment in the program and generated about $500,000 in revenue last year. More than 60,300 vehicles paid to park, and the city expects to fully recoup on its investment in 2020.
Improving handicap access to the beach and handling large summer crowds is a focus for councilor Bob Cavanaugh, who proposed restricting free parking for county residents during the weekdays and not the weekend.
“They will come on the weekend if it’s free,” Cavanaugh said of county visitors. “They will not fight the traffic on the weekends. So let’s put them in that category, we don’t want them to add to the capacity on weekends.”
Hatley disagreed with that idea.
“The recommendation to limit it to five days a week, I wasn’t for that,” Hatley said. “I think the group that has done our study has done an excellent job. It is a work in progress. We’ll be back here next here to discuss parking again, and we’ll continue until we’re satisfied.”
Cavanaugh said that eventually, the city will reach its parking capacity.
When that happens, he’d like to see a park-and-ride program in place to handle the visitors.
“It would work extremely well for the county people,” Cavanaugh said. “It would be easier for them; they wouldn’t have to struggle for parking space. The other thing that would be beneficial to us, is we would be able to distribute them along the entire 9-mile length, and therefore the impact of them on the beach would be spread out and we could prevent the beach from being over-crowded.”
Mayor Hatley said council will have to work on the recommendations before voting them into law. “We have a few months before paid parking starts up again, but we’ll have a decision made by the summer," she said.