The North Myrtle Beach City Council on Monday gave initial approval to two parking ordinances that will fast-track officials’ ability to remove illegally-placed barriers in public rights-of-way and grant parking management companies hired by the city the right to immobilize illegally-parked cars, a job previously reserved only for the city.
The ordinances come at a time when the city is preparing to implement some new parking policies following the recommendations of a consulting group it hired.
Those recommendations include paid parking at all beachfront lots, and extending existing beach-front lots to add around 200 new spaces. The city implemented the changes after parking problems boiled over last summer when the city stopped letting people park in the Ocean Boulevard median.
The new ordinance gives any parking management company hired by the city the authority to immobilize illegally-parked vehicles. Previously, it was just a job for police.
City officials also provided MyHorryNews.com with some proposed changes to how the new summer parking program will be implemented.
Proposed amendments to the second reading of the ordinance include allowing permanent residents two parking passes for their vehicles instead of the one that was previously discussed in March. Those decals will let city residents park for free at the beachfront lots, and residents will be able to get them for any two vehicles, including two golf carts if they so desire.
And if you’re a permanent resident but your personal vehicle is registered to a company, a proposed amendment would let you pay $50 for a resident free parking pass.
The city also passed an ordinance making it easier for the city manager to get rid of obstacles illegally placed in public rights-of-way.
In past years, residents have placed shrubs and other blockades in the rights-of-way along the street and adjacent to their property.
City spokesman Pat Dowling said the wider rights-of-way can extend 18-25 feet away from each side of the road, and exist on most local roads along Ocean Boulevard.
Some homeowners have groomed the areas adjacent to their property, making it appear that the rights-of-way are privately-owned, Dowling said. But they’re still public.
Under a previous ordinance, the city manager would ask the adjacent property owner or responsible party to remove the item in writing. If the responsible party hadn’t moved the obstruction within 10 days of the letter or posted notice, then the city could remove the object.
But the new ordinance gets rid of the language laying out the longer request process the city previously adhered to.
Now, it only says the city manager has the authority to “order the immediate removal of trees, shrubs, signage, fences, or other obstructions at intersections which obstruct the view of motor vehicles or other traffic or interfere in any way with the orderly movement of traffic.” The rest of the previous ordinance has been deleted under the new proposal.
“That’s complaint-driven, and the majority of the enforcement will be within a block or so of the beach,” said city manager Mike Mahaney. “What happens is I’ll get calls that somebody put up flags or reflectors or whatever. So we’re gearing up to send city staff there to deal with that.”
The goal isn’t to dig up people’s bushes, said Mayor Marilyn Hatley, who added that after the city stopped letting people park in the Ocean Boulevard median, some residents began purposely blocking right-of-ways to prevent people from parking near their property.
“That right-of-way belongs to the City of North Myrtle Beach,” Hatley said. “It belongs to the public and the public can park on that right-of-way. It is not owned by the people whose yard butts up to that right-of-way. We’ve got more things to do than to go out and dig up old shrubs and trees and all that kind of stuff, but when you start putting up chain link fences and posts and that kind of thing… then that’s wrong.”
But in areas like Windy Hill on the southern end of the city, residents have been used to right-of-way parking for years.
“They’ve been using the right of way for a long, long time,” said Windy Hill councilwoman Nikkie Fontana. “Nobody has an issue there. Everybody knows and nobody has an issue in that section.”
Dowling said residents who have questions about whether a right-of-way exists near their property can call the public works department at 843-280-5500.