The city of North Myrtle Beach intends to use the majority of the estimated $7 million in new revenue from the accommodations tax and hospitality fee to buy land for more parking lots, assuming they can keep the new revenue stream which they used to share with Horry County.
During a May 20 city council meeting, Mayor Marilyn Hatley said she had asked Horry County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner’s administration and former chairman Mark Lazarus’s administration if the county would help pay for land.
“Basically, there was no interest whatsoever to help us purchase property in the city limits of North Myrtle Beach so that we could provide parking and not have to go to charging,” Hatley said during the meeting, referring to the non-resident paid parking program that starts June 15. “If you don’t work as a team on some things, you just can’t always give away everything. So that was frustrating to us. But anyway, it is what it is.”
Gardner said he personally hadn’t talked to Hatley, but that the city could have reached out to county staff and he wouldn't have known about it.
“She may be remembering correctly,” Gardner said. “What very well may have happened is someone on the staff talked to someone on the staff.”
But he says he “never did anything” with former country administrator Chris Eldridge about parking.
“I have not had any discussion with Eldridge,” Gardner said.
Hatley did not respond to a request for additional comment.
In March, North Myrtle Beach City Council passed an ordinance that allows the city to keep all accommodation tax and hospitality fee money collected in the city. That money was previously split with the county under an agreement that the city contends expired in 2017.
As Horry County’s population grows, the city wants more space for those new residents to park. Officials have said they want to use the money from the non-resident paid parking program to buy more land, but that pot of money will get bigger with the new A-tax and hospitality fee revenue.
“There are 15,000 homes that are in the pipeline, many already being built right outside of North Myrtle Beach,” said City Manager Mike Mahaney during the meeting. “If you go right across from the hospital, there’s 1,500 homes right there. Those people in those houses are going to come right down Sea Mountain Highway and they’re going to take a right and they’re going to look for a place to park. With the current funding sourcing of us taking our A-tax and hospitality [fee] back, we’re planning on using a majority of that $7 million over the winter to purchase additional property and create additional parking.”
The land purchase will rest on whether the city can actually keep the funds.
The city used to split the revenue with Horry County, even though the funds were collected within the city limits. Earlier this year, North Myrtle Beach, along with Myrtle Beach and other municipalities, passed ordinances that will let each cities keep all the revenue for themselves.
Those ordinances sparked a lawsuit between Myrtle Beach and Horry County. The outcome of the lawsuit and pending state legislation could affect whether the cities can keep the money.
If they can, North Myrtle Beach spokesman Pat Dowling said the funds would be used to buy land for parking lots – not garages, which are cost-prohibitive at up to $30,000 per parking space – but he couldn’t say exactly how many acres or in what areas the city was looking.
Paid parking in North Myrtle Beach for non-residents starts June 15, and will cost $2-an-hour to park in lots connected to Ocean Boulevard. But parking in public rights-of-way is free, and there are other parking opportunities near the beach that are not connected directly to Ocean Boulevard.
Residents can get a decal and won’t have to pay.