North Myrtle Beach on Friday held a drop-in charrette hosted by parking consultants Kimley-Horn in order to get feedback from residents on the city’s inaugural paid parking program that lasted from June 15 through the end of October.
The city started the paid parking program for ocean-front lots due to over-crowding and safety issues along Ocean Boulevard. The city aims to spread out the crowd, increase parking turnover and use revenue to build more public parking lots.
More than 60,000 vehicles paid to park in North Myrtle this summer, according to Kimley-Horn’s presentation. The most popular paid lots were at 46th Avenue South, Shorehaven Drive and 17th Avenue North. Combined, those three lots generated more than $50,000 in revenue, not including cash payments, a mobile app transaction fee and citation revenue.
In total, the paid parking program brought in more than $423,000 for the city, including cash payments and citation revenue.
“It’s not a money-grab, it’s a behavior-changing device,” said city spokesman Pat Dowling. “That’s why cities implement this. It’s not generating a huge amount of money in its first year. Whatever it does generate, we will use, plus other city monies, to go out and purchase land on which to create more public parking.”
Paid parking will start again in March with any changes that city leaders want to make to the program.
North Myrtle Beach resident Dave Sevelovitz doesn’t want to see paid parking come back at all.
“I don’t believe in paid parking,” he said. “I believe we’re a tourism town and we’re taking revenue away from businesses and opportunities and we’re just causing parking in other areas.”
But the program isn’t going away anytime soon. As Dowling put it in an email, “we’re in this for the long haul.”
Most city residents were satisfied the program, the consultants said.
“The folks that told us they didn’t like how it worked, most of those responses were folks that did not have access to a permit,” said Brett Wood, a parking and mobility consultant with Kimley-Horn. “One of the things we’re looking at is maybe expanding the permit eligibility for people that are not full-time residents to be able to get a permit so that when they come to their second home or come into town, they have an option to have a permit to go park at the beach.”
Dowling said city leaders would look at possibly expanding the parking decal program to make it more available to second homeowners and county residents.
“Council will consider that, and the dissatisfaction of county residents, particularly in the Little River area,” Dowling said. “They settled there in order to avoid our taxes but in order to take advantage of our free ocean-front parking. So they want some sort of a season pass they can purchase.”
Joe Gosiewski, a resident of Barefoot Resort, said he liked the program but wants to see more parking in the Windy Hill neighborhood. He favors the county buying parking spaces for county residents rather than the city providing those spaces.
“I think the county should make an investment in some properties along Ocean [Boulevard] or a block off, and make it available to all county residents,” Gosiewski said.
Rick Elliot of Elliot Beach Rentals said the program was “good” during its first year, but suggested that businesses, specifically hotels and condos near the ocean, are allowed vouchers so their employees can park for free.
“We have hard-working folks who come here to maintain properties, keep them clean, etc., and sometimes they have to park in the city parking areas on a non-busy time of the day,” Elliot said. “They have to pay, it’s unfortunate, I feel for them. I wish the businesses maybe could get some help for situations like that, even if we have to pay a voucher or something, that would work. Taking linens across a busy street, having another bag that you have to carry for cleaning supplies, it’s not safe and I’m concerned for their well-being.”
Elliot also advocated for using an app to help county folks find free spaces, which still exist in North Myrtle, and turning Waties Island into a state park.
“That would provide parking and beach-going and things like that for people that live here, residents of north Myrtle Beach and people that live in the county,” he said.