NMB house party

Cars parked on the grass during a house party on Ocean Boulevard. Photo courtesy of the city of North Myrtle Beach 

North Myrtle Beach City Council on Friday will vote on a third version of its parking ordinance that's intended to control parking at short-term rentals in residential areas, with some key changes from the original ordinance the city previously considered.

The first iteration of the ordinance would have divided short-term rentals into two classes, single-family rentals and multi-family rentals, and mandated that the single-family rental owners tell the city how many legal parking spaces they had on-site and communicate that information to renters in their advertisements, rental agreements and in postings inside the units. 

It would have regulated the size of parking spaces at 9’ X 19’ and required property owners to purchase off-site parking for extra vehicles. 

Last week, council tabled the first version of the ordinance over councilors’ concerns about parking space size regulations and the requirement that property owners buy off-site parking spaces, as well as objections from Elliot Realty owner Rick Elliot and his attorneys, who argued the city was unfairly targeting short-term rentals.

The draft ordinance presented Wednesday removed the requirement that property owners provide off-site parking for guests with too many cars and nixed the 9’ X 19’ size requirement for parking spaces, which some councilors thought was too large. Those changes are likely to make it into Friday’s ordinance. 

But the Wednesday draft kept the division of single-family and multi-family classes of rental units, and defined transient parking as any vehicle parked “on a short-term basis, typically daily or less.” 

The wording in both of those sections is likely to change.

Attorney Jim McCracken, speaking on behalf of rental industry stakeholders, pointed out that the definition of transient parking as defined in the ordinance would apply to people parked for limited amounts of time, but not overnight. 

“The definition itself of transient parking goes completely against what you’re trying to accomplish,” he said, addressing council during public comment. “You’ve said multiple times you didn’t want to get folks who were having bridge club or one day going to a party at somebody’s house, whether it’s a baby shower or bridge club, whatever it is, but your definition specifically targets that group when you say one day or less. The groups you’re trying to get are typically not going to be there a day or less, they’re going to be there multiple days, weeks, typically.” 

City Attorney Chris Noury said McCracken had a “legitimate point,” and said the definition could be revised to say “daily or more.” 

Still, McCracken argued, stating: “it can’t be daily or more, that has no limit. Then you might as well just say ‘parking.’ If you just want to regulate parking, say ‘parking.’ If there’s a specific time period, then specify that. Frankly, I don’t know how you know when somebody’s parked illegally, whether they’ve been there a day or less, or 10 days, or two months. I don’t know how you’re going to regulate that.” 

Mayor Marilyn Hatley said she wanted to make sure nothing in the ordinance would harm residents going about their daily life. 

“The definition of transient parking does need to be addressed,” Noury responded. 

Councilor Hank Thomas said that he was concerned about creating two classes of rentals in the ordinance because it could create problems for the city later on, and said that multi-family condo complexes have the same issues as single-family rentals. 

“Anytime you start creating classes then you start opening the possibility for unintended consequences,” he said. 

But City Manager Mike Mahaney said the city didn’t want to start regulating parking in condo complexes because HOAs often control their own parking. Planning Director Jim Wood said it would be difficult to apply the ordinance in HOA-governed multi-family buildings, because someone renting out a unit could lie to the city about the number of spaces they were allowed to use. 

“If they report to us three and the HOA says two, we have no way of reconciling those numbers or adjudicating who’s wrong,” Wood said. 

Councilor Fred Coyne proposed a compromise, changing the verbiage to eliminate the two classes while also applying the parking space reporting requirements to just single-family units. 

Wood and Noury came up with some language in line with Coyne’s proposal. “The long and short of it is ‘any short-term rental whose parking is allocated, managed or controlled by a set of deed restrictions and/or a recorded property owner’s association is exempt from the requirements herein,” Noury said. 

George Gregory, Elliot Rentals’ in-house attorney, again made the argument that the city was unfairly targeting single-family short-term rental homes, but Noury told city council that the city would likely win if the ordinance was challenged in court. 

Hatley asked Noury to sit down with Gregory and McCrackin to work out the ordinance before Friday’s vote. The city will have to call a special-called meeting for the Friday vote.

“After the meeting, the three of you set up a time that you can meet together, we’ll be glad to work through it, but on Friday, we’re going to vote on the short-term parking,” Hatley said. “One way or another we’re going to get this parking under control. We have an issue in our neighborhoods, we have people who live here who are tired of 15 cars parked along their street nightly.”

Reach him by email or through Twitter and Facebook with the handle @ChrisHBoschult. 

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Christian is Texas native who welcomes any chance to do a story in the marsh or on the beach. He's a dog park regular and enjoys spending time in the kitchen. He says his margarita recipes are better than anything you'll find in a restaurant.

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