By Susan Hill Smith, Island Eye News Staff Writer
With the city’s 2016 beach parking overhaul in its rear-view mirror, Isle of Palms City Council is already moving forward with adjustments for the 2017 season.
Council held a special meeting to consider parking issues Nov. 1, 2016 two weeks after a public forum at the Isle of Palms Recreation Center in which residents shared the positives and negatives they saw with the past year’s changes, plus concerns about remaining trouble-spots.
At the Nov. 1 meeting, council took more than two hours in an upstairs City Hall conference room to navigate possible fixes, also considering data and input from staff.
While leaders acknowledge there is much to be done before the deluge of daytrippers returns in spring, council took several votes and gave staff direction to deliver solutions on other matters.
Here’s a look at the ground covered, though some changes will also need to be reviewed by the S.C. Department of Transportation.
Addressing Palm Boulevard
Council voted 9-0 to eliminate all street parking along both sides of Palm Boulevard from 40th Avenue to 41st Avenue, where the road bends, limiting visibility, and where there can be a convergence of traffic related to the Isle of Palms Marina, Wild Dunes and beachgoers.
“I’ve talked to all the neighbors, and they are pushing it pretty hard,” said Councilmember Jimmy Ward, who introduced the motion. Mayor Dick Cronin said he believed the elimination of public parking spots on 42nd Avenue this past year may have pushed more people to search for spots between 40th and 41st. “That is clearly a high risk area,” said the mayor, who recognized the added danger of people accelerating to 35 mph after clearing the stop sign and the bend at 41st.
Waterway and 41st Avenue
Council unanimously agreed to convert the last section of Waterway Boulevard, where it comes to a T with 41st Avenue, to residential parking only, as with the rest of Waterway Boulevard.
The move is apparently an effort to cut down on the number of vehicles with boat trailers that use the stretch after launching at the marina around the corner, though council members recognized that some boaters who are residents may still use the spot.
In addition, council agreed 9-0 to convert sections of 41st Avenue with homes to residential parking only, though that won’t apply to the street’s commercial sections. Council also asked staff to look at eliminating all parking on the other side of the street where boaters often try (unsuccessfully) to park vehicles with trailers alongside a ditch. “It’s just too dangerous,” said Councilmember Carol Rice.
Guest parking revisited
One annoyance for residents came when they needed street parking for their own guests during restricted times. With this year’s changes, they could obtain up to two books of 30 one-day guest parking permits a year— but each book cost $15. “This is a real hot item for me,” said Councilmember Jimmy Carroll. “I think our residents having to pay for booklets is ridiculous.”
Council voted unanimously to do away with charges for guest parking permits and asked staff to consider other options such as reusable parking placards.
City Administrator Linda Tucker said they would come up with a mechanism but that “there does have to be some sort of control.”
Dealing with decals
In another move meant to make life simpler for residents, council directed staff to work things out so that residential parking decals —introduced for the first time this year—can double as hurricane re-entry decals.
Everyone has acknowledged that the beach ball design for the new residential parking decal is flawed because it’s not visible in tinted windows and will need to be replaced next year. Ward suggested returning to the classic palm tree design previously used to represent the city.
Status quo on some issues
Many residents welcomed the increased restrictions on where island visitors could park for free.
Some residents have encouraged extending enforcement dates for those restrictions—set for May 15 to Sept. 15—to year round. Council considered it, but in the end, voted 8-1 not to pursue year round enforcement. In a separate 8-1 vote, council also decided against adjusting the dates and instead asked to keep the status quo, while leaving the door open for staff to come back with suggestions for date changes in the future. Carroll broke with the group in each case.
Rice suggested that parking signs be taken down during the off-season, but was met with skepticism from Ward and others. “I really was against the signs—strongly against them,” Ward said. “But honestly, I think people have gotten used to them, and I wonder about the cost of aking them down and putting them back up.”
Councilmember Sandy Ferencz argued that signs on quiet streets, like cul-de-sacs off Waterway Boulevard where she lives, aren’t needed at all and said she has heard many complaints. Councilmember Ted Kinghorn pointed out that only one resident complained about signs at the parking forum, while Tucker pointed out that police can’t write tickets for parking violations without a sign present. “No sign means no enforcement,” the city administrator said.
In the end, council voted 7-2 to keep signs up year round and largely leave them as they are, though some signs may be shifted around. Rice and Ferencz opposed the measure. Afterward, Ferencz voiced frustration over her home becoming “an island of signs.” “Folks, this is not the IOP that I moved into in 1994.”
Councilmember Patrick Harrington agreed that it wasn’t the same island. “It’s ever changing, and we have to adapt with that.”