By Kathryn Casey for Island Eye News
The Isle of Palms City Council met Dec. 2 to continue discussions of its proposed parking permit plan. While a plan has been agreed on, the city needs the blessing of the South Carolina Department of Transportation at a state level, before it can implements its concept of half the island being under managed parking and the other half not.
So far, the city has written a letter of intent to the secretary of transportation with the details of how they wish to regulate the parking on the island.
Mayor Cronin said that after its meeting with local SCDOT representatives, the city received a very favorable nod. This is as close to a yes as will be possible until the plan has been taken to the State level.
The devil is in the details, though, when it comes to the council discussing particular issues within the plan. A major issue still to be decided is how far the restricted parking will extend. Whether to include Hartnett Blvd. in the restricted parking zone or not is an issue of contention for many members on council.
Councilmember Ward suggested that if Hartnett is included in the restricted area the properties that live off the avenues off Hartnett should be included as well to remain consistent. “People that live on the corner of Hartnett are excluded, but their neighbor is not… People are asking me, ‛Why can people park in your yard but not my right of way, Jimmy? You’re my next door neighbor.’”
These inconsistencies in the plan, amongst others, are why Councilmember Loftus is against Concept B, the plan that council voted to adopt on Nov. 14. Loftus voted against Concept B both times council voted, voting in favor of a more inclusive plan that treated all the residents equally.
“We are going to be taking parking on the avenues and pushing it back past Hartnett,” Loftus said. “I think there are a lot of negatives in this that the residents are really going to push back on.” Loftus went on to say that due to the regulated and unregulated parking areas there will be more traffic congesting Palm Blvd, making citizens that live on the north side of the island unhappy. Councilmember Bergwerf argued that this is what the citizens want.
“Resident’s don’t want to be regulated. Plan B is partly a reaction to that. Now you’re going back to everyone can park in the right of ways.” Ward argued that some residents who want to be regulated will be in the area will be designated as unregulated.
“There is a mechanism in the draft that would allow a group of residents to be in the restricted resident-only parking area if they wanted,” Mayor Cronin said.
Ward said, “All I know is we are switching people.” Although there is a mechanism in the current plan for residents that want to petition to have their area added to the restricted parking area, but there is not a way for those in the restricted area to petition to be unregulated. Bettelli reminded his fellow councilmembers that no matter what plan they choose not all the citizens will be happy.
“That’s why we have the ability for folks to petition,” he said. “We are going to have to see how it works. Go with it. Because there’s nothing like this anywhere in the state that I know of. We’re forging our own and customizing it to IOP.”
Next, council decided that in order to decide on the ‛magic number’ of parking passes they would sell every year, in order to help limit the number of cars on the island at any one time, Stantec should come back and tell the council how many parking spaces there are on the island. Once Stantec makes a recommendation the council will either accept it or tweak its suggestion.
Another issue currently being discussed is whether to make hang tags available to residents or have resident’s register cars electronically through their license plates, as visitors will be required to do. Loftus thinks registering license plates would be simple and council should go with that option. Bergwerf argued that she would rather have the pass tied to her than her vehicle and wanted the option to switch the pass to a different vehicle if need be.
In addition to these issues which council must come to a decision on, there are many external factors that need to be addressed. Council must assess road bed conditions, get permits for any signage necessary, and decide whether parallel parking will be enforced on Palm Blvd. Along with these issues, citizens are still asking Council to regulate the double parking on their lawns.
Overall, Bergwerf believes that council is making great progress and putting in whatever time it takes to make a plan work.
“As the population East of the Cooper continues to grow our ability to handle the increased number of cars has to be established now. The parking plan will change over time, we will see that some things work and others need to be adjusted. The city will be working on parking for years to come.” However, Councilmember Loftus disagrees entirely with the choices council has made in regards to choosing Concept B.
“Concept B splits the city into two sections, allowing visitors to park for free from north of Hartnett to Waterway Blvd. It would also cause residents who live in that area of the island to have to pay to park closer to the beach. At the IOP Parking Forum in October, there were many ideas on parking from the residents and one thing that came across clearly was that residents did not want to pay to park at the beach. I agree with that. The problem with Concept B is that it creates more problems than it solves. Traffic will come to a standstill as people stop on Palm to unload their cars and then find place to park in the neighborhoods for free. The parking issues that exist now will be pushed back two blocks from the beach. Free parking does not encourage car-pooling.”