By Brian Sherman for The Island Eye News
The Isle of Palms and the South Carolina Department of Transportation have reached an agreement on the parking situation along one side of a section of Palm Boulevard, but there are issues that still need to be addressed, according to members of the IOP City Council.
At a March 23 meeting, Council members unanimously approved a plan to replace parallel parking with 60-degree angled parking on the land side of Palm between 22nd and 40th avenues. The 9.5foot by 19.5-foot spaces will be delineated by concrete stops placed 4 feet from the sidewalk and will be paid for by SCDOT.
The spaces will be far enough off Palm Boulevard to allow vehicles to leave without backing into the roadway. No palmetto trees will be removed, according to a March 22 letter to the Council from Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall.
In addition, under the new plan, westbound cars and trucks will have space to pull over and yield to emergency vehicles.
Hall also informed the Council that the city’s managed Beach Access Parking Plan, approved by the state in 2015 then rejected in February of this year, is good to go again, with the modification for angled parking approved by the Council March 23.
According to Public Safety Chair Randy Bell, there has been a 50% increase in traffic collisions along Palm Boulevard since parallel parking was established. The state’s estimate was even higher: “Crashes referencing parking as a contributing factor have increased by 100%,” Hall’s letter to the Council pointed out.
Bell said weather permitting, SCDOT would be able to install the concrete stops within two weeks, which means they will be in place before the busy Memorial Day holiday weekend. The plan will add 267 angled spaces, compared with 190 parallel spaces now available.
The city also will be able to remove its “no double parking” and “parallel parking only” signs along the road.
City Administrator Desiree Fragoso said the installation of parking stops would increase IOP’s maintenance costs.
“We believe the extra cost should be nominal, but we don’t know yet. We’re sharing numbers with DOT, and we’re willing to have a discussion about cost-sharing,” she said.
Bell called the agreement between SCDOT and the city a “good, productive cooperative agreement.”
He cautioned, however, that it signaled just the beginning of work that must be done to improve the parking situation on both sides of the state-owned road.
“What about the beach side of the road?” he asked. “What can be done by May 30 this year and what should be done going forward? It’s been a train wreck on the beach side. We need delineated parking on the beach side. We need maintenance on the beach side so we can get out of the rutted, muddy, unsafe situation we have there.”
Council Member Ryan Buckhannon added that “this is just the beginning of improved parking. There are still issues we need to address.”
Meanwhile, two state legislators are apparently moving forward with measures that would affect parking on the Isle of Palms and other barrier islands. State Sen. Larry Grooms said he would amend S. 40 to allow communities to retain parking revenues on stateowned roads and use them for any purpose they choose. He said currently municipalities can utilize these funds only for repair and maintenance of the road and not to help pay for services such as fire and police protection and sanitation.
Pre-filed last year, the measure would keep barrier islands from reducing the number of parking spaces and from charging visitors to park on state-owned highways without SCDOT’s permission.
A bill filed by State Rep. Joe Bustos, who represents the Isle of Palms, Sullivan’s Island and parts of Mount Pleasant, would allow municipalities to manage parking on all roads within their boundaries.