City Council Expresses Impatience With Local Residents
Wayne Gray, John Rhodes, Randal Wallace, Mike Lowder and Mary Jeffcoat Hold Contentious Meeting With Residents
At a Myrtle Beach town hall forum last night city council got into a contentious exchange with area residents. The issue concerned paid beach parking.
Wayne Gray, John Rhodes, Randal Wallace, Mike Lowder and Mary Jeffcoat each had exchanges with local county residents about beach access parking in the Golden Mile section of downtown.
Leslie Watson Morgan asked what the city’s plans were to help local residents with Myrtle Beach oceanfront parking.
On July 5th, the City of Myrtle Beach began charging local residents, who live just outside the city, $10 per day to park in the downtown golden mile. County residents, who pay county taxes and over $6 million annually in ATAX monies to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, believe the parking should remain free as it has for centuries.
Mayor John Rhodes and City Council disagreed. Mayor Rhodes offered up a $300 per year charge for a county resident decal to park in the Golden Mile. With over 40,000 residents living just outside the city, those fees would amount to $12 million going to a group called the DRC. If free parking were restored, those dollars would certainly be used as purchases that would go instead directly to local city merchants. City Council and the Mayor would prefer those funds go to the Downtown Redevelopment Corporation above being spent in local stores.
The Downtown Redevelopment Corporation (DRC) is fully funded by parking fees collected in the city. While little has been done to redevelop the downtown area, the DRC has been collecting parking fees now for over 16 years. Most local downtown merchants feel the DRC has become an organization with what they call “mission creep.” The DRC has been given greater and greater power inside the city over city merchants. The group reports to Chuck Martino. Martino is a non elected, former city councilman. Martino is the city council appointed liaison of the DRC on behalf of the city. His long running position is questioned by residents who want greater local accountability.
Merchants in the downtown area continue to struggle while city government works to fund and grow the role of this murky city government supported/private organization.
Councilman Wayne Gray got into a heated exchange with area residents. When informed that the transfer of deeds on this beach access land explicitly excluded its use for commercial purposes, Gray said he did not consider charging for parking commerce. He indicated the fees were more like a tax. County residents, who can not vote in the city, voiced concerns about this approach. They felt taxation without representation was one of the key reasons our ancestors broke away from England and formed these United States. County residents can not vote for city council nor the mayor and as such, feel the city should not tax them.
Councilmen Gray, Jeffcoat, and City Public Information Officer Mark Kruea continually attempted to move discussions away from the beach access parking issue, but the two dozen or more attendees of the meeting would have none of it.
Local merchants we spoke with on the phone believe the over $12 million in monies the city is proposing should go to local city businesses and not the DRC. They believe removing the parking fee structure will revitalize their small businesses and help the downtown area merchants.
Wayne Gray, John Rhodes, Randal Wallace, Mike Lowder and several other local candidates are each up for re-election November 2017.
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