Surfside Beach elected officials agreed by consensus to raise parking meter fees town-wide on Tuesday, October 1st. An ordinance will need a second reading by Surfside Beach Town Council for approval. Approval is expected.
In attendance for Surfside Beach Town Council were David Pellegrino, Mayor Bob Childs, Bruce Dietrich, Debbie Scoles, and Ron Ott. Councilmen Randle Stevens and Mark Johnson did not attend the workshop.
Pellegrino, currently running for town mayor, was often the odd man out voting no on most measures.
Implications made by the council were that residents oppose people who park for several hours in free and legal parking spaces. No such concerns were raised by town residents, however, who filled the facility where the workshop was being held.
Do parking meter fees hurt tourism sales?
According to a work-study produced March 8, 2017 by the IPS Group: While the amount varies from city to city, a common rule of thumb for the value of a prime on-street parking space is approximately $150-$300 in retail sales per day, according to HyettPalma, Inc., of Alexandria, VA. Based on this calculation, the cost per year to downtown retailers is a loss of $45,000-$90,000 per parking space. The IPS group goes on to report that when implementing a paid parking program, the challenge for public officials is clear: to use economic incentives to encourage people to park where you want them to park, and for the desired length of time.
While the generation of parking revenue is a beneficial by-product of a well-run parking program, it should not be the sole motivation.
Pellegrino consistently argued that raising parking fees downtown would negatively impact tourism.
WAR OF WORDS
On his campaign Facebook page, in September, Pellegrino posted concerns about the balance of needs for Town Council to work for the people who pay the majority of town’s taxes. He highlighted that those people are second home owners, who rent their properties to tourists.
However, as a response, Bob Hellyer, also running for Mayor, said he opposed any new tax increases.
TRUE BALANCE OF NEEDS
In truth, rental property owners, who rent to tourists, get no special treatment from Town Council. They can’t vote. They pay the highest real estate taxes. Millions of dollars in penny taxes are added to their customer accounts by the town, and (as Candidate for Mayor Bob Hellyer pointed out) tax increases have commonly occurred over the past few months for this class of business owner. Estimates are that rental home owners pay 80% of the town’s taxes when real estate taxes and penny taxes are considered.
Residents, we interviewed, are not concerned with any special collusion between rental home owners and councilmen as they say it does not exist.
Property Management Collusion
Residents are concerned about the relationship between Town Councilmen and property managers, who manage the homes for the rental industry. These property managers have made only minimal investments in the rental industry, yet locals believe this class of business owner gets preferential treatment. Residents say this business group has entirely too much say in how the town operates.
Jenn Cribb and Cody Sluder are two real estate agents who work for Surfside Realty that are currently running for Town Council.
Lanier Parking – Was the collection opportunity put out for bids?
We reached out to Surfside Beach Town Manager Dennis Pieper with questions about Lanier Parking. He directed us to town Finance Director Diana King. We asked her how much of the parking meter fees go directly to Lanier Parking. She stated she was working on a formula and would get back to us with her findings.
Lanier Parking has a literal lock on the S.C. Coast from North Myrtle Beach to Surfside Beach for parking meter collections.
A cursory look at who competes with Lanier Parking includes:
- Central Parking Corporation
- AmeriPark LLC
- Propark Inc
- Imperial Parking Corporation
- The Parking Spot
- APCOA Parking Ltd
- Republic Parking System LLC
- Ace Parking Management Inc
Were the parking meter collection concerns put out for bids? Is Lanier Parking charging market rates for their services? How much of the town’s new collections go directly to Lanier?
These are questions of which we could find no public information.
Candidate Bob Hellyer did respond to David Pellegrino’s campaign post last week. You can read Hellyer’s response here.
The slogan of my campaign is “Residents First” and everyone is offering their own definition. Let me tell you what it means to me…
First and foremost, it’s treating every person in our town with respect. Surfside Beach, as a town, where the residents have a voice and their opinions are heard.
Encouraging businesses by establishing rules that are followed by everyone. The residents make the rules, no special deals. This is how we keep Surfside Beach a “Family Beach.”
Council Meetings shall provide residents with information, explanations, opportunities for discussion and questions get answered in a process that is open. Residents are kept informed not only about changes, but also on why these changes are being made. Council will work towards answering everyone’s questions.
Each resident of this town has seen the swift actions taken by the current council. Special meetings at times that the average working person is unable to attend shuts us out.
Taxes have always been low and will continue to be low. If I’m elected mayor, I will keep the community involved with our actions. Raising taxes should not be the first or only option. In just this year, council voted to raise the town’s taxes four times. Did you know this? Below is a summary of each ordinance taken from the council meeting minutes.
Second Reading of Ordinance #19-0903 to set the tax millage for the 2019-2020 Fiscal Year, and to amend Exhibit 1 of Ordinance #19-0895. Mr. Stevens moved to adopt second reading of Ordinance #19-0903. Mr. Dietrich second. Ms. King presented the decision paper and ordinance, copies of which are on file. She explained current millage is 46.3; millage based on reassessments would be 41.5, but staff is
recommending 43 mils, which represents a 1.5 mil increase that 46 will add $112,500 to revenue. The 43 mils will be effective with the October 2019 tax billing. All voted in favor. MOTION CARRIED.
Second Reading Ordinance #19-0893 Stormwater Management Utility Fee, Director Adair. Mr. Stevens
moved to adopt second reading of Ordinance #19-0893 as presented. Mr. Ott second. Mr. Adair presented the decision paper and ordinance, copies of which are on file. Ms. Scoles and Mr. Ott asked if the revenue would be used only for stormwater. Mr. Adair said the ordinance is specific about uses; it will be in a separate fund and used only for stormwater, which is why the fee is defensible in court. Ms.
Scoles asked if the fee could be collected monthly. Mr. Adair said Grand Strand Water and Sewer would not collect the fee. Mayor Childs, and Councilmembers Dietrich, Johnson, Ott, Scoles and Stevens voted in favor. Mayor Pro Tempore Pellegrino voted against.
Second Reading Ordinance #19-0889 Hospitality Tax, Administrator Pieper. Mr. Stevens moved to adopt second reading of Ordinance #19-0889 as presented. Mr. Orr second. Mr. Pieper presented the decision paper and ordinance, copies of which are on file. Mr. Johnson asked if this ordinance impacted Interstate Highway 73. Mr. Pieper said no, the town did not have an agreement regarding Highway73.
Town Council will need to decide how to manage the funds. This ordinance allows the town to collect the statutory limit. Mayor Childs said the county wants to assign a committee to decide how to handle the funds. All voted in favor.
Second Reading Ordinance #19-0890 Local Accommodations Tax, Administrator Pieper. Mr. Stevens moved to adopt second reading of Ordinance #19-0890 as presented. Mr. Ott second. The decision paper and ordinance copies are on file. All voted in favor.
What does this mean?
The current millage rate was 46.3. Millage based on reassessments would have been 41.5, but council raised it 1.5 mil to 43.
The stormwater management fee equates to $82 per single family residence.
Hospitality Tax is raised from 1% to 2%.
Accommodation Tax is raised from .5% to 3%.
What makes this town great is not tourism or businesses, it is the people who live here and care about “their town.”
Putting “Residents First” means stopping all the bad behavior, getting involved and communicating with one another to make this a better place to live.