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Pawleys Island: No Parking Here to Corner

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

A proposal to apply sight-line rules from the town’s development ordinance to parked cars will eliminate most, if not all, roadside parking on Atlantic Avenue on the north end of Pawleys Island, according to Planning Commission members.

The commission will ask Town Council for input before moving forward. The council would have to approve any change.

The commission started a review late last year of parking and pedestrian safety on the north end. Commission member Walter McElveen, who lives on Atlantic Avenue, said he became concerned last summer when he watched a small child try to cross the street. He couldn’t see around the parked cars, McElveen said, and was almost hit by a car.

Atlantic Avenue has an 80-foot right-of-way for most of its length. The town allows roadside parking as long as vehicles are off the pavement and don’t block driveways.

But the town’s development code also limits what can be placed along the roadside to make sure drivers have sufficient visibility at intersections and driveways. These “vision clearance triangles” extend 40 feet on either side of the intersection or driveway.

“There are not many street corners that meet that requirement,” commission member Bill Tuttle said. “It would be probably be very difficult to enforce.”

McElveen said parked cars ought to be considered in those sight lines.

The development ordinance has always been interpreted to apply to the use of the property, Mayor Bill Otis said.

If the commission wants to apply the sight lines to vehicles, the town will need to include them in the parking regulations, he said. And if that happens, Otis recommended the commission look at a new set of distances.

“Either we’re going to make the whole of Atlantic Avenue ‘No Parking’ or we’re going to have to change the ordinance,” Otis told the commission last week.

Tuttle suggested that driveways could be excluded.

“There’s virtually no place to park if you include driveways,” McElveen said.

Otis estimated that the sight line restrictions would cut available parking along Atlantic Avenue by 90 percent, and he pointed out that the change to the ordinance wouldn’t only affect Atlantic Avenue. And it wouldn’t only affect people who come for a day at the beach. Residents and renters would also be unable to park along the roadside.

“There are people up and down the island who will go ballistic if they can’t park in front of their house,” Otis said.

He suggested the commission ask for comments from real estate rental companies.

The commission also considered creating designated parking spaces along Atlantic Avenue. “What’s best for the land owners and homeowners on Pawleys Island would be some designated parking,” commission member Bill Doar said.

“Designated parking has some merit,” commission chairman Howard Ward said.

McElveen said he was told by state Department of Transportation staff that designated parking would increase traffic as beachgoers search the island for the spaces.

“It’s going to be very, very difficult to designate parking without creating chaos,” commission member Jimmy McCants said.

“Pawleys Island has always been a public access,” Doar said. “If we start restricting that too much, what are we going to run into?”

The town has enough parking at beach accesses to qualify for state and federal funds for beach nourishment, Otis said. With 81 spaces, the county parking lot on the south end is the largest free beach access in Georgetown County.

“I think we are open, but there are areas that are unsafe,” McElveen said. “We are correcting a very hazardous situation.”

He estimated 10 or 15 parking spaces would be affected. If the town doesn’t provide second- and third-row owners and renters safe streets “you don’t have your priorities in order,” he said.

Ward suggested the commission determine how much parking exists on Atlantic Avenue and come up with some alternatives, either for designated spaces or new distances for sight lines.

“Y’all need to look at where you think there are places for people to park,” Otis told the commission.

“I didn’t know our goal was to find places to park,” McElveen said. “Our purpose, I thought, was just to address the hazards.”

“I don’t think you can have no roadside parking,” McCants said. That will affect rental houses. “There’s overflow at a lot of these houses.”

The commission agreed to ask Town Council if it thinks the sight lines apply to parked cars. “That’s going to be a key issue,” Doar said.

McElveen said he would like to apply the current sight lines and see how they would affect parking. As to the idea that they don’t apply to cars, “that’s only the mayor’s opinion,” he said.

“It’s never been applied to parking,” Otis said.

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