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Pawleys Island: Roadside parking may yield to walkers

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

A proposal to make Atlantic Avenue on the north end of Pawleys Island more friendly to pedestrians will either require creating a walkway in the road right-of-way or banning parking on one side of the street, town officials say.

“I don’t think there are any other options,” Pawleys Island Mayor Bill Otis said.

The town Planning Commission voted 3-1 this week to recommend Town Council devote a portion of the Atlantic Avenue right-of-way to pedestrian use. Another proposal from commission member Walter McElveen that would have required vehicles to park at least 4 feet off the pavement failed to get a second.

The commission started a review late last year of traffic issues after McElveen told Town Council that roadside parking on Atlantic Avenue forces pedestrians into the street. The commission has been reluctant to adopt measures that would eliminate parking, since it would affect property owners and renters as much as day visitors.

Commission members Howard Ward and Jimmy McCants looked at all the parking available along Atlantic Avenue with Police Chief Guy Osborne. They came up with recommendations to improve visibility for drivers at intersections. They also recommended setting size limits on vehicles that can park at the beach accesses, noting that large trucks and SUVs can’t fit in the small spaces and block other vehicles.

The commission adopted those recommendations, which also include marking crosswalks at beach accesses, but McElveen said he didn’t think they went far enough toward improving safety.

“That’s avoiding the overall problem,” he said. “We have a problem.”

“We tried to address what council, when we asked for clarification, suggested,” said Ward, who chairs the commission.

“My goal would be to establish pedestrian-safe traffic,” McElveen said. “Pedestrians have a right to get back and forth, but not on Pawleys Island.”

The right-of-way on Atlantic Avenue is 80 feet wide. The pavement is only 22 feet wide. Cars are now allowed to park on the roadside as long as their tires are off the pavement.

McElveen said that moving them back 4 feet would allow room for doors to open and provide space for pedestrians.

“If you have to get 4 feet off the road, you’re not going to be able to park,” McCants said. “We need to look at how it’s going to affect property owners.”

Otis, who lives on Myrtle Avenue, said visitors wouldn’t be able to park in front of his house or on the grass shoulder along the marsh.

When that idea didn’t get a second, McElveen proposed creating a pedestrian area in the right-of-way in “problem areas.”

“People on the second row now can’t walk to each other’s houses unless they walk on the road,” he said, adding that they also have to walk in the street to get to a beach access.

“I’m trying to get little kids out of the street.”

Commission member Bill Tuttle asked if the proposal would extend to Myrtle Avenue, where walkers and joggers often fill the road during the summer.

“Myrtle doesn’t have parking on both sides of the road in the summer,” McElveen said.

Tuttle seconded the motion. Ward cast the dissenting vote.

Ward said afterward it is possible to allow both parking and a pedestrian walkway in the Atlantic Avenue right-of-way, provided the town wants to remove landscape and other items property owners have placed in the right-of-way over the years. He doesn’t believe that will happen.

The commission also approved a recommendation from McElveen that the parking ordinance specify the distance of no-parking zones around intersections. A recommendation to create no-parking zones on either side of driveways failed to get a second.

“You’re saying the person who owns the property could not park there?” Otis asked.

“Safety-wise it makes sense,” McElveen said.

“That’s going to be a bad, bad situation for property owners,” McCants said.

The commission also heard from Henry Thomas, whose family owns a house on Atlantic Avenue. He is involved in a lawsuit with a neighbor over the dirt portion of Myrtle Avenue, and said he learned that the streets on the island were never deeded to the state or the county.

“When did the town of Pawleys Island get these streets?” he asked.

It’s possible that the right-of-way still belongs to the original property owners, Thomas said. Whatever the town decides, “the people on the north end need to know what’s going on before it happens,” he said.

The commission’s recommendations go to Town Council. Any change to town ordinances require two readings and a public hearing.

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