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Pawleys Island: Parking shortage pinches service vehicles

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

People who go to Pawleys Island to work found out this summer what people who go there to play already knew: It’s hard to find a place to park legally.

The town is taking a tougher line with service vehicles, particularly those of landscapers, that park in the road. “We’ve got folks that are taking advantage,” Mayor Bill Otis said.

The issue has been brewing for months and stems in part from the growing volume of traffic on the island. Town officials have seen traffic grow over the years, but the installation of license-plate cameras on the North and South Causeways last year provided actual data: over 6,000 vehicles a day came onto the island during the Fourth of July week, compared to about 600 a day in the winter.

It was that week that a crew from Waccamaw Landscape got a ticket at the south end parking lot, where they were doing work for the nonprofit Pawleys Island Beautification Foundation. “I think it’s odd; trying to beautify the island and getting a ticket,” said Chad O’Brien, a co-owner.

Police Chief Mike Fanning said the company truck was parked in front of a No Parking sign. The workers were on the beach.

Henry Hanser, owner of Henry’s Lawn Maintenance, showed up in town court last week, waiting patiently as a motorcyclist explained why she parked in front of a No Parking sign, a teen confessed that his parents didn’t know about his speeding ticket and a man got off with a warning for not hanging his handicapped placard from his rear-view mirror. Hanser had three tickets.

“In 39 years, this is the only ticket I’ve gotten,” he told Municipal Court Judge Alan Walters.

Hanser said he, or at least his crew, was guilty. His concern was “how do we avoid coming back next week?”

That was a question raised by Town Council last week. Since the first batch of tickets, no more have been issued. “So they can do better,” Otis said. Just like with speeding tickets, officers have discretion with parking tickets, he said.

Council Member Glennie Tarbox noted that it isn’t just landscape crews that park in the streets. He said he’s seen trucks park in the street while kayaks and paddle boards are delivered. “If you park in the road, how long can you stay there?” he asked.

Fanning said there is no time limit, but the driver must be loading or unloading. “Every situation is different,” he said.

Otis said the town will enforce the parking rules for all service vehicles, something that O’Brien questions. “There are food service trucks at the Sea View Inn and Santee Cooper trucks in the road,” he said. “That’s no problem.”

Waccamaw Landscaping has a three-member crew on the island two full days a week. O’Brien estimates half of the company’s customers don’t have adequate parking for their truck and trailer – either on their property or along the street. “If there’s no parking available, we won’t do [the work]. And we’ll let the owners know,” he said.

O’Brien hopes property owners will press for change.

Town Council members say the landscapers could adapt to conditions on the island. They don’t want to pull into driveways, Council Member Sarah Zimmerman said. Council Member Mike Adams questioned whether the crews need large trucks and trailers or just bring them on the island for convenience and economy.

They could also unload what’s needed at a job site and park elsewhere, Otis said. “We understand that our property owners need these services,” he said.

O’Brien said his crews have the equipment needed for the job. They try to use off-street parking where it’s available, such as in front of the Pawleys Island Chapel. “I’m not going to charge clients money to park and walk,” he said.

Further complicating the issue, Fanning said service trucks that pull off the road could end up on private property because of the narrow rights of way. “That can also lead to problems,” he said.

And while officers have discretion when it comes to loading and unloading, Fanning said, “It’s a state road. I can’t give you permission to block a state road.” At town court last week, Fanning told the judge he cited Hanser’s vehicle because he thought it could have pulled farther off the road. Walters told Hanser state law prohibits stopped vehicles from obstructing the view of other drivers. At many houses, Hanser said his trucks have to park in a neighbor’s yard or alongside the road. He told Walters he’s working with his drivers to make sure they comply. “I just want to help,” he said.

Along with the parking crackdown, council members last month told Fanning they wanted police to start writing tickets rather than warnings for fireworks violations. It’s illegal to shoot or even possess fireworks in the town.

The council agreed to reduce the minimum fine from $200 to make the tickets less punitive. But Fanning pointed out last week the new $150 minimum didn’t account for fees tacked onto local tickets by the state

So council dropped the minimum to $50. With state fees, that would cost a violator $158.75. “We always have the option to give a warning,” Fanning added.

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