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Pawleys Island: Town bars vehicles from narrow access

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

A path between Atlantic Avenue and the Atlantic Ocean barely qualifies as a street, but it is a public access, and Pawleys Island Town Council agreed to keep it open. But the only vehicles allowed will be those belonging to people who live in or rent the adjoining house.

Davis Street is “a source of conflict and consternation,” said Bill Caughman, whose family has had a house on the corner of Davis and Atlantic since 1952. He likened it to a toothache that became an abscess earlier this year. “My wife was verbally assaulted with language I would not dare to repeat,” he told council members.

He had an attorney look into the possibility of closing the street. He said it’s likely he would lose in court, so he appealed to the council.

Town Attorney David DuRant reviewed the deeds and said there’s no doubt the 8-foot-wide street has been used as public access since the 1920s. “It’s been maintained by the city for the last 30 years,” he said.

But Police Chief Mike Fanning agreed that there is reason for concern. Vehicles pull up to the walkway so beachgoers can unload their belongings. They have to back down the street, unless they use a private driveway to turn around, he said. This summer police have been called to Davis Street for a reckless driver, a suspicious person, vandalism and an illegally parked golf cart.

“Mr. Caughman is right.There is a lot of traffic down there,” Fanning said. He recommended it be closed to vehicles unless they’re going to one of the houses.

Council Member Glennie Tarbox asked if a gate could control vehicle access while allowing foot traffic.

“You’ll subject the town to liability if you gate it off,” DuRant said.

Caughman said he was concerned about liability for property owners if there is an accident. Mayor Bill Otis tried to find out if the town could indemnify the owners, but discovered the town’s insurance should be sufficient. It’s the town, not the property owners who maintain the street, DuRant pointed out.

The council voted to put the signs up as soon as possible. Administrator Ryan Fabbri was looking for temporary signs on Wednesday.

“It’s mostly locals that use it,” Fanning said. “I think word will spread pretty quickly.”

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