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Pawleys Island: Cameras will go up at north end hot spot

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

A new set of video cameras will go up on a beach access at the north end of Pawleys Island as the town responds to continued complaints about disorderly conduct on the beach. It’s one of several issues raised at a meeting with property owners over the Memorial Day weekend.

The cameras will go up on either end of Davis Drive, which runs from Atlantic Avenue to the beach. The town closed Davis Drive to vehicles last August after complaints about illegal parking. It leads to the beach between Pawleys Pier and First Street, an area that has been the epicenter of complaints about underage drinking and public urination. “Clearly we have to do more,” Pawleys Island Mayor Bill Otis said.

The town received a complaint this week from a resident who said she was harassed by a group of people who wanted her to move so they could set up volleyball nets in the area where she had set up her beach chair. Police Chief Mike Fanning said the weekend volleyball games are a fixture during the summer. “It’s not like a raucous party,” he said. “But it gets crowded.”

He has arranged schedules to make sure there are two officers on patrol over the weekend in addition to one who conducts traffic at the south end parking lot, the largest free beach access in Georgetown County. Fanning said he will encourage the volleyball players to move down the beach to a less crowded spot. “People come to the beach for different reasons and they have to get along,” he said.

The cameras at Davis Drive are meant to deter teens who come to the beach to drink. One set will cover the intersection with Atlantic Avenue. Another will cover the drive and the beach. The cameras will be set to avoid private property on either side of the street, Administrator Ryan Fabbri said.

The town has similar cameras at the First Street access and at the south end parking lot. It also has license plate readers on the two causeways that connect to the mainland. The new cameras will cost $1,900 plus another $500 to $1,000 for an electrical connection and $165 a month for monitoring, internet connection and power. “It sounds like money well spent to me,” Council Member Rocky Holliday said.

Council Member Sarah Zimmerman questioned whether the cameras were needed in addition to extra police patrols. “Are we going to throw up cameras every time we have a problem?” she asked.

“It’s an extra tool for officers,” Fanning said. “The deterrence factor is the main thing.”

“This one area has consistently been the problem,” Otis said.

Zimmerman moved to approve the cameras. “If people don’t like it, they brought it on themselves,” she said. The vote was unanimous.

The council also adopted changes to its leash law, but only to make clear that it applies to the beach. Council members said they are sympathetic to owners who want to let their dogs off the leash in the off-season or less crowded times in the summer. “That’s the way Pawleys has been for a long time,” Holliday said.

The town changed its ordinance several years ago to require dogs to be on a leash when off the owner’s property because that is the state law. The town could have a problem if it adopts a less restrictive ordinance and someone, perhaps a child, is injured by a dog, Town Attorney David DuRant said. “That ain’t good for business,” he told the council.

The town was in court with a property owner who challenged the current leash law by claiming his deed includes ownership to the high water mark on the beach, Otis said. It has already won an appeal from a similar case, but the judge agreed the town’s ordinance was vague and assessed the minimum fine in the current case.

The revised ordinance, which takes effect with the first of two required readings, specifies that “at-large means off the premises, including the beach, of the owner.”

It also specifies that keeping a dog under control requires a leash no longer than 20 feet.

Council members reviewed ordinances from other coastal towns, including some that ban dogs from the beach at peak times in the summer. Fabbri noted that Kiawah has a designated area on the beach in front of its golf course where dogs can be under the owner’s voice command, something Pawleys could do on its undeveloped south end.

The town will have less liability if dogs are kept on a leash at all times, Council Member Ashley Carter said. And Zimmerman said the leash will encourage owners to clean up pet waste, which is also required by the ordinance. Both laws are often ignored at the south end, she said. “It’s like a minefield.”

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