ISLE OF PALMS, S.C. (WCBD) – From planning to eliminate more than 200 free parking spots on the Isle of Palms to adding nearly 100 more, it’s been a back and forth tug or war when it comes to parking over the last year.
Parking along Palm Boulevard looks a little different Monday night. Dozens of angled parking spots have been added along the landside of the road between 21st and 40th Avenues. When said an done, the total number of angled spots is expected to range between 220 and 260.
The change in parking comes after marathon city council meetings, social media debates, thousands of signatures on a petition and the State Department of Transportation stepping in to get to this point.
Local and state leaders consider the added parking a win-win compromise, adding more free parking for beach goers but leaving the remaining 2015 plan in place for now. But not everyone approves of the plan.
“I feel like I’ve been run over by the government,” says Susan Burns who lives just a block off Palm Boulevard.
Concerns and frustrations have continued to rise over the concrete bumpers now lining Palm Boulevard, signifying the change in parking. Isle of palms leaders say the new plan is all about safety.
“The city’s goal is safe parking, it’s not to keep people out of here,” says Isle of Palms Councilman Randy Bell who also serves as the Chairman of the Public Safety Committee. “It’s a safety concern.”
“It’s about making sure everyone can park safely and get where they are trying to go in a safe manner,” says Isle of Palms Police Chief Kevin Cornett.
The parking spaces are each 10 feet wide and 19 feet deep, officials say this should allow for vehicles of all size to safely enter and exit the spots. Chief Cornett says this keeps parked cars on the shoulder when backing out and off the busy road.
“To back out of a parking spot onto a shoulder as opposed to backing onto a lane of traffic,” says Chief Cornett. “The other part that is better for parking is that it leaves a shoulder open as where parallel does not.”
The plan, which is expected to be completed Tuesday will add anywhere between 30 and 70 parking spaces on Palm Boulevard, officials say they won’t know the exact total until work is complete. SCDOT Transportation Secretary Christy Hall says her department will review additional ways to improve parking and beach access not only on the Isle of Palms but across Coastal South Carolina communities.
“Looking at how much we are able to increase parking here on Palm (Boulevard), by the angled parking – that’ll definitely play into our decision making moving forward,” says Secretary Hall.
Secretary Hall says more changes are coming to Palm Boulevard, including a reduced speed limit, more signage and improved cross walks for the heavily pedestrian traveled road. The current speed on Palm Boulevard will drop from 35mph to 30mph.
“To help them deal with issues they are having at the local level but still recognizing that the state has responsibility since we are the owners of the highway itself,” says Secretary Hall.
A battle over parking on the Isle of Palms put to rest for now but is likely to linger well into the summer. City and state officials still have a looming disagreement over the future of the Isle of Palms Connector.
Meanwhile, residents were hoping the calls for more parking wouldn’t end this way.
‘And you can ask anybody along here, they want people to come to the island but they don’t want it done with concrete blocks,” says Burns.
Councilman Bell says the state has committed to making the new parking spaces look more appealing along Palm Boulevard. He says the work likely happen after the tourism season has ended. Secretary Hall anticipated all the space installations would be completed by Monday evening with just finishing touches left to be completed on Tuesday. Officials are asking people to avoid parking in the spots until the end of the week.