IOP City Council to discuss SCDOT proposal that would add hundreds of new parking spots

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ISLE OF PALMS, S.C. (WCBD) – Spring is here and the sun is out but the issue of beach parking at Lowcountry beaches continues to be a topic of discussion. Isle of Palm’s City Council will meet Tuesday night to discuss a possible resolution that would change some parking along Palm Boulevard.

The latest fight for local and state leaders is between angled parking and parallel parking between 21st and 40th Avenues along Palm Boulevard that could add hundreds of new parking spots for IOP beach goers if approved. The proposal by the South Carolina Department of Transportation would change landside parking along the stretch of Palm Boulevard from parallel to angled and would be a state project.

Tourism experts say the group of leaders are running out of time to find an answer because beach season is already here.

“Then we look back at the number of bookings that are coming in each week, we’re seeing numbers that are actually three times higher than they were back in 2020,” says Daniel Guttentag, Director of Tourism Analysis in the Department of Tourism and Hospitality Management at the College of Charleston.

State and city officials find themselves caught in the 11th hour when it comes to beach parking as tourism season looms. As Isle of Palms leaders are weighing their options, some believe the decision remains the South Carolina Department of Transportation’s to make.

“They don’t seem to be considering the implications of what they are trying to do on the rest of the state and the citizens of this state,” says Michael Barnett referring to IOP leaders. Barnett organized a petition with nearly 10,000 signatures to defund Lowcountry beach communities. “And that’s a very big mistake.”

The latest attempt at a resolution between the state and local leaders would change parking along the landside of Palm Blvd. to provide more parking spots. Barnett, who has been pushing back on the elimination of beach parking – says the project is only a start.

“Yeah, they need angled parking because it adds a few hundred additional spots on Isle of Palm’s Palm Blvd. but they’re going to have to do much more than that to solve this problem,” says Barnett.

Senate Bill 40, known as the beach parking bill is gaining support across the state. Barnett says if the bill is passed, the resolutions and push back from local leaders would be washed away with the tide.

“The opinions of the Isle of Palms and any decisions the Isle of Palms City Council and mayor make are really irrelevant at this point,” says Barnett.

Tuesday night’s city council meeting serves as the latest chapter in the drawn-out battle over beach parking on the Isle of Palms. Guttentag says Charleston beaches are likely starring down a long summer with more traveling and vaccines becoming more widely available.

“Probably more so than ever before – pre COVID-19 at least,” says Guttentag. “We’re going to see people continue to be interested in the sort of outdoor recreational activities like going to the beach.”

Horry County, Georgetown County, Williamsburg County and Beaufort County are said to be considering resolutions in support of S.B.40 similar to those passed by Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester Counties earlier this year.

The SCDOT and City of Isle of Palms both declined to provide a comment before Tuesday’s city council meeting. Isle of Palms Mayor Jimmy Carroll said he couldn’t provide a comment before the meeting but encouraged people to tune-in for the meeting.

The meeting is set to begin at 6pm and can be streamed on the city’s YouTube page. A limited amount of people will be allowed to attend the meeting in person at city hall.

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