IOP beachgoers want their roadside parking back
ISLE OF PALMS — Bishop England High School senior Steven Weaver drove to his favorite 8th Avenue parking place Tuesday, but discovered it was gone.
“It kind of made me angry. I’m not going to lie,” Weaver said. “I didn’t know if I was at the right spot.”
Some 60 yards of roadside where Weaver and others used to park is now landscaped with grass, pinestraw and shrubs put there by homeowner Stanley Harris of New Canaan, Conn.
The situation is not unique, officials said.
“There are a number of people over there that have probably planted landscaping without permission,” said Robert Clark, state Department of Transportation district administrator.
Clark said he could not say immediately how many other similar situations might exist.
Meanwhile, City Administrator Linda Tucker said Tuesday that some official-looking “No Parking” signs on 8th Avenue will be taken down because they are not supposed to be there. The signs are located across the street from the 8th Avenue landscaping. Tucker said she did not know who put the signs up.
Harris said he put in the landscaping because visitors who parked perpendicular to his property created a potential safety hazard for his family. Now he is working with the DOT to allow parallel parking on the newly landscaped stretch of road, a situation that is less of a hazard, he said.
“I’m not trying to eliminate parking, but it will be controlled and it will be reduced,” said Harris, who plans to retire to IOP.“Is there any other homeowner paying taxes for 20 parking spaces?”
The DOT visited the site and agreed that unsafe conditions existed, Harris said.
“It was very difficult to back out with cars/trucks parked perpendicular on each side,” he said in an email.
Weaver was not the only one upset by the new roadside landscaping.
“All of this was kind of a land grab,” said Hal Coste, a surfer. “We’re just not happy about it. We surfed in this area for almost 50 years.” The spot matters for surfers because it is away from the pier and swimmers, he said.
Elsewhere on the island, some homeowners have done similar things to discourage or prevent parking, Tucker said.
An unobstructed, 12-foot-wide road shoulder is a public safety issue, officials said.
Harris planted the shrubs, trees and grass on 8th Avenue under an “encroachment” permit issued March 2 by the state DOT. In the permit application for the work, Harris stated that he planned to landscape 180 feet of his property line on 8th Avenue to eliminate perpendicular parking, but allow parallel parking for up to eight cars.
“Twelve to 15 cars parked perpendicular creates an unsafe situation for my grandchildren and others going to and from the beach,” he wrote in the permit application. He also wrote that he worried about the effect of “poor visibility” because of the roadside parking situation.
Under current rules, island visitors can park their vehicles on any road right of way unless it has a no-parking sign. All four wheels must be off the road, and no beach-access paths, driveways or mailboxes can be blocked. The city also asks that visitors be respectful of landscaping.
Island leaders have been wrestling with the parking issue, which has created friction between beach “daytripper” visitors and residents.
The Isle of Palms Planning Commission in February recommended a $65 seasonal pass for those who wish to park on streets outside the commercial area from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from March through September. If approved by City Council, up to 1,000 of the passes would be issued starting in 2013.
The commission vote was the latest development in the city’s three-year effort to address complaints from residents about the effect of some unruly beachgoers who disrupt neighborhood peace and tranquility. The seasonal pass and other recommendations regarding parking are being reviewed at the council committee level.
The city has a parking lot in the commercial district that offers a seasonal pass for $45. Daily parking is available for $7 in the business area. The IOP county park is $8 per day beginning in May, up from $7. An annual pass for Charleston County residents is $65.
Islanders said the pay parking spaces are rarely full because beachgoers go to the neighborhoods instead, since those locations are free. Many of them park on the shoulder along the ocean side of Palm Boulevard.
Reach Prentiss Findlay at 937-5711.