NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC — Aiming to reach a consensus regarding the regulation of beach tents among Grand Strand beach communities, local governments are coming to different conclusions.
North Myrtle Beach City Council voted Monday to pass a motion that supports an effort to ban all tents on the beach from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The move comes after Horry County Council voted last week to leave their beach tent rules in place.
Members of Myrtle Beach City Council and Surfside Beach Town Council are expected to discuss the issue Tuesday.
With North Myrtle Beach and Horry County at opposite ends of the issue, Myrtle Beach City Councilman Randal Wallace said he’s undecided as well.
“I have mixed emotions,” he said. “I understand the safety issue there when it becomes crowded and emergency crews have trouble getting to the people. But I also can get sunburned in five minutes down there on the beach.”
Under the current law along the Grand Strand, beachgoers can’t use tents larger than 12 feet-by-12 feet, have to set them up on the land side of the lifeguard’s umbrella line and be at least 10 feet away from another tent. Tent users must secure the tents with lines that don’t stick out from the tent’s borders. Tents can’t go up before 8 a.m. and must be down by 7 p.m.
At a Jan. 15 Coastal Alliance meeting, elected officials of member cities and towns were asked to get a consensus from their councils to determine how each municipality wanted to regulate beach tents, if at all, and share recommendations at the Feb. 12 meeting. The Coastal Alliance is a group that represents Horry County and cities along the Grand Strand.
Before any changes to beach tent regulations could be made, each municipality would have to pass ordinances changing the law. Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes said he did not see any changes happening, if at all, until the 2015 season.
Tents have been a discussion point among Grand Strand beach communities for the past few years and was brought back up for discussion during a June meeting of the Myrtle Beach Beach Advisory Committee.
Committee members sent a recommendation to the Myrtle Beach City Council suggesting the tents be banned from May 1 to Labor Day. Council members sent the issue to the Coastal Alliance in August hoping to reach consistency along the beach if any changes were to occur.
In December, North Myrtle Beach considered banning the tents in three areas of beach where erosion has made the beach too small to handle all the canopies, but that was voted down.
Concerns then centered around confusion for beachgoers and the thought that if they are restricted in some areas, tent owners would simply migrate to other areas in the city where the tents were allowed. That, too, was an overall concern in that if they were banned completely in one city, tourists would take their tent, and tourism dollars, to another city.
On Monday, a majority of North Myrtle Beach City Council members appeared to believe that the public safety and enforcement challenges offered by beach tents will only continue to grow year to year, and it is best to deal decisively with the challenge now, spokesman Pat Dowling said.
In Myrtle Beach, Rhodes said he wasn’t sure how things would go at next week’s Coastal Alliance meeting, with Horry County and North Myrtle Beach having opposing recommendations regarding beach tents.
“I’d like to see things a little more uniform so that the visitors in that area will know what’s what,” he said. “It’s something we’ll have to discuss. … We’re going to have to feel where council is and then listen to the recommendation from our beach communities.”
The Coastal Alliance meeting is scheduled for Feb. 12 in the first-floor conference room at Myrtle Beach City Hall, 937 Broadway St. The time has not yet been set.
Contact MAYA T. PRABHU at 444-1722 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_MPrabhu.