County leaders to discuss beach parking restrictions after thousands sign petition

VIDEO: County leaders to discuss beach parking restrictions after thousands sign petition

ISLE OF PALMS S.C. - As of Thursday afternoon, more than 3,600 people have signed a petition against recent parking restrictions along coastal communities.

In addition to a recent lawsuit filed against the Isle of Palms for restricting parts of the island to non-residents, a group has also formed the online petition calling on Charleston County to cut additional funding to the Isle of Palms, Folly Beach and Sullivan’s Island until the parking concerns are addressed.

"Its clearly a topic and issue that a huge number of people are paying attention to," Organizer Michael Barnett said. "Either they can try to pay for everything themselves, which will send property taxes through the roof. Or they can negotiate with the county and the people of Charleston County and give us what we want, which is free public parking at every single beach access."

Charleston County Chairman Elliott Summey released a statement saying:

“The Isle of Palms and Folly are public beaches, and everyone should have public access to them. The new parking restrictions prevent the public from enjoying public beaches in our County and is in conflict with their respective Beach Management Plans as approved by DHEC. Not only have I personally signed the petition to lift these parking restrictions, but I am taking this matter to my Council tonight for us to discuss in Executive Session to receive legal advice from the County Attorney on what steps the County can take to ensure equal access to public beaches as required by State law.”

Folly Beach Mayor Tim Goodwin said the petition doesn't take into account thousands of dollars the city independently pays for a large amount of the annual beach upkeep.

“We pay a lot more than we get back.” Goodwin said. “People think they’re entitled to go to the beach free and don’t have to pay anything to maintain the beach. As I said, we’re not stopping you from going to beach. We’re not keeping you from using any of the state waters.”

Goodwin also said the city's decision to reduce parking on the island was not to hinder beach access, but rather cut down on large crowds during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The measures they’re talking about our temporary measures that we put in place to try and discourage people from so many people from coming to the beach to help social distancing,” Goodwin said.

Barnett disagreed saying, “Their intention long term is to significantly decrease the public parking on their islands.”

Isle of Palm mayor Jimmy Carroll said the city cannot comment on pending litigation. Officials on Sullivan’s Island did not respond to requests for comment.

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