ISLE OF PALMS, S.C. (WCSC) - South Carolina transportation officials say they see no safety issues that would warrant removing parking spaces along Palm Boulevard on the Isle of Palms.
The South Carolina Department of Transportation made the comments in a letter to the Isle of Palms Wednesday, the day after Isle of Palms City Council voted to remove more than 100 parking spots along the land side of Palm Boulevard. Council members voted on permanently eliminating those parking spaces because of concerns about traffic backups that can delay emergency vehicles getting through the area.
State Transportation Secretary Christy Hall said since Palm Boulevard is public and state-owned, the city cannot take action to remove those parking spots. Hall said she’s available to talk about it with city leaders on the Isle of Palms.
Isle of Palms spokesperson Desiree Fragoso released the following statement Wednesday afternoon:
The vote of Council last night was to move forward with the elimination of parking on the land-side of Palm Boulevard between 21st and 40th pending approval from SCDOT. The sole focus behind this decision was to improve safety conditions for residents and visitors alike. We received correspondence from SCDOT reinforcing its position that municipalities are free to regulate parking along its rights-of-way, however, the elimination of parking is not allowed unless the City can provide convincing documentation of a valid threat to public safety. The city looks forward to continuing to work with SCDOT to address pedestrian and vehicular safety.
The City of Isle of Palms is also committed to improving public beach access by embracing alternative transportation solutions that enhance safe and sustainable access to the beach while protecting our community’s quality of life. To this end, the city has partnered with the Berkeley Charleston Dorchester Council of Governments and CARTA in the development of a beach shuttle from Mount Pleasant to expand access to the island and its beach.
The ordinance to permanently eliminate parking on the land side of Palm Boulevard was first approved by the Isle of Palms Public Safety Committee on Sept. 14. Committee members supported the motion, which was initially put into place to limit the number of people on the beach during the pandemic.
About 4,200 people live on Isle of Palms, but Mayor Jimmy Carroll has said that number can quadruple on weekends, which leads to traffic backups on Palm Boulevard. Those backups can delay public safety personnel in emergencies.
“You get these traffic pile ups. And if somebody had an emergency, and EMS or a fire truck with our first responders had to fly down Palm Blvd, because every second counts, they get stuck in the traffic,” Carroll said.
The city is required by law to provide 48 parking spots per mile of beach, an amount Carroll says it exceeds by more than 500%.