MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCSC) - A new bill aims at putting individual towns in charge of parking along their state-owned roads, but some worry this could allow cities to close off free beach access on barrier islands.
State House member Joe Bustos, who represents Sullivan’s Island, Isle of Palms and parts of Mount Pleasant, has introduced house bill 4028.
He says he believes individual municipalities should have control over any parking changes they may make in public rights-of-way.
“They have elected mayors, they have elected counsel, I think that they can handle parking,” Bustos said. “They’re closest to the issues and the state highway department, the state department of transportation is a little far removed from those problems. I think they’re probably less equipped to handle it.”
This comes at the same time a separate senate bill, S.40, is pushing for free, and SCDOT controlled, parking along state roads in beach towns.
“It just gives the authority for managing parking to the towns and cities in South Carolina,” Bustos said.
While Bustos says his bill will not impact beachgoers, the Charleston Beach Foundation is pushing back on the bill saying they believe it would allow towns like Isle of Palms to take away free beach access along public roads.
“It’s an attempt to take over the state roadways, to discriminate against non-residents of the island,” Charleston Beach Foundation Director Myra Jones said. “We need a law that is fair to all citizens of the state. If someone from Lawrence or Kershaw or Greenville wants to go to the beach they need to be able to have access to our states beaches.”
Co-sponsor Representative Mark Smith from Berkeley County said he will be removing his name from the bill saying it doesn’t represent his overall position.
He released a statement Saturday:
“I fully support open roads, free beach access, and complimentary public parking on state owned right-a-ways for all SC residents and visitors to visit and enjoy all of our beautiful beaches and to be able to patronize businesses along the coast of SC. I will be removing my name as a cosponsor from House Bill 4028 as I don’t believe this bill fully supports my longstanding position. I have spoken directly with Senator Larry Grooms this morning (Saturday) and will continue my support of Senate Bill 40 and will work very hard to see that it is passed in the House.”
Bustos said he wants the bill to open a new dialogue.
“I hope it will open the discussion of quality of life and responsibilities and who is responsible in these towns and in the state,” Bustos said.