Tweak in landscape rule brings call for parking study
An effort by restaurant owners to squeeze a few more parking spaces out of land along the creek at Murrells Inlet led the Georgetown County Planning Commission last week to call for a study of parking in the area.
Although the amount of seating for restaurants is tied to the parking they provide, no study has been done to count the parking spaces, according to Boyd Johnson, the county planning director.
He proposed a change to the landscaping code that requires parking lots to have one island containing a tree for every 10 spaces. For the commercial area along Business 17, those trees could be moved to the perimeter.
“This is not going to solve the parking problems in Murrells Inlet,” Johnson said. “It does give the restaurants a little more flexibility.”
The owner of the Wicked Tuna told the commission last month he has bought the Crooked Floor Tavern on the west side of the highway, which he plans to tear down and combine with a vacant lot to provide parking. Moving the island plants to outside of the property would create more parking spaces, he said.
The commission deferred a decision because it was unclear that the trees that the ordinance requires in the islands would also be required along the perimeter.
Gary Weinreich, a member of the community group Preserve Murrells Inlet, urged the commission to get a parking study before making the change. “Anyone visiting the Marsh Walk during the high season knows intuitively that there is a significant parking shortage,” he said in a comment letter to the commission.
Before the county agrees to change the landscape requirements, it needs to know how much parking is needed, Weinreich said.
Commission member Sandra Bundy, who raised questions about the proposal last month, said last week that she still had concerns. “Murrells Inlet deserves to have the same landscaping that everyone else has,” she said.
Bundy cited the parking lot at Inlet Affairs as the ideal, one where cars park under the oak trees. “It’s very stark when you have a parking lot with no landscaping in it,” she said.
Johnson agreed, but said he didn’t think the parking lots for an estimated 200 parcels on Business 17 would be large enough to make a difference. Most of the parking won’t be paved because of stormwater regulations, he added.
“We are going to be sacrificing aesthetics,” Bundy said. “Why can’t we solve the parking problem in Murrells Inlet instead of pushing it down the road?”
She moved to recommend County Council deny the change to the landscaping ordinance until a parking study is done, “until we can help these businesses find the parking,” Bundy said.
The vote was 4-2.
Johnson said afterward that his concern about the parking study is that it would come at a time when a highway traffic study, a land-use study and a revision to the future land-use plan are already under way.