As the popularity of the Murrells Inlet Marshwalk grows so does the need for more parking.
The owner of the Wicked Tuna bought Crooked Floor Tavern and plans to use the space to build a parking lot.
Before that happens, restaurant owners along the Marshwalk are working with the Georgetown County Planning Commission on a new, short-term solution to the parking issue: change the way the county requires parking lots be landscaped.
“I think parking in Murrells Inlet is one of, if not the biggest issue that we have in Murrells Inlet,” John Campbell, managing partner of Dead Dog Saloon and the Claw House, said.
On busy days, especially during the tourist season, Campbell watches drivers park close to anywhere they can fit.
The county knows it’s an issue.
“It’s just not safe,” Georgetown County Planning Director Boyd Johnson, said. “And it’s certainly not ideal when you have cars overflowing parking lots and parking up and down the road in front of people’s houses.”
At last week’s meeting, planning commissioners talked about updating the county ordinance that requires specific parking lot landscaping.
The landscaping is required around and through every parking lot with one landscaped “island” placed within every 10 parking spaces.
The county now looks at exempting Business 17 from the parking islands and allowing all the required landscaping be done on the lots’ exterior perimeters.
“We’re thinking what we’re proposing is pretty simple and there’s no harm, no foul,” Johnson said. “We don’t see where there’s any negative parts to it since we’re not reducing the landscaping.”
The current rule aims to prevent big, ugly parking lots from popping up, but those requirements also reduce the number of available parking spaces.
“Some of these landscaping requirements just don’t make sense,” Campbell said.
“And with a very very modest change to how we approach the landscaping requirements we’re not only gonna improve the parking situation, increase parking spaces, but the neighbors are gonna improve their landscape buffers between their homes. It just seems like a win-win for everybody.”
The current ordinance requires a tree to be planted in the parking islands. Johnson said the county is looking into allowing trees be planted on the lots’ exteriors as well.
The planning commission is expected to take all of this up at their next meeting.
Some people who live in the Inlet have asked the commission to defer a decision until the county can do a comprehensive parking survey over the whole Marshwalk area.
Johnson said that’d be a big undertaking and that the county can still move forward on the lanscaping discussion without it.