How Did We Get Here
Parking for day visitors has been an ongoing issue for years. In an effort to proactively address an anticipated parking crunch this summer, at the November 2020 Board of Commissioners (BOC) meeting a new Parking Committee was established composed of two BOC members and Town Staff. Parking on peak days is expected to become increasingly tight due to the phenomenal growth on the mainland near Holden Beach. A large new Travel trailer campground is expected to come online this summer, other RV parks are expanding, and developments are popping up along Stone Chimney Road.
The new Parking Committee is meeting the first Friday of the month and though not open for in-person attendance due to Covid the meetings are live-streamed from the Town’s Facebook page and the recording is posted to the Town’s YouTube page. Their meeting agenda and packet are posted to the Town’s website prior to the meeting. See the links below for documents.
At the February 5th Parking Committee meeting, Town staff presented options and costs for new parking lots. It was decided by the Committee to place at least two of these new lots on the BOC agenda for February 16 for approval and implementation prior to the summer season. As the Town is exempt from zoning changes by ordinance, it was decided that there was no need to go through the rezoning process and public hearings on the proposed parking lots. HBPOA sent an email to members alerting them that if they wanted to comment before the lots were approved they needed to submit comments to the Town prior to the upcoming BOC meeting on February 16. Over 200 letters and emails were received regarding parking.
HBPOA received many of the over 200 letters that the Commissioners received (links below). We found these to be well thought out, well-written responses from the citizens and taxpayers to the Town government and Staff about what the community envisions for parking in the future. HBPOA read the feedback and summarized the most common points. The following was sent to the Parking Committee and the Commissioners.
After the HBPOA notified property owners about the Town’s plans to build new public parking lots, over 200 letters and emails were submitted. These comments provide a very comprehensive view of what property owners want and don’t want with regards to public parking. After reviewing this feedback, here is our summary:
- Protect the unique character and beauty of the island (don’t ruin paradise to create parking).
- Don’t overly burden property owners in an effort to accommodate day-visitors.
- Recognize we won’t always be able to provide a sufficient number of parking spaces to meet future demand.
- No new small “pocket” parking lots in residential neighborhoods next to or across from homes and spread out such that visitors have to drive all over the island looking for a spot.
- No right-of-way parking in property owner yards or adjacent to residential property.
- Any new public parking should be:
– Close to public beach accessways
– Close to permanent public restrooms (not porta-potties)
– On land zoned for commercial businesses who could benefit from the visitors (and vice versa)
– Centralized as much as possible to minimize traffic congestion and improve safety.
- Public parking should pay for itself and not be a financial burden on the property owners:
– Paid parking should be implemented to help cover the cost of the additional services needed as the result of day-visitors (e.g., police, garbage collection, bathroom cleaning, etc.)
– Any land purchased for new parking lots should be cost neutral (i.e., the parking revenues should pay for the purchase cost within a reasonable period of time).
- Start planning now for what we will do when the public parking spaces on the island are all full:
– Determine how many spaces we plan to have on the island for public parking (i.e. what is our total capacity goal)
– Determine how we will know when all these spaces are full so we can notify day-visitors before they come on the island that there is no place for them to park
– Engage the County regarding off-island parking/shuttle service solutions, since it is predominantly County residents who are the day-visitors coming to the island.
The HBPOA, as a representative of the property owners, will support plans that achieve these objectives.
Ideas Under Discussion
Some of the ideas the Parking Committee is discussing are reorganizing Jordan Blvd. and purchasing “Block Q” among other ideas. These topics were first introduced on the January Parking Committee Meeting Agenda.
Years ago a study was done to increase parking and esthetics by essentially creating a commercial hub for the Town. The property along this stretch is already zoned Commercial (C-1). The road right-of-way is extremely wide (~150′) which would allow parking with a vegetated median. Since the study was completed the Town has added the sewer lift station and pavilion at the northwestern quadrant of the diagram. The plan would need to be revised but the illustration above shows what was envisioned. The additional parking with this plan is close to the public access at Jordan and the public restrooms.
The piece of property bounded by Jordan Blvd., Brunswick Ave. East, Quinton St., and Carolina Ave with the large sign that reads “Wild Dunes” is referred to as Block Q. It is currently used by boaters to park after using the State-owned boat launch and by day-trippers for additional parking. The parcels were previously offered to the Town. It is estimated that 225 parking spots could be created here. It is zoned Commercial (C-1) and is close to bathrooms and beach accesses. It could be set up to accommodate boat trailer parking along with car parking.
The current concern is if/when the property is sold. Condos have been discussed for the property which would eliminate the parking of boat trailers, driving these vehicles to park in residential areas. The boat ramp area under the bridge can only accommodate approximately 5 boat trailers in actual spots, though 2-3 additional spots are often occupied on the sandy hill west of the ramp. During peak times dozens of boats use the ramp. The Parking Committee is discussing the issue with NC Wildlife Resources Commission which owns the ramp.
Eliminate Parking on Rights-of-Way
Day visitors have been parking on the rights-of-way in front of homes for years. While most day visitors are courteous and respectful of private property, some have caused problems by dumping trash and bottles, blocking driveways, destroying vegetation, urinating in public, and being threatening and argumentative. Several years ago the Commissioners allowed property owners to use post-and-rope to effectively limit parking in front of their homes. This has proved to be very popular. Many property owners would like to see right-of-way parking eliminated or curtailed as is done at other area islands.
One of the tasks assigned to the Parking Committee is to investigate paid parking. Based on letters received, property owners are overwhelmingly supportive of implementing paid parking to help cover costs associated with day visitors such as extra trash and police support. The Committee scheduled two vendors for the March meeting to educate members on what is available for paid parking. See the vendor’s presentations as part of the March meeting packet here.
Purchasing the Pier
The Pier and associated properties are currently for sale. Many day visitors use the pier for parking and access. Many island homeowners in the canal streets across from the pier use the pier and the Town’s emergency vehicle access west of the Campground for beach access. Should the properties be sold the parking and access would most likely be eliminated. Until that happens, the current owner has expressed an interest in partnering with the Town on paid parking for these properties. The pier is iconic and loved, but when it was last discussed it was determined that the Town could not afford to purchase the property. The Commissioners met in Executive Session on April 2 and April 5 to discuss two parcels at the pier, but no action was taken. The parcels under discussion were the farthest east one where the old hotel was removed and the furthest west parcel containing the emergency access road.
Maximizing What We Have
The Town already has quite a bit of public parking. How many spots does the Town have? A quick count on Google maps shows parking for 460 cars plus 43 vehicles with boat trailers not counting parking on the side streets, at the pier, or along the marshes! Click here for the rough counts from the photos. Ocean Isle has 337 Town-owned public spots for cars. Pawleys Island, SC has 141 spots. The previous parking committees recommended that the lots be better organized with concrete parking bumpers to indicate where and which direction to park. Increased enforcement of the lots was also recommended.
Go Deeper: Documents and Links Associated with Parking
Public Comments Received Prior to February Meeting