ISLE OF PALMS, S.C. (WCIV) — Isle of Palms (IOP) city leaders and members of the public continue to clash on the issue of public parking.

SC - Beach foundation calls IOP parking plan unconstitutional; city leaders respond

ISLE OF PALMS, S.C. (WCIV) — Isle of Palms (IOP) city leaders and members of the public continue to clash on the issue of public parking.

It's a debate over public parking and limited beach access. Some people say IOP's parking plan is an attempt to limit public access to the island all together.

The Charleston Beach Foundation has requested the island's current parking plan be revoked in a letter sent on Nov. 27 to IOP Mayor Phillip Pounds, the City Council, and the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT). The foundation believes the plan has become more of a commercial area than residential.

"What this is really about is convenience," said Michael Barnett, the author of a petition to defund IOP, Sullivan's Island, and Folly Beach due to the elimination of parking. "They don't want to be bothered with traffic and don't want their roads congested with people trying to use the public beach. They pay millions of dollars to live on these islands and they think they should be private islands,” said Michael Barnett."

Pounds says this isn't true and contended IOP has eight times the state requirement for visitor parking.

The Charleston Beach Foundation's letter also says short term rental owners are misusing and abusing resident-only parking zones. It says short-term renters do not qualify as residents, but short-term rental owners can buy up to four parking passes for those renting the property.

The city disagrees with the claims of misuse.

"We have rules in place about how many cars can go, based on the size of the house and the number of bedrooms," Pounds said. "That's really the only limits there are. There are not special permits for renters that come over."

The letter says excessive fines are given out on the island for what the beach foundation considers 'minor parking violations'. Fines jumped from $50 to $100, making them more than three times the state average. The beach foundation says this violates both the state and U.S. constitutions.

Pounds says people weren't taking the punishment seriously and were willing to pay the previous $50 fines. He says the increase was necessary to stop illegal parking.

"We’re not looking to make our revenue number based on parking fines that we're putting out there," the mayor said. "It's really about modifying behavior and making sure folks are following the rules."

The letter was also sent to the SCDOT because the parking plan encompasses a number of state-owned roads. Pounds says several of the requested changes are above the city's control.

“We have to have SCDOT approval if we want to make changes or increase, decrease, or whatever we want to do on the island," he said.

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Pounds says the City Council hasn't had time to review the beach foundation's requests yet, but he doesn't think any changes will be made to the island's parking plan as result of the letter.

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