Southeast
Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

SC - McMaster signs law protecting free South Carolina beach parking, amid home rule concerns

In the latest skirmish over beach parking, Gov. Henry McMaster signed a law that says free beach parking along state roads can’t be removed or converted to paid parking without the state’s permission.

ISLE OF PALMS — In the latest skirmish over beach parking, Gov. Henry McMaster signed a law that says free beach parking along state roads can’t be removed or converted to paid parking without the state’s permission.

The Statehouse legislation came in direct response to Isle of Palms’ 2020 attempt to eliminate some free parking along state-owned Palm Boulevard near the public beach and to charge for most parking that would remain.

The barrier island dropped those plans after the S.C. Department of Transportation intervened.

The new law signed May 24 is primarily a clarification of existing state law, and McMaster described it as such, but opponents say it infringes upon the powers held by municipalities under the Home Rule Act. In particular, the ability to regulate parking.

“Although some have raised legal concerns regarding this legislation, it is clear that the source of the controversy is not the law but rather the recent circumstances the bill was intended to address,” the governor said.

Municipalities would be required to get prior approval from DOT before making changes to parking along state roads. In beach communities, parking could only be restricted if DOT agrees restrictions are necessary and issues a permit.

Some IOP officials said the matter deserved to be settled locally.

“When home rule is threatened at this scale, issues that local leaders and communities know how to address are suddenly being managed by politicians in Columbia,” Isle of Palms Councilman John Moye said  May 21.

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