Myrtle Beach may put off helmet law
City wants to hone details before rolling out changes
By Lorena Anderson
Motorcyclists worried about being ticketed for riding without a helmet in Myrtle Beach might have a little longer to ride bare-headed.
The City Council on Tuesday will consider a request from city staff members to postpone implementing the rest of the 15 anti-bike-rally ordinances and amendments until late February to give City Manager Tom Leath more time to set up the administrative hearing system that will deal with those citations.
Myrtle Beach’s leaders this summer passed the new regulations after years of hearing from residents every May about the traffic, noise, garbage, reckless driving and lewd acts they say typify the two weeks of Harley-Davidson and sport bike rallies every May.
Some, like the noise-ordinance amendment, took effect immediately after the council passed them. Others – such as the local helmet law, a juvenile curfew, additional security requirements for local businesses and rules about alcohol sales after 2 a.m. – were scheduled to go into effect Dec. 21.
The city says it can regulate helmets locally because the state Supreme Court has upheld some cities’ smoking bans, which make smoking in public places a civil infraction – similar to the local helmet law – not a criminal act.
Helmet law violators would receive citations and be asked to pay a fine or appear before an administrative law judge.
The city has not advertised for the judgeship position yet, Leath said, but he wanted to have that person in place before the ordinance goes into effect, so he or she could help the city develop the details of the administrative hearing process.
The city has a full agenda Tuesday, with a public hearing scheduled for people who own commercial property in the downtown redevelopment area to discuss a municipal improvement district to help pay for projects like a milelong boardwalk between First and 14th avenues North.
The city is implementing a multipronged funding method, taking out loans, levying assessments on all commercial properties within the municipal improvement district and setting aside a certain percentage of property tax revenue in a tax-increment-financing district to repay debt it will issue when the bond market loosens up.
The improvement district is designed to raise money to promote the redeveloped downtown, but it’s also going to be used as a backstop until the tax-increment-financing district is bringing in enough money to cover construction bond debt. That means the municipal improvement district’s rate can be adjusted to make up the difference between what the tax-increment-financing district brings in and the actual debt obligation.
City staff said the likely assessment would be $2.67 on each $100 of assessed value of commercial property, but depending on the debt needs, could go as high as $5.64 per $100 of assessed value, or as low as $1.50 per $100 of assessed value.
The city plans to raise nearly $20 million to pay for the boardwalk and ocean-outfall pipes to deal with stormwater.
Early Tuesday, council members will also get a demonstration of various vehicles’ decibel levels so they can decide whether to raise the recently approved noise standard from 87 decibels for motorcycles to 89 for all vehicles – a slight difference that could mean far fewer bikers are ticketed come spring.
Council members will listen to a couple of motorcycles, a large truck from public works, a car and maybe a truck from the city fire department, Leath said.
The demonstration begins at 8:30 a.m. at City Hall, before the council’s workshop begins at 9.