Folly City Council proves it can bend a little in codifying beach yoga

By Bill Davis | Current Staff Writer

Dogs may not be allowed on the beach at certain hours this time of year, but Downward Facing Dog will be thanks to a unanimous vote at the last meeting of City Council.

Thanks to the explosion in interest and attendance at for-profit waterfront yoga classes, the City of Folly Beach was confronted with a vexing problem: How do you make sure everyone still wants to come to the beach but not overburden facilities, finite personnel, or others’ enjoyment?

“We have no interest in stopping everyone from making use of the beach,” said City Administrator Spencer Wetmore. “We want them here, from AA meetings to whomever else wants to come.

“But when businesses are making money on public land, they need to start having business licenses and observing regulations,” she said.

Unlike some neighboring beachfront communities, Folly already allows commercial ventures to set up on the sand, like umbrella and personal watercraft rentals, and surf classes.

As such, Folly already had regulations for those businesses. But nothing was on the books for yoga. Sunset yoga was already available at the county park, but the growing popularity of the commercial classes could have threatened everyone else’s “mellow” if something wasn’t done.

Several yoga fans and instructors appeared before council on Tuesday, April 11, in full yoga pants and regalia, to lay out their arguments.

Courtney Yannitelli told council that she and her Lycra-clad compatriots weren’t there “because we want to beat a dead horse,” but to express their love for yoga and the beach and for their yogis.

With her voice breaking up as tears started welling up in her eyes, Yannitelli spoke glowingly of her appreciation for Melora Morgan, who owns Serenity Tree Yoga that provides classes on Folly. “She has touched every one of our lives and it is that love we want to bring here to council and continue to emanate on Folly Beach.”

Councilman Eddie Ellis was moved to offer her a tissue, and received a round of applause from the audience for his act of compassion.

Lauren Maurizio, also from Serenity Tree, spoke on behalf of Morgan, reading a letter her boss had penned.

She read, in part:

“Beach yoga is not intrusive. We take up a small part of the beach and we’re only there for an hour. We also rotate blocks as to not be in one space for an entire week. Beach yoga isn’t required to have any equipment. We never use music, so there is no noise disturbance.  It’s done on the sand, taking away liability of people being in the water and most of all it brings out the best in people. It brings a healthy and peaceful vibe to our beachside community. Beach yoga reminds people to really appreciate and respect the beach.”

Part of the letter read aloud dealt directly with  an initial suggestion to limit commercial yoga class size to just 10 people, stating that it would limit Morgan’s “ability to reach everyone,” and she would have to deny yoga to some as a result.

“Beach yoga has the ability to create exchanges between people of different backgrounds. When we share power and responsibility we build real community and that helps create something sustainable. Beach yoga brings joy and happiness to people, and who doesn’t need a little bit more of that in their life?”

Council heard Morgan’s point, even if she wasn’t present. In the final regulation, which it passed unanimously, it increased the size of class to 40.

And like other commercial beachfront ventures, required yoga providers to take out business licenses, apply yearly for permission from council to continue offering classes, limit their locations between 3rd bloxk East and 3rd West, carry $1 million in insurance, end classes by 9 a.m. on weekends, and to clean up after themselves.

Council did not take the opportunity to pass a comprehensive commercial ordinance for business conducted on the beach.

“I think council wants to continue to take these things on a case-by-case basis, and not pass laws and regulations that aren’t immediately needed,” said city administrator Wetmore.

Reached for comment this week, yoga supporters offered up one word: Ohm.

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