South Bethany hammers out parking ordinance

After going back and forth on proposed parking ordinance changes in recent months, South Bethany Town Council members finally reached a consensus on the draft document at a workshop held Feb. 22.

If adopted, all of the changes would go into effect immediately, except a change that would restrict the number of parking permits issued to owners of lots without dwellings to a maximum of two transferable and two non-transferable permits total, no matter how many properties they own in the town.

That would go into effect Jan. 1, 2007, for the 2007 summer season, in a delay designed to avoid catching property owners unawares or creating any unfairness, Mayor Gary Jayne emphasized.

Among the changes agreed to by the council:

• A change for daily parking permits, at an increased rate that council members will determine in the near future for a fee-change resolution to be passed at the planned May 12 council meeting, in time to become effective this summer. It is the only change council members felt might have significant impact on property owners and visitors and yet still decided to implement this year. They tossed around numbers between the current $6 daily rate and up to $15, but tabled that decision for later. The daily permits are available to anyone.

• Proposed changes that allow the council to change such rates by resolution, rather than requiring more involved ordinance changes.

• Prohibitions designed to keep tractor-trailers and the tractor elements alone from being parked on town streets. Council members and Police Chief Joe Deloach noted an ongoing problem with the issue – one for which Deloach said he felt the town might need to head off other permutations with some proactive measures.

• Requirement for a permit for parking in permit areas between midnight and 6 a.m. during permit season.

• A minor change ensuring parking rules designed to keep parked cars out of the roadway can be equally enforced on one-way streets where parking is on the left side of the street instead of the standard right side, such as North Sixth Street, where traffic heads east and parking is east-facing on the north side of the street (that ordinance oddity designed to maximize space).

• Closure of spotty bits of town code where the police enforce parking rules that aren’t currently in the town code, such as prohibitions on parking within 10 feet of a fire hydrant.

• Addition of motorcycles and motor-scooters to the types of vehicles requiring parking permits where applicable.

• Clarifying the previous definition of “unimproved lots” to indicate such lots are those without dwelling structures, regardless of other improvements made.

• Changes to procedures for the issuance of contractors’ permits, to ensure they are available only to contractors with mercantile licenses in the town and not obtainable by non-contractors – such as Realtors. Council member Bob Cestone said he’d heard concerns that the system was perhaps being abused when a Realtor would buy many such permits, reportedly to provide them to contractor-type workers, such as cleaning crews. The council agreed to cut out the middleman and require such contractors to get the permits from the town hall directly. (Rumors of the black-market sale of South Bethany permits continue to float through the town, but have not been proven.)

• Elimination of “guest permits,” which have rarely been given out and were unknown to some of the council members. Council members said daily permits should be used instead, since the permit-required hours had also been expanded and matched up better with the use of daily permits.

Deloach agreed to monitor issuance of tickets for violation of handicapped parking regulations, to help guide council members in deciding whether the spaces needed to somehow be more clearly marked and whether the town should increase its fee for violation from $50 to the state-standard $100.

He also agreed to monitor the potential impact of the increased daily permit fees on parking demand on the west side of Coastal Highway. The council members rejected other proposed changes, such as requiring permits west of Coastal Highway or changing the north-south side parking designations for east-west streets — at least for the time being.

Councilman John Fields said he would polish the consensus changes, which will then be forwarded to Town Solicitor Terrence Jaywork for review and presentation at the March council meeting. The draft ordinance is lined up for possible adoption in May.