South Bethany aims to update parking code

South Bethany officials are set to take on an ordinance change regarding the town’s limited parking this week, with a first reading to potentially amend Chapter 92 of the town code set for the town council’s Feb. 10 meeting.

According to the synopsis of the changes to the ordinance, it would amend “Chapter 94 to:

• Update section 94-2 (Permitted parking) to increase the number of parking spaces available;

• Update section 94-3 (Manner of parking) to improve the manner of parking;

• Update section 94-6 (Parking permit system) to conform to current parking-permit practices;

• Remove parking permit fees set in section 94-7, (Parking permit fees) from the Code of South Bethany to allow the council the flexibility of establishing parking permit fees by resolution; and

• Update section 94-8, (Penalties for offenses) to revise the penalties for offenses in Chapter 94.”

The biggest impact from the proposed changes could be in where parking is permitted and how that is determined. The change there would eliminate an established system of parking for the north or south sides of streets, as dictated on a street-by-street basis in town code — such as mandating in the code that parking on Indian Street is only on the south side.

Instead, the town would just periodically conduct a survey to determine which sides of east-west streets on the east side of the town provide the most area for parking. And when changes are made, the ordinance specifies, it will be done through a public hearing process, with a resolution passed by council — as opposed to an amendment to town code. That could allow additional flexibility and timeliness for the town and thereby help ensure that the maximum amount of parking is provided on an ongoing basis.

The same added flexibility will apply for west-side roads under the proposed ordinance, with council able to determine restrictions and permit requirements by resolution.

The ordinance also instructs drivers parking on the left side of one-way streets (where permitted) to ensure they’re as far out of the traffic lane as practical.

The changes also clarify that scooters and motorcycles, in addition to other vehicles, require parking permits at locations and times when permits are required. They must be displayed so they can be inspected.

The new ordinance would clearly define a “residential dwelling” for the purpose of allowing parking permits to be issued and goes on to codify the current parking-permit system: two non-transferable and two transferable permits per residential dwelling — up to the maximum of four. It wouldn’t matter if a residence is owned by two people or 20 — the four-permit limit is set in stone.

Owners of unimproved lots would be entitled only to the two non-transferable permits, and only then if they weren’t already issued permits as a result of owning other property in the town. A firm limit of two non-transferable permits is established for each property, no matter how many owners, and owners of unimproved property owning more than one property in the town are limited to the maximum number of permits they would be allowed by virtue of owning a single property.

In another major change, construction contractors and their employees will now be required to obtain a permit, free of charge, in order to park at their work site during permitted construction hours only. They must have a mercantile license with the town before being issued a permit.

Permit issuance will start Feb. 1 of each year, rather than the previous May 1 start. Fees for the permits have been removed from the code also, to allow the same flexibility for the council to set them periodically by resolution. Replacement permits will still be available and one-day permits could be purchased by anyone.

New penalties for violations of the parking ordinances are set between $20 and $50, up from a minimum of $10, plus the cost of towing a violating vehicle. There are some exceptions to those limits, however, for specific offenses, but those fines are already established in the portions of town code that would remain unchanged with the new ordinance.

If adopted by the council, the changes would become effective immediately. Again, the Feb. 10 reading of the proposed parking ordinance changes is a first reading only, requiring additional consideration and a future vote of council.