South Bethany considering requiring parking permits town-wide

Now that summer is over, the South Bethany Town Council will heave the topic of parking permits back onto the table.

Besides increasing parking fees last spring, the Town hasn’t yet moved forward with plans to purchase an outdoor permit kiosk or re-label permit areas around town.

So, on Oct. 25, they broached the subject again, seeming to lean toward eventually requiring a summertime parking permit for everyone, on all streets, starting in another year or so.

Currently, permits are required only east of Route 1 and only during certain hours from May 15 to Sept. 15.

Councilwoman Sue Callaway originally did not favor requiring permits on the west side, but “I see a wave coming” of day-visitors, based on development west of the town.

The council acknowledged that ocean-side parking may become even more competitive. If everyone is required to have a permit, there will be less benefit to west-side parking.

Town staff proposed that the changes be rolled out over two summers: install and use the kiosk and website in 2019, and then require parking permits on streets west of Route 1 starting in 2020. That would give everyone time to get used to the new procedures, they said.

Ordinance changes would be required.

The council will debate whether to follow that recommendation or make all the changes at once.

Property owners aren’t required to have parking permits, unless they (or houseguests) park on the street. And, currently, if someone transforms his or her entire front yard into a driveway, street traffic is not permitted to block it.

Businesses and contractors can get free permits from Town Hall.

Meanwhile, the Town will likely purchase a parking permit kiosk for $9,450, plus $45 per month, for a StradaPAL kiosk from Parkeon.

The goal is to save the Town money, especially on man-hours, since employees won’t have sell permits each weekend. The exact savings hasn’t been calculated yet.

People could use cash or credit card at the kiosk. It would provide seasonal and daily permits on a paper receipt, which people could trade for a permanent marker at Town Hall.

The council weighed offering stickers versus hangtags or peel-off permits (akin to the windshield notices commonly given with an oil change). They also wondered whether some tags should be transferable, or if Town Hall should limit the number of replacements per household. They also discussed maintenance, software and security.

Property owners can purchase up to four seasonal permits at $20 each. (Replacements cost $50 each, for any reason.) Daily parking passes cost $20 each for anyone.

The Town cannot ban the general public from parking at the beach, since it receives federal funding for its public beach.

Discussion of the issues will continue at the council’s regular meeting on Friday, Nov. 9, at 6 p.m.

Balancing bikes at the beach

Mayor Tim Saxton asked the town council on Oct. 25 to start brainstorming locations for bike parking.

“Nobody wants a bike parking ramp in front of their house or next to their walkway,” Saxton said he has heard from some property owners. “This town wasn’t built for parking, and it wasn’t built for bike racks. It just wasn’t.”

One idea was to install bicycle racks in empty spots west of Route 1, then ask the Delaware Department of Transportation to improve crosswalks, so that cyclists can walk across the highway.

Police Chief Troy Crowson warned against limiting bike parking. If people feel discouraged to cycle, he said, they’ll use cars, which will increase parking congestion.

“I understand that and appreciate that,” Saxton acknowledged. “I’m very happy to allow people to bike to the beach,” but he said the Town must consider property-owner rights.

Carol Stevenson suggested replacing a few car parking spots with a bike corral. (“That’s a lot of bikes and only one car,” she said.) After all, last year’s newest bike racks are already heavily used.

The challenge is bike attachments, which clog the system. People have gotten creative by attaching children’s carts or makeshift wagons to carry kids and beach gear.

The town manager will be assigned to research the matter, and discussion will continue in future.

Bonfires in the future?

Since most neighboring beach towns allow public bonfires, or even host town-sponsored bonfires, the town council is reconsidering the South Bethany ban on bonfires. Two residents present at the Oct. 25 meeting supported the idea.

The council discussed some potential permit fees and safety rules, including the balance of fire and alcohol, which is already allowed on the town beach, though glass bottles are banned. In November, the council will likely assign Charter & Code Committee to draft an ordinance on the issue.

Electronic computerized signs

Alarmed at the encroachment of large digital animated signs toward town, the town council will likely instruct the Charter & Code Committee to review the code.

Business owner Richard Mais said he doesn’t support such signage at York Beach Mall, but he acknowledged that technology changes over time.


[Editor's note: this article was amended to reflect that Sue Callaway originally did not favor townwide permits.]

By Laura Walter

Staff Reporter