South Bethany talks parking enforcement, town hall reno


This winter, the South Bethany Town Council hopes to iron out the final details for implementing town-wide parking permits, which will go into effect on all roads in the summer of 2020.

Although the plan was approved in 2018, the Town delayed implementation to further evaluate signage, install an automated permit kiosk (since done) and decide if parking should be prohibited anywhere, due to safety concerns.

“Honestly, there are not many roads on the west side that are good for parking,” Town Manager Maureen Hartman told the town council in July.

It was “eye-opening with the amount of people coming in for the [Beach & Bay Cottage] Tour,” said Police Chief Jason Lovins. One-side parking might be the best option, he suggested, because filling both shoulders with parked cars could “restrict the safe flow of vehicles.”

“I think our biggest concern is emergency services, trash truck, mail… We’re still looking at a lot of issues,” Hartman said.

Currently, parking permits are only required for street parking east of Route 1 (oceanside), and only during certain daytime hours from May 15 to Sept. 15. Parking is free on the bay side.

The parking permit kiosk is located outside of South Bethany Town Hall. Besides daily permits, the Town staff said they hope to program the automated kiosk to also issue special or seasonal permits, too.

There was discussion about people contesting their parking tickets.

“It’s been a problem for many, many years. In my opinion, there was a bad precedent of just voiding tickets,” said Mayor Tim Saxton. “In my opinion, if it’s not a real ticket, we shouldn’t be writing it.”

But the most common issue seems to be people parking in a handicapped zone, in cases in which motorists forget to display the handicapped tag.

“I hate to have you pay the ticket,” Lovins said. “But how’s the officer going to know” that it’s a permitted vehicle if people don’t use display their handicapped tag?

“In my mind, that’s a legitimate ticket. People have it, you hang it. That’s why you have a thing to hang,” Saxton said. “In my mind, we’re doing ill-will by constantly writing tickets and canceling them.”

Legally, cars parked on the shoulder must face the correct direction and have two tires off the road.

Since street parking is forbidden in front of driveways, some property owners just bypass the system by pouring gravel across their entire front yard and calling it a driveway.

If that becomes too prevalent, South Bethany might have to follow other towns in restricting the width of home driveways.

Townwide permit zones are meant to manage the heavy traffic that has come to South Bethany streets. Many are South Bethany vacationers, but more vehicles are also expected from the housing developments that are springing up outside of town limits. Those people want to go to the beach, too.

“People from the west are coming,” Saxton said. “There’s no place to park in the state park, no place to park in Bethany, no place to park in Middlesex [Beach]. We’re last, and we have got to figure this out because they’re coming. On the high peak holiday, they’re already here.”

 

Town hall needs safety upgrades

 

Discussion has begun over renovations to South Bethany Town Hall. Safety is the top priority, but the town council could expand the building a bit more for meeting space.

The most important change is to add walls to block the staff hallway from public view. Essentially, visitors would still use main entrance and see the clerk’s window, but a new wall would block their view of the existing hallway and staff offices.

“The main thing is to give us a secure hallway. That was a recommendation from both prior [police] chiefs … and our [financial] auditors,” Hartman said.

Discussion of town hall improvements started around the same time as discussion of police station renovations (which were finally completed in the fall of 2018).

“It’s sad commentary,” but town hall needs better security than just an open hallway to all of the staff offices, Hartman said. “A lot of people come in. … Sometimes they’re upset, they’re angry” at Town decisions or code enforcement. 

County code will also require additional bathrooms, which could fit into the current kitchenette. The supply closet could become a new staff break room.

The building’s actual footprint would expand south by several feet toward the sidewalk area and parking lot. That extra space would become the new storage area, hidden behind the council chambers and dais. (Council members also suggested expanding it further, to create a conference room for smaller meetings or executive sessions.)

The plan has not been finalized. The town council plans to analyze their needs and continue discussion at a future meeting. The actual construction cost hasn’t been estimated, although funding of $40,000 for planning and engineering was written into last year’s budget.

 

By Laura Walter

Staff Reporter