Bethany council discusses controversial parking changes
The Bethany Beach Town Council held a special workshop meeting on Tuesday and reviewed an ordinance to amend the town code to show the use of pay stations for meters, as well as make other changes to parking regulations.
Town Manager Cliff Graviet explained that the proposed changes in parking regulations would still limit parking on Garfield Parkway to two hours. Another 75 spaces off of Garfield Parkway would be designated for all-day parking, changing some meters near Garfield Parkway from two-hour to all-day parking.
Graviet said the ordinance would also provide uniform parking enforcement throughout town, changing all paid parking spaces to being enforced from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Additionally, residents with a residential parking pass would now be able to park in metered spaces – excluding those on Garfield Parkway – for free from 8 to 11 p.m. with their residential parking permit displayed.
“I think it’s a good idea,” said Councilwoman Margaret Young.
Councilman Jack Gordon said he thought the town could face some trouble when it comes to educating residents and visitors about the proposed changes.
Graviet said the town would able to contact residents through the town newsletter and its home messaging service, and would also display the new regulations on the homepage of the town Web site. The only place it will not be noted is on the residential parking permits for the 2011 summer season, as they have already been printed.
Councilman Lew Killmer suggested the council consider waiting another summer cycle to optimize the education of residents before implementing the change.
“I can’t think of anything else we can do other than having that scripture on the parking pass,” said Graviet, who added that town hall would void any parking ticket a resident receives after 8 p.m. if they bring the ticket in with their residential permit.
While that could benefit town residents and property owners, the changes have some downtown business owners concerned.
Jackie Inman, owner of Bethany Beach Books, spoke to the council on March 15 in opposition to the change in hours on metered spaces.
“I think it’s going to deter, possibly, some of the residents from Millville or Rehoboth or surrounding areas coming into town,” she said. “It kind of sounds like you don’t want other people coming in between 8 and 11.”
Inman added that the changeover process could be a big headache to the town and the business owners.
Marian Parrott, owner of Sedona’s restaurant, echoed Inman’s concerns.
“I’m just concerned that we are going to alienate people some more, and in this economy we really cannot afford to alienate the tourists – whether or not they’re residential tourists or out-of-town tourists,” she said, supporting certain metered spots have the end of enforcement at 8 p.m.
“That is a concern,” said Councilwoman Carol Olmstead. “We certainly don’t want people who don’t live within the boundaries of the Town of Bethany Beach to feel that they are not welcome here during the summer. On the other hand, just like with the residential parking passes, I think people who aren’t property owners can understand that these are the people who pay the taxes that support the town and perhaps a little extra consideration is fair to them.”
“I’m just concerned about the economy in general and the kind of summer we’re looking for and how we treat people who come here,” responded Parrott. “I think, as things get tighter and tighter and we’re getting worse by the day, we’re going to have to make more and more of an effort to make our tourists and make the people that come here feel welcome – like this is the place they want to come, not some other town.”
Mayor Tony McClenny said he believes Bethany Beach residents deserve the council’s attention, and visitors are a secondary concern.
“Then why don’t we become private?” asked resident and local businesswoman Jean Wode, who was a proponent of retaining meters that end at 8 p.m. Bethany Beach must offer a certain amount of parking for non-Bethany citizens in order to maintain state and federal funding opportunities for maintaining its beach and other projects. Garfield Parkway is also a state-controlled road.
“We’re hurting, believe me,” said Wode. “We’re all barely hanging on. Look at how many businesses have closed. I think you’re trading one problem, and a simple problem, for a really bad problem.”
Hank Pilot, owner of Maureen’s Ice Cream and Desserts, said that he, as a business owner, tries to look beyond Bethany Beach and that perhaps the council could broaden their scope, as well.
“There’s new shops, new stores, new things opening all the way up [Route] 26. There’s three new ice cream shops within a mile on 26,” he said. “I like the idea of the 8 o’clock meters, because that gives you the opportunity to load up your car with all your guests, come into town, park free and go enjoy the businesses of the town.
“The town is struggling right now,” he said. “The economy is bad, and the competition is incredible. Every time you turn around, there’s another business opening up.”
Council members noted that all metered parking in surrounding resort towns end enforcement hours at 11 p.m.
“We will have to make the best decision we feel we can,” said McClenny.
The council is set to vote on the issue at their 2 p.m. meeting on Friday, March 18.