Fenwick juggling commercial parking rules again

Date Published: 
Feb. 9, 2018

Parking is no easy feat in Fenwick Island during the summers. Any business able to succeed might run out of parking in its regular lot and could have to get creative.

But the Fenwick Island Town Council is trying to get a handle on things, and historically, they have not wanted cars migrating too far from the businesses their drivers are supposed to be patronizing.

So, the council has now proposed that parking should only be allowed on commercial lots that have permanent structures with working utilities and at least one bathroom available for employees, customers or clients during business hours.

The current zoning code says commercial parking spaces can be placed with a business in a garage, carport or on an empty area of that business lot. But it does not emphasize that commercial parking is only ever permitted when accompanying a business on the lot it’s intended to serve.

“For years, parking has only been allowed on lots with commercial structures on it,” said Bill Weistling, chair of the Charter & Ordinance Committee. But the code was so vague that the town solicitor recently suggested adding more detail to reflect the intent.

“It’s always been that way, because the Town didn’t want people just coming, buying commercial lots just to use as a parking lot. Of course, that was in the past, and the town is growing so fast. … You either proceed with what we have, or the council decides maybe we scrap this and allow parking on a commercial lot,” Weistling said.

The owners of Big Eye Jacks, formerly known as Ropewalk, said they feel requiring the business to have a structure on the same lot is a waste of space. They recently purchased the property at 707 Coastal Highway with the idea that it would serve as overflow parking for their business at 700 Coastal Highway. It seems wasteful to install a tiny building there just to install a bathroom, they said.

Big Eye Jacks’ owners have been “jumping through hoops” to get parking off the street and into a lot, said co-owner Mark McFaul. When that didn’t work, they bought the second lot across the street, just for parking.

But while the proposal could cause more headaches for Big Eye Jacks, there’s time for the council to change its mind on the amendment to Chapter 160-2B (Zoning, Commercial, Parking) of the town code. There will be a second reading and a public hearing held at a future council meeting.

In other Fenwick Island news from the Jan. 26 council meeting:

• The council reiterated their opposition to proposed seismic testing and oil/gas drilling off the Atlantic coast, which was recently re-opened as a possibility by the Trump Administration after it had been ruled out, at least for a number of years, by the Obama Administration. The council also emphasized their need for canal dredging, with state, county and federal financial support.

• After essentially no action in that department for two years, the council unanimously voted to extend the Town’s moratorium on new hotel/motel uses for another two years, until Feb. 26, 2020.

“Two years ago, we passed a moratorium on any new hotels in town. The reason we did that was we wanted to see the effect of a proposed new hotel on the town,” Mayor Gene Langan said.

“I think it’s good to extend it and move forward with caution,” Councilwoman Vicki Carmean said.

• The council approved the first reading of a town charter change. Under voting requirements, the change would add the definition of “bona fide resident,” including which documents are accepted as proof.

• The Town staff and council honored Terry Tieman for her one-year anniversary as town manager.

“We’re happy to have you. We hope to have you for many, many more years,” said Building Official Pat Schuchman.

“It was one of the best decisions I ever made, and I continue to feel that way,” Tieman said of her decision to work in Fenwick. “The council’s been wonderful to work with, you have great employees, we have a great team.”

• The town council and public thanked the Public Works Department for rapidly clearing roads after the Jan. 4 blizzard.

• Dean Gary is the Town’s new finance manager.

• A local family has been soliciting money in the Town’s name to purchase equipment for the Fenwick Island Beach Patrol. Although it seemed well-intentioned, Tieman said the Town hadn’t granted them permission yet to do that and is still waiting for the town solicitor’s feedback about the legality of it.

• Anyone can pay $50 for a memorial brick at the Fenwick Town Park. After a former lifeguard passed away this winter, Councilman Richard Mais had suggested the Town install a memorial brick at its own expense. But there are no guidelines for determining who is eligible for such an honor (years of service, age at death, etc.), so some council members said they were uncomfortable approving a Town-sponsored memorial, carte blanche. Instead, several people offered to purchase that particular memorial, and Town staff will draft guidelines for future Town-sponsored memorials.

• The Earth Day trash pick-up will be April 21, for which the council approved $500 for a reusable banner.

• Although the Fenwick Freeze was canceled, people can still purchase Freeze T-shirts by contacting Town Hall.

The Fenwick Island Town Council’s next regular meeting will be Friday, Feb. 23, at 3:30 p.m.