Council Abandons Decision To Revamp North OC Street

OCEAN CITY — It took
exactly 27 angry emails and a handful of peeved uptown residents to change the
City Council’s mind about putting parking meters on 146th Street.

The Ocean City Council
voted 5-2 (with Councilman Doug Cymek and Joe Hall in opposition) to abandon
their earlier vote during last month’s budget hearings to put parking meters on
the quiet ocean block street on the Maryland-Delaware line.

Ocean Place Condominium
owners, including Condo Association President Ron Deacon, united at City Hall
on Monday night to argue the merits of the town’s “trial” program, which town
officials believed would have generated roughly $30,000 in income.

Last week, Ocean Place
residents flooded the Mayor and City Council’s inboxes with emails expressing
their disdain for the idea and argued that they were never told about the plan
and felt like they were being singled out and adversely affected.

“Usually, we write a
letter and notify people of what we are going to do, and in hindsight, we
probably should have done it that way,” said Councilman Jim Hall. “I’ve never
been in favor of paid parking on the ocean block, and I think that this would
be a lot of upheaval for a little bit of money.”

Deacon said that the
two-page speech in which he planned to blast the council during Monday’s
meeting never made it out of his pocket after the council seemingly backtracked
on their earlier decision rather quickly.

“I don’t know if they
had their minds made up before we spoke the other night based on all the
emails, but none of that matters now, as we are very happy with their
decision,” said Deacon. “We are extremely pleased that they listened to our
concerns and changed their position in the end.”

Town officials believed
that 146th Street was the perfect spot to try to perhaps slowly
integrate parking meters onto the ocean block in uptown Ocean City, as it was
revealed that the resort (between 10th and 146th streets)
is the only place on the peninsula in which beach goers can park for free or
without a permit.

City Manager Dennis Dare
said last week that the street was chosen because both the Ocean Place
condominium and the Econolodge were “relatively newer buildings” (ie, built
post 1983 which makes them up to current code concerning having adequate
parking) and would be virtually unaffected by the metered parking on the
street.

Dare believed that
people were coming into Ocean City from northern points where there are parking
meters or permitted parking only and using the free parking on Ocean City
streets.

Deacon, however, said
that it isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the town to be the only place to park
near the beach for free.

“I think in the long
run, it will actually help Ocean City by being the only one that has free
parking,” he said. “I believe that parking meters really turns a lot of people
off, especially by doing it in purely residential neighborhoods.”

Mayor Rick Meehan said
that over the years, the paid parking debate has always ended up at a proverbial
stalemate between residents, visitors who don’t want to pay and the town
officials who are looking for ways to manage the town’s rising expenses.

“You can go to any
street in town and ask people if they want paid parking, and no one is going to
raise their hand and say, ‘oh, yes, put parking meters on my street’”, said
Meehan. “It becomes emotional and proprietary because any time we’ve talked
about doing it, the residents come out and say, ‘well, you can’t do that to our
street.’”

Although the conversation
is sure to continue as the town’s financial worries haven’t subsided in the
past 20 months and aren’t expected to improve drastically for the foreseeable
future, Deacon said that if the town is going to pick a street to see if ocean
block parking meters would be profitable, 146th Street is the wrong
street to try it.

“By definition, if you
are going to do a trial or demonstration, you do it so you can learn from it
and then generalize it and then apply it to the rest of the area but you chose
an area of Ocean City that was unlike any other street in town,” Deacon said.
“We are a unique little street, and you might learn something from it by
putting in parking meters, but you couldn’t apply it or generalize it to the
rest of the town, so your demonstration or trial would always have been
fundamentally flawed.”

The council will
continue to move forward, however, with plans to widen 146th Street
to make way for perpendicular parking spaces to be installed, which will add 14
spots to 146th Street.

 

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