Current Council Reluctant To Add Meters In North OC

OCEAN CITY — Parking
meters may in fact become a reality on the ocean block or in north Ocean City
some day, but the present City Council members made it clear this week that it may
not happen on their watch.

You would be
hard-pressed to find anyone at City Hall who believes that the issue of whether
or not to charge people to park on the ocean block in Ocean City is going to go
away, but this week, it became clear that the majority of the voting seven deem
the topic a bit too hot to touch.

“I have never been in
favor of parking meters anywhere up town,” said Councilman Jim Hall. “If we
start putting them in, even on just the ocean block, people are going to come
down here and literally be rocking the house.”

Council President Joe
Mitrecic said that he recalls only two times in the council chambers that there
were more angry people in the audience: one was the merger of the fire
department and the other was concerning uptown parking meters.

“Every time it comes up,
we get an outpouring from the public that tells us quite frankly that they are
not interested in it,” said Mitrecic. “Some people have even gone as far as to
say they would rather pay higher taxes than they would have parking meters.”

After voting during the
budget process to move forward with a trial or demonstration plan that would
have installed Cale pay machines on 146th Street on the ocean block,
the City Council reversed its decision on Monday, via a 5-2 vote, after several
dozen angry emails and a half dozen property owners lashed out at the council’s
decision.

Despite the fact that
the council had figured in the projected $30,000 in added revenue from the 146th
Street meters into the recently passed fiscal year 2011 budget, which lowered
the tax rate by a penny from last year, the council was quick to cower from the
controversial subject of paid parking, although there was an attempt made by
Councilwoman Margaret Pillas at the end of the discussion to have further talks.

“I think that before we
start singling streets out and putting in meters, we should really sit down at
a work session and figure out where we want to go in the future with this
issue,” said Pillas.

Some have argued that a
local politicians’ concurrence or pursuit of paid parking, especially in
residential neighborhoods in Ocean City would be potential “political suicide.”

“I think that it would
be [political suicide],” said Ocean Place Condominium Association President Ron
Deacon. “I believe there may be ways of implementing some paid parking
without doing it on the public streets.”

Deacon and others have
contested that rather than add a metered system, the town should look to
purchase parking lots, like it has at both 4th Street and 100th
Street in the past.

However, City Manager
Dennis Dare said this week that some commercial properties on the ocean block
could find it advantageous to have metered parking at the heads of the streets.

“If you look at 120th
Street for instance, there are businesses on both sides of the highway, and if
people come to the beach early and leave their cars there all day for free, the
businesses who have little to no parking will get no turnover, and their
customers could potentially go someplace else,” said Dare. “So, even though
people may not want it in residential neighborhoods, I think that some
businesses on the ocean block might actually be in favor of having some meters
there for better turnover.”

Mitrecic said that if
the council did in fact want to pursue the issue in upcoming months that he
would need someone to step forward and make a motion, get someone else to make
a second, and get a majority vote to actually have a thorough discussion on the
matter.

“If one person wants to
talk about it, that’s fine and I’d be more than happy to get it on the agenda
at a work session, but if the majority of the council wants nothing to do with
the conversation, I don’t understand why we would go ahead and do it,” Mitrecic
said.

Both Mitrecic and Mayor
Rick Meehan noted this week that the parking debate has always been a hot topic
due to the fact so many buildings in Ocean City were built prior to 1983 and
lack adequate parking for people staying or living in those buildings.

“I think this council
has really been listening to what the property owners have to say,” said
Meehan. “The folks from Ocean Place may not have been voters, as I think many
of them were non-resident property owners, but their opinions matter, too, so I
don’t think the council acted in hopes of political gain or fear. But, some
people think that adding parking meters on the ocean block will change the very
dynamic of those neighborhoods and that would alter the Ocean City that they
fell in love with.”

 

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