OCEAN CITY — Ocean City officials this week approved a 50-percent increase in the hourly parking rates at metered spots throughout the downtown area, but there was little discussion about the proposal to add meters at parking spaces throughout other parts of the resort.
The City Council on Monday approved an ordinance raising parking spaces covered by the Cale Meter System throughout the downtown area from the current $1 per hour (25 cents per 15 minutes) to $1.50 per hour (25 cents per 10 minutes). The new rates will be in effect from Friday to Sunday from April 1 to May 24 and seven days a week from May 25 through Sept. 3.
The weekend rates, Friday through Sunday, would go back into effect from Sept. 4 to Oct. 14. Exceptions to the shoulder season rules would be the Thursdays before Springfest and the Cruisin’ event in the spring, and the Thursdays before Sunfest and the Cruisin’ event in the fall.
The new $1.50 per hour rate will be in effect for metered street parking from 7 a.m. to midnight and 24 hours a day at the various municipal lots. However, the Inlet parking lot will remain under its current rate schedule at $1.50 per hour during the offseason and $2.50 per hour during the height of the summer season. The metered parking rate increase is expected to produce around $500,000 in additional revenue annually.
The council on Monday approved the new metered parking rate hike by a vote of 5-2, with Council members Joe Hall and Margaret Pillas in opposition.
Joe Hall said he could not support the increase at metered parking spots in the downtown area until the broader issue of paid parking throughout the town was explored.
“I’m going to be voting against this,” he said. “There is much discussion about how and where the town should have paid parking.”
Joe Hall’s comments came on the heels of a discussion last week to consider adding paid street parking in other areas of town, including on ocean blocks from 27th Street north to the Delaware line.
“I’m hearing paid parking in some areas is a horrible thing and in others it’s acceptable,” he said. “I’m hearing we can’t have paid parking everywhere in town because it’s detrimental to business. Following that logic, it has to be bad everywhere, even where it exists now.”
However, Councilwoman Mary Knight pointed out this ordinance only included an increase in rates at the existing areas and the discussion of expanded paid parking in other areas should be left for another day.
“We’re looking at $400,000 in new revenue if we increase it to $1.50,” she said. “That’s still a great value and cheaper than most resorts.”
Mayor Rick Meehan said the ordinance as presented represented a compromise of sorts, with the fees increased during peak times and the meters not enforced during the offseason.
“The Cale machines are bagged during the week in the offseason,” he said. “There is no enforcement during the week but the fees are raised during peak times. I think this makes this ordinance a nice compromise.”
While the council ultimately approved the new parking rates in areas where paid parking currently exists, there was little discussion about expanding paid parking to other areas in town, especially in the context of the ordinance in front of the elected officials. However, the issue of expanded paid parking in the resort did come up during a separate issue later in the meeting.
Last week, the council entertained a proposal to expand paid parking in the ocean blocks from 10th to 27th streets, and ultimately from 27th Street north to the Delaware line in an effort to offset the cost of pending road improvement projects in the resort estimated to cost several million dollars.
“The parking issue needs to be discussed,” said Pillas. “Nobody ever said anything about the whole town.”
That issue is expected to surface at an upcoming council meeting.
For all the week’s news, see The Dispatch and its online partner, www.mdcoastdispatch.com, on Friday.