OCEAN CITY – Locations selected for paid parking have been placed into law without a signature on the ordinance from Mayor Rick Meehan.
Meehan said he was disappointed neither council members nor residents and business owners approached him following the final decision to further discuss a compromise he suggested prior to the ordinance being approved on second reading.
Meehan confirmed he will not be signing parking ordinance establishing new areas of paid parking in Ocean City. Tuesday marked the 15th day since the date of passage and the ordinance automatically became law without the mayor’s support.
A couple of weeks ago, the majority of the City Council voted to approve an ordinance in its final reading that will enact new areas of paid parking to bring in additional revenue and help close a budget gap.
After several discussions, areas chosen for new Cale parking machines, effective July 1, were the east side of the driveway in the Public Safety Parking Lot between 65th and 66th streets; the City Hall parking lot; the west side of Philadelphia Avenue between North Division and South First streets; 49th Street ocean block; 131st Street from Coastal Hwy. to Sinepuxent Ave.; and 146th Street ocean block.
During second reading, Meehan offered a number of compromises regarding the new areas of paid parking after an ongoing battle between city officials, residents and business owners ensued over the decision.
After months of meeting opposition from Ocean Place Condominium owners on 146th Street, among others, Meehan pointed out in 2011 the city improved 146th Street and added 16 new parking spaces. He recommended the 16 spaces that are closest to the beach be metered leaving the rest free for the condominium owners to take advantage of, leaving the same number of spaces on this street available for free parking that were there when the owners at Ocean Place originally purchased their units.
The 131st Street block from Coastal Highway to Sinepuxent Ave. was selected in means to create business turnover between the two restaurants located on the street, The Crab Bag and J/R’s House of Ribs. The mayor suggested the parking spaces that are contiguous to J/R’s property be metered from 9 a.m.-midnight daily, leaving the nine parking spaces on the south side closest to Crab Bag left as free parking.
On the west side of Philadelphia Ave. south of North Division Street, Meehan suggested to treat the area the same as the city has done with other streets in the downtown commercial area and allow property owners with spaces contiguous to their property to request to have those spaces remain as free parking.
“No one has contacted me about it to have further discussions about it. I am disappointed the whole council didn’t want to compromise to find a way to satisfy what the intentions were but at the same time take into consideration some of the public input,” Meehan said on Monday. “I have listened to what was said, and some of the recommendations I have made and proposed compromises would have solved some of the problems that some of the citizens had spoken of … although I saw some hint last time when I brought up the compromise from some of those who felt affected by the new Cale machines and were in favor of it, nobody contacted me, none of them contacted me, which was surprising.”
On Wednesday evening, it was officially announced a petition will be circulating to collect signatures opposing the new areas of paid parking to send the ordinance to referendum in the next election. Meehan acknowledged hearing about the petition drive and hoped the effort was rooted in facts.
“I am hoping if that does happen it is based on the decision of the council. I hope they thoroughly explain the decision of the council and it is not done with the scare tactic that meters are coming everywhere or into your residential neighborhood,” Meehan said. “I hope it is based on what the facts are and what the council decision was and what their concerns were, and when you look at that I think there will be less people that believe it was such an arbitrary decision … the petition may be for political purposes since I hadn’t heard from anyone over the matter.”