Weekend Inlet Parking Rates Increased; New Paid Parking Areas Identified In Resort

OCEAN CITY – During a budget wrap-up session last Friday, discussion over alternative revenues continued with the City Council voting to install new paid parking downtown and on 49th, 131st and 146th streets as well as increasing the weekend rate for the Inlet Parking Lot.

A couple of weeks ago, City Engineer Terry McGean went through the different areas of town that are potential to install Cale machines, or paid parking, to offer alternative revenues in attempts to close the budget gap.

To develop a clearer picture, McGean returned on Friday breaking down the potential streets to begin paid parking. He began with the west side of Philadelphia Ave. from South 1st Street to North Division St., which totals 55 spaces and $35,000 in estimated new revenue. The east side of Philadelphia Ave. in this area was metered a few years back, but the council at that time decided to leave the west side free for downtown employees.

“I promise you if you go down there, even today when we are not running the meters, and look out on Philadelphia Ave. you will see everybody parks out on the west side and nobody parks on the east side,” McGean said.

McGean also presented the west side of Philadelphia Ave. between 15th and 17th streets that has 10 parking spaces and new revenue of about $6,000. This is a commercial area that includes two shopping centers.

Other commercial areas suggested were mid-block on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd streets between Baltimore and Philadelphia avenues. For example, on 3rd Street where City Hall is located paid parking would run on both sides of the street between Baltimore and Philadelphia avenues and onward between Philadelphia and Chicago avenues adjacent to the skate park and playground. On 3rd Street alone, there are 42 spaces and potential net revenue of $25,000.

Next, McGean presented the areas he titled “Boardwalk Prime”, which is a stretch of ocean block parking between Washington Lane and the boardwalk from 11th St. to 27th St., which basically comes down to the first 10 parking spaces off of the Boardwalk on each street. This area would create potential revenue of over $100,000. The Inlet to 10th Street is currently paid parking in those prime areas.

Looking north, McGean suggested mid-block between 22nd and 23rd streets, 29th Street, 31st and 32nd streets, which are all commercial areas surrounded by large parking lots. He estimated about $7,000 to $10,000 per street in new revenue. Also, 44th Street bayside near Bank of America and the new Hampton Inn hotel with a shopping center to the north has 20 spaces and about $20,000 in new revenue available.

Moving up, the ocean block of 49th Street where there is a parking lot dedicated to Ocean Pines beach goers, with the Gateway Grand to the south, and where Seacrets guests park at night would make about $31,000 of new revenue a year.

A few locations were used as examples of paid parking encouraging business turnover, such as 59th, 60th and 61st streets where Fager’s Island, Hall’s Restaurant and the Tennis Center are located that would create about $25,000 to $30,000 gross per street, as well as 131st Street between The Crab Bag and JR’s Ribs.

“We have already had parking wars on this street,” McGean said of 131st Street.

The final location was the ocean block of 146th Street, which has been recommended for paid parking on several occasions in the past. The street is cut in half by the Maryland-Delaware line. The Delaware half of the street to the north is already paid parking.

“It appears to be pretty much day trippers on this street,” McGean observed as the condominium parking lot to the south was half empty in the picture he presented.

McGean also reviewed the rate at the Inlet Parking Lot downtown. Data presented showed the Inlet lot having 1.1 million paid hours in 2009, which was figured by the revenue received, divided by the rate charged. In 2010, the council voted to raise the rate by 50 cents to $2.50 per hour. This resulted in a 20-percent decrease of the lot’s usage with 900,000 paid hours.

“If we assume the rate from $2.50 an hour to $3 an hour in-season, we are going to assume that rate increase will decrease demand by 20 percent based on what we saw last year … but we would recognize an additional $100,000 in revenue,” McGean said.

Council President Lloyd Martin recognized with the amount of free parking offered downtown people are going to seek that out before paying to park in the Inlet Parking Lot.

“When there are less free spaces, there is going to be a turnaround at the Inlet lot, at least on the weekends,” Martin said.

Councilman Joe Mitrecic made a motion to raise the rate at the Inlet lot on Saturdays and Sundays during the summer to $3 an hour. The council voted 5-1, with Councilman Brent Ashley opposed and Councilwoman Margaret Pillas absent to approve.

Once the vote was taken on the Inlet lot, the room became quiet as it was the council’s time to make decisions on installing paid parking on other streets or not at all.

“A few of the streets you have mentioned would be worth a trial and would be the right way to go,” Mayor Rick Meehan said as he recommended starting with 146th and 49th streets.

Council Secretary Mary Knight agreed with the mayor and questioned the council’s thoughts on the west side of Philadelphia Avenue downtown as well.

“What I observed is it is people going to the beach and people going to the Boardwalk,” she said of the area.

Councilman Dennis Dare agreed with Knight and made a motion to install Cale machines for paid parking on the west side of Philadelphia Avenue from South 1st Street to North Division St. The council voted 5-1, with Ashley opposed and Pillas absent to approve.

“I would also like the council to consider 131st, the Crab Bag is redeveloping and will have 53 parking spaces because of that, so I think this would be a good move,” Councilman Doug Cymek added.

To wrap it up, Knight made a motion to install Cale machines for paid parking on 49th Street from Coastal Highway to the beach, 131st Street from Coastal Highway to Sinepuxent Avenue and 146th Street from Coastal Highway to the beach. The council voted 5-1, with Ashley opposed and Pillas absent.

“I am not sure the Boardwalk prime spots, the first 10 spaces from 11th to 27th streets, we should tackle at this point,” Mitrecic said recognizing the presented area that got left out.

Dare recognized the votes were not there to pass paid parking on the ocean blocks from 11th to 27th streets, but expressed it would be route to have day trippers pay their part in the many amenities Ocean City offers.

“As we re-deck the Boardwalk and pay off that debt, and replenish the beach this coming year it seems to make sense to extend the paid parking for half a block of some of the most prime parking in Ocean City,” Dare said laying the ground work for a discussion in the future. “I just think we need to have our day tripper’ participate in beach replenishment, beach cleaning, lifeguarding, street paving and all the amenities we provide.”