NEW FOR THURSDAY: Ocean City Not Budging On Paid Parking Plan; No Immediate Change On 146th Street Move

OCEAN CITY – The Mayor and City Council were not swayed as easily this week as they were three years ago to overturn a decision to install paid parking on 146th Street.

Last week the Mayor and City Council began receiving a heavy dose of emails and complaints from irritated Ocean Place Condominium owners located on the ocean block between 146th and 145th streets regarding their decision to install paid parking on 146th Street as a means to increase revenue in the next fiscal year.

At that time, City Engineer Terry McGean identified 146th Street along with several other locations in town as potential locations to initiate paid parking. The council voted to install paid parking on 146th Street from Coastal Highway to the beach as well as 49th Street from Coastal Highway to the beach, 131st Street from Coastal Highway to Sinepuxent and on the west side of Philadelphia Ave. from South 1st to North Division streets.

In June of 2010, the Mayor and City Council was presented with a plan to implement paid parking on 146th Street to increase revenue. The council approved the request along with extending and widening the street to place additional parking at that location. However, after a flooding of emails and angry Ocean Place condominium owners in council chambers, the majority of the council changed its mind about putting parking meters on the street.

Since the decision was reversed, city staff has been keeping a close eye on who is actually parking on that street. McGean and Public Works Director Hal Adkins reported the license plates of cars parked on the street during the summer were mostly out of state.

Ocean Place Condominium Association President Mac Balkcom came before the Mayor and City Council during Tuesday’s work session to voice the concerns of the condominium owners.

“Everyone in our association is against this paid parking on 146th Street. We feel it will unfairly disadvantage our condominium … because in spite of what you see on the plates of the cars that park there a lot of those are owners in our building, or renters, or a family of owners, so we disagree with this notion that these people are daytrippers,” he said. “We think we have been singled out. We don’t think this is fair. We would like to know why it is not appropriate for you to let us know your plans on this ahead of time … I think you all had already made up your mind, so we would really like for you to reconsider.”

Balkcom pointed out daytrippers coming from Delaware have to drive to 142nd Street before making a U-turn on Coastal Highway to reach 146th Street and park. According to Balkcom, there are 60 parking spaces on 142nd Street and a potential for additional revenue versus the 40 parking spaces available on 146th Street

“We enlarged the number of spaces and improved that street in order to put paid parking on there, that was the main objective to do that,” said Council President Lloyd Martin, who was not in favor of paid parking on 146th St. three years ago. “We listened to Ocean Place when you came to us a couple years go. We took that into consideration and that’s why we didn’t do it at that time. Since then we have been watching that street …”

Martin explained Fenwick Island residents or visitors are parking on Ocean City’s side of 146th Street first, as it is split in half with paid parking operated by Fenwick Island and free parking on the other.

“We are looking at a loss in revenue for the town … what is happening is the overflow from Fenwick Island is flowing into Ocean City where they are not paying anything, and you are paying a tax, you have appropriated for your spaces but they don’t. Everything in Fenwick Island is paid parking,” Martin said.

Balkcom disagreed with the council and reiterated the concern of not having the parking available when condo owners have family visit, as they are only allocated one to two parking spaces per condo.

“We don’t know what we are going to do, we won’t be able to have our whole family here if you do this because we won’t be able to afford to go out and feed the meter every day,” he said.

Mayor Rick Meehan pointed out there are 62 free parking spaces one street over on 145th Street along with a number of extra spaces the condominium has available in its parking lot for visitors.

“These are difficult decisions and I can tell you the council weighs them very seriously and I understand what your concerns are and certainly the concerns of Ocean Place, although I think they can adapt to the change,” Meehan said.

Councilman Dennis Dare said the city must make decisions to cut costs and increase revenue to close the budget gap, and the council understands these moves impact many people.

Delmarva Condominium Manager’s Association (DCMA) President Joe Groves suggested starting out with only installing paid parking in the premium parking spaces closest to the beach as conciliation.

“There has to be a compromise or try to come to a consensus where we can all live with it,” Groves said. “You all have a very tough job right now to balance this budget, I understand that, but let’s look at other opportunities there in that area.”