FEWICK ISLAND – The Ropewalk Oyster House is willing to make it work when it comes to parking in the small Town of Fenwick Island and is currently in the middle of ongoing efforts to appease concerns.
Last month during the Fenwick Town Council meeting, parking concerns associated with the Ropewalk Oyster House, located bayside between West Atlantic Ave. and West Bayard St., surfaced.
At that time, Building Official Patricia Schuchman advised the vacant lot on the corner of Coastal Highway and Dagsboro Street on the bayside is being used for additional parking by St. Matthew’s By-the-Sea and the Ropewalk through a mutual agreement with the property owner. The lot is not to be used for parking by beach patrons and will be monitored during business and church hours as well as closed with chains when not in use.
Fenwick Island resident Lynn Andrews expressed concerns that the vacant lot is a far distance for restaurant patrons to walk and can be dangerous. Also, the restaurant has 200 seats and previous applicants for similar establishments have been denied because there was not sufficient parking.
Schuchman responded in March a change in the zoning ordinance took place eliminating the number of parking spaces being dependent on the number of seats. The code now allows for one parking space per 100 square feet of customer area and Ropewalk has less than 2,200 square feet. The parking arrangement meets town requirements for additional parking and alleviates congestion.
Ropewalk co-owners Chris Reda and Marc McFaul reassured the public they want to maintain good relations with their neighbors and do not want their customers to block residences. The Ropewalk is willing to accept any ideas on how to best fit in to the neighborhood.
During last Friday’s Town Council meeting, Councilwoman Vicki Carmean advised the parking in Fenwick Island is bigger than just the Ropewalk situation and needs to be addressed.
Mayor Audrey Serio stated a parking committee has been appointed.
“They are going to be addressing the parking everywhere in town from the ocean to the bay, residential and commercial, whatever parking issues or problems that we may have,” she said.
At the conclusion of the meeting, members of the public continued to voice concerns over Ropewalk’s parking situation, starting with signage that has been posted at the lot on Dagsboro Street deeming the parking for Ropewalk.
At first Ropewalk posted a large sign at the lot on Dagsboro Street, “Ropewalk Parking” that had to be removed. Next they posted smaller metal signs, “No Beach Parking, Ropewalk Parking Only” and those had to be removed as well due to Fenwick code that doesn’t allow business signage to be posted at any other location besides the location of the business.
Ropewalk has considered constructing a Ropewalk T-shirt shop at the lot on Dagsboro Street, where merchandise can be sold and parking signage could be installed.
In the meantime, the code allows for signage to permanently be posted on a vehicle to deem the lot as Ropewalk parking but some neighbors have found a problem with that as well.
“Everyone wants us to have it where it is just Ropewalk parking but if it doesn’t say that then it is hard to do,” McFaul said.
Fenwick property owner Lynn Widdowson voiced her concern over vehicle congestion on West Atlantic Ave.
“I like the Ropewalk, and I go all the time with my family but traffic on West Atlantic is unsafe. It is dangerous for people who walk with their children or walking their dogs. It is a dead end street,” she said.
Widdowson suggested having West Atlantic Ave. become a resident-only street, and instead have Ropewalk traffic enter on the north side of West Bayard St. where Sea Shell City stands.
“My concern is that the vehicles that come down West Atlantic, there is nowhere to turn unless it is in someone’s driveway, and there is nowhere to park unless you have a tag,” she said.
Serio stated it is people like Widdowson who need to approach Town Hall and the new parking committee to share their concerns.
“It is the same problem, it is nothing new, it is always something here, it has always been an argument, and it will never stop. We just have to make it better and do the best we can do,” she said.
McFaul pointed out Ropewalk is in the process of working with the town to have a shuttle service running between the Dagsboro St. lot and the restaurant to transport Ropewalk patrons.
“There are not sidewalks everywhere so we are working with the town to have a shuttle that is agreeable with the town,” he said. “There are different rules in the book, so they [Town of Fenwick Island] are looking into it and in the meantime we are doing valet to help with concerns.”
According to McFaul, the restaurant valets an average of 50 cars per night. McFaul and his business partners have four other restaurants in both Baltimore City and Bel Air.
“For 18 years I have been going to meetings over parking … we are willing to work and team up to come up with anything we can do,” he said.