FENWICK ISLAND – Town officials opted to delay a decision on whether to increase parking permit fees until April budget discussions.
During a Feb. 26 meeting, members of the Fenwick Island Town Council agreed to take more time to consider whether there was a need to increase the cost of parking permits, which were set at $75 last year. Proponents of raising the price say the permits, which allow for beach end parking, are being used by non-residents.
“We don’t want to punish the homeowners,” Mayor Gene Langan said.
According to Town Manager Merritt Burke, the town has traditionally provided homeowners with one blue hang tag that allows them to park at beach ends. They also have the option of purchasing two more tags for guests, something that was rarely done before Burke arrived.
“When I was hired I thought we needed to market this and let the community know these are available,” Burke said.
In the ensuing years, sales have picked up. The town sold 70 of the additional permits in 2013, bringing in $3,500, as each cost $50. In 2014, the town sold 96 permits, yielding $4,800. In 2015, $5,500 was generated through sales, which primarily take place in May, as parking permits are required from May 15 to Sept. 15. In August, town officials agreed to increase the fee for the permits to $75. While one was sold at that rate after the change, permits won’t go on sale this year until May.
Burke said the reason he was bringing parking permits to the council’s attention was the fact that he’d received complaints that the beach ends were too crowded last year.
“I thought I’d bring it up for discussion and possible action,” Burke said.
Potential solutions, he added, included increasing the cost of the additional parking permits from $75 to $150 or decreasing the number of hang tags sold to homeowners.
Councilman William Weistling said he thought the fee needed to be doubled. He pointed out that even at $150 the fee would amount to less than $2 a day for the summer season.
“That’s pretty cheap to have the privilege of parking on the beach end,” he said.
Weistling said he didn’t want to see the permits purchased by residents and given to people who had no affiliation with Fenwick.
“My concern is they’re being purchased and being given to people who live outside the town limits,” he said.
Council member Julie Lee spoke against increasing permit costs. She said an increase in price would particularly impact the homeowners on the bayside, as they used the permits more. She said increasing the fee would impact the homeowners who were purchasing annual permits and not abusing the parking privilege.
“You’re hurting the residents that are abiding by the rules,” she said.
Councilman Richard Mais asked what the town was trying to achieve in making changes this year.
“The money seems almost inconsequential,” he said. “If you’re concerned about crowding reduce the numbers.”
Burke said another option would be changing the hanging parking permits to stickers that could be more permanently affixed to vehicles. Mais replied that if the town did that people would have to always take the same vehicle to the beach. Weistling added that homeowners who rented their properties out would also not be able to leave the tag for tenants to use.
Lee questioned the need for an increase in price when the cost of the permits was just raised in August. She said she had no problem discussing setting a limit on the number of permits to be sold each year and recommended it be brought back up during April’s budget discussion.