OCEAN CITY — With an eye on tapping potential unrealized revenue, Ocean City officials this week voted to form a task force to begin exploring an expansion of paid parking in certain areas around the resort.
During budget deliberations, the Mayor and Council directed staff to do an analysis of expanding metered parking on the public streets in the ocean block from 11th to 33rd streets. City Engineer and resident parking guru Terry McGean then analyzed the potential revenue and the estimated cost of expanding metered parking in that 22-block section of essentially upper downtown.
McGean estimated there were 444 potential metered spaces in the section of ocean block from 11th Street to 33rd Street. The estimated annual revenue from each of those spaces ranged from $2,500 on the high side to around $1,250 on the low side. Similarly, the percentage of residential parking spaces in that 22-block section ranged from a high of 75 percent to zero percent in some cases.
According to McGean’s estimates, the bottom line suggests expanding metered parking in the ocean block from 11th Street to 33rd Street could generate nearly $622,000 after existing permits were subtracted. The estimated cost of installing the new parking meter kiosks in those would come in at around $44,000, resulting in potential new revenue at around $578.000 after expenses.
Before McGean could present those numbers in the open forum, Councilman Tony DeLuca stopped him in his tracks and made a motion to form a task force to begin exploring expanded metered parking in the resort.
“I was going to present what I did, but if you’re happy with what I did, I won’t say a word,” said McGean.
DeLuca continued with his motion.
“My motion is that we form a task force for the parking meter issue,” he said. “The task force process has been successful with the Boardwalk, the special enforcement zone and other issues.”
Council Secretary Mary Knight questioned the makeup of the potential parking task force and suggested the process should be expedited for completion before the next summer season.
“Who would serve on this task force,” she said. “I think we need somebody who has done this. The other thing I would like is to have this done before next year so we can have this implemented before the next tourist season and it can be part of the fiscal year 2020 budget.”
For the scant few still sitting in on the work session, Knight explained just how much the town stood to gain from expanding metered parking in just the ocean block area from 11th Street to 33rd Street alone.
“For the folks that don’t have these numbers, this is $578,000 in revenue,” she said. “That’s a lot of money.”
Councilman Dennis Dare asked if the motion included having the task force analyze an expansion of metered parking in other areas throughout town. DeLuca said the task force’s chore would not be limited to just the area from 11th Street to 33rd Street.
“You can call it whatever, call it a parking committee,” he said. “The task force will look at metered parking and all of parking and whatever is working.”
Dare suggested the motion be adjusted to have the task force complete its analysis in time for the next budget cycle next spring.
“Amend motion to have the task force report back by December 31,” he said. “Hopefully, that will be enough time for the city manager to make any recommendations in the budget.”
The motion was amended one more time to include having Mayor Rick Meehan form the task force with direction from the council. When asked his opinion of the overall concept, Meehan essentially said that would up to the task force to decide.
“I think we form this task force and why don’t you all give me some names,” he said. “I’ll take a look at it and make sure it represents a balance for the community.
Expanding metered parking in other areas of Ocean City is not a new issue for town officials and has proven to be a slippery slope. As recently as 2012-2013, the then-Mayor and Council explored adding parking meters in certain areas from one of the town to the other and ultimately adopted ordinances added metered spaces in some sections based on a wide variety of categories from the ocean block to the bayside.
Amid a backlash of public opposition, the town’s elected officials at that time backtracked and relented on adding paid parking spaces in many of those areas, particularly in residential areas away from commercial interests and other town amenities where residents and visitors had expectations of paying for parking. The elected officials at the time wrestled with needed revenue for aging infrastructure and other capital projects versus the public’s perception of having to pay for street parking in areas away from the beach and Boardwalk, for example.