FENWICK ISLAND – Officials in Fenwick Island have voted against a proposal to extend parking hours, but not before a considerable debate on the need for revenue and the affect it would have on resort businesses.
Before the Fenwick Island Town Council on May 3 was a proposal from the town’s finance committee to extend parking hours from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
“There was a discussion about keeping it the same and extending the hours to 10 at night,” Councilman Richard Mais, chair of the finance committee, said. “We compromised at 6 p.m., but there wasn’t any clear-cut feeling from the committee.”
Currently, parking regulations are enforced from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 15 through Sept. 15. Earlier this year, however, members of the finance committee agreed to revisit a discussion on parking hours.
The general idea is extending the parking hours from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. would generate additional revenue for the town. But officials last week said the idea has been widely opposed by members of the business community.
“We did feel it was important, because it would affect them, that it be referred to the business development committee,” Mais said. “They were pretty unified in their response that they prefer it stay at 4 p.m. and that it would be a hardship, particularly for their employees.”
While business owners said the proposed extension would affect their ability to attract customers to their shops and restaurants, some members of the finance committee argued extending the hours would generate needed revenue and make the town comparable to surrounding communities.
Councilwoman Julie Lee said the finance committee has recommended an extension in parking hours the last two years.
“We now have [parking] kiosks and are working on an app,” she said. “Both of these things cost money.”
Lee argued businesses were able to attract customers when parking rates were in affect during the day, and she suggested the 6 p.m. extension was a fair compromise.
“We all have to work together to compromise, and 6 p.m. was a compromise, a fair compromise,” she said. “People are on the beach much later than that.”
Last year, the town collected roughly $26,000 in revenue from parking fees. But Town Manager Terry Tieman said it remains unclear how much revenue a two-hour extension would generate.
“It is hard to quantify what a two-hour difference will be,” she said. “I really don’t have any idea in terms of revenue.”
While she was against extending the parking hours to 10 p.m., Councilwoman Vicki Carmean said she favored an extension of parking hours to 6 p.m. She noted the money would pay for town services utilized by resort visitors.
“The surrounding communities have very expensive, extensive parking regulations, and I feel we should stay in line with that thinking,” she said. “It is income we badly need, and I would rather get it that way then taking it out of the pockets of the property owners.”
However, Councilman Roy Williams questioned if the proposed extension would generate any revenue.
“On the ocean side, you only have one side of the street to park on and in most cases, like on my street, for example, there might be two parking places …,” he said. “I don’t know if you are going to gain that much revenue out of it.”
After further discussion, the council voted against the proposed parking extension, with Lee and Carmean in favor, and Mayor Gene Langan and Councilmen Bernie Merritt, Gardner Bunting, Mais and Williams opposed.