The hourly parking rate increase approved by the Ocean City Mayor and Council is entirely appropriate and reasonable.
At its simplest, the council-approved and task force-recommended increases will raise the hourly parking rates at the Inlet lot in the peak season by 17%, from $3 an hour to $3.50. The hourly rate at other downtown municipal lots and on the streets will increase 50% during the summer months, from $2 an hour to $3.
In an obvious effort to respond to critics who will inevitably argue the increase is an attempt to gouge tourists, the city will allow parking at the Inlet lot, downtown lots and on-street spaces to be free Monday-Thursday in April, May and October. On the weekends, the Inlet’s hourly rate will be $3 and $2 an hour at other downtown lots and on-street paid parking areas. The new hybrid parking plan will result in approximately $1 million in new estimated revenue for the town.
Over the last year, the mayor-appointed task force has studied parking in Ocean City. The result was a 141-page report and the approved rate recommendations. The clear goal for the task force was to find a fair way to raise rates to bring new revenue to the city. There were varying opinions expressed during the meetings, but the consensus seemed to be not to grow paid parking on ocean blocks north of 10th Street at this time and to instead focus on increasing existing fees to ensure the day-trippers pay their fair share of the town’s beach and Boardwalk maintenance costs.
Councilman Dennis Dare, who served on the task force, put it well, saying, “The beach and Boardwalk cost $4.8 million to protect and maintain annually. That’s six cents on the property tax rate. Maybe that segment of the population that uses those amenities the most should step up and pay their share. As it stands now, that’s a cost borne by the property tax and the room tax.”
We believe the summer parking rate increases are fair. For a family of four from Salisbury coming to the Boardwalk for five hours of fun in July, it will cost $17.50 to park steps away from the amusements. For the family from Selbyville looking to spend a beach day under the Pier – as is a popular spot in the summer – it will cost $28 for eight hours to park a short walk from the beach. We don’t find these costs to be exorbitant for a tourist destination.
The parking plan approved this week will help the budget, while not crushing tourists or locals. It’s a reasonable increase for prime parking at a beach resort.