OCEAN CITY – A proposed residential parking permit aimed at curbing some of the illegal activity associated with car sleepers in the downtown area was introduced at the resort committee level this week.
In a meeting of the Ocean City Police Commission Monday, Councilman Peter Buas presented members with an idea to establish a residential parking permit for areas west of St. Louis Avenue between 4th and 15th streets.
“It’s to get people moving through there and not leaving their cars overnight,” he said. “Hopefully it deters some of the overnight sleepers and trash we get down that way. I know we have an issue patrolling that. It might be one more tool.”
Buas said he envisioned the permit would be similar to permits issued in the Caine Keys parking district. While it wouldn’t reserve a parking space, he said, it would allow permit holders to park on the street between the hours of 3 a.m. and 6 a.m.
“The people that are patronizing areas downtown, it doesn’t inhibit their parking ability at all,” he said. “It just gets rid of the sleepers.”
Buas said the parking permit wouldn’t be limited to residents between 4th and 15th streets. He said those who live on Baltimore Avenue could apply for a permit as well.
Ocean City Police Department Chief Ross Buzzuro said he supported the idea.
“In terms of enforcement, it could certainly assist us with enforcement down there,” he said. “We patrol that area throughout the summer months for those that are sleeping in vehicles, so that would assist us with that.”
Mayor Rick Meehan, however, said there were challenges with implementing a residential parking permit in the downtown area. Unlike the Caine Keys neighborhood, he noted, the downtown area featured several multi-family units.
“It’s a little different because that’s not all R-1 area,” he said. “It’s multi-family, which makes it a little more difficult as far as handling it.”
Attorney Maureen Howarth, a Caine Keys resident, also questioned how the city clerk’s office would monitor requests for temporary permits.
“Previous times, I would have to go down to City Hall and get a bunch of temporary paper ones for the summer when different family members would visit …,” she said. “I think it was more controlled up in Caine Keys because most of it is not rented. I can see a lot of requests for those extra passes down there. It would probably be hard to verify, more so downtown in the multi-family area.”
Buas, however, noted side streets to the east of St. Louis Avenue would remain as general parking for those without permits. He said officials could reach out to the city clerk’s office to determine the feasibility of implementing another residential parking permit.
“We have a staffing/procedural concern at city hall, not necessarily an issue with the concept of parking permits,” he said.
Howarth noted the town would have to amend its code to add another residential parking district. Meehan said the proposal warranted further discussion at future commission meetings.
“I’m not opposed to considering it,” he said. “I don’t think we can do it in time for this year, but why don’t we look at it.”
Councilman Lloyd Martin said the town would also need to research the number of permits it could issue.
“We really need to know what the number is,” he said. “If you start issuing 20,000 permits for 200 spaces, you are doing nothing.”
Meehan noted the police department has plans to increase its sleeper patrols in the downtown area this summer. He said the proposed parking permit could be explored after that time.
“Let’s get some more information,” he said. “Let’s do the increased patrol this year and see where we are.”