Downtown Parking Permit Further Discussed

OCEAN CITY – A resort commission is seeking staff recommendations for a proposed residential parking permit in the downtown area.

Following last month’s conversation on a proposed downtown residential parking permit, resort staff members were invited to Monday’s Ocean City Police Commission to discuss the feasibility of implementing a new parking district on streets to the west of St. Louis Avenue.

In March, Councilman Peter Buas introduced the idea of a parking permit aimed at curbing some of the illegal activity associated with car sleepers in the downtown area.

Simply put, a proposed parking district would prohibit overnight on-street parking in areas west of St. Louis Avenue without a residential parking permit.

“It doesn’t prohibit employees from parking there during the day, or beach goers,” Mayor Rick Meehan told staff this week. “It doesn’t reserve parking in any way. It just prohibits them from parking overnight in those areas.”

Officials said the parking permit would be similar to permits issued in the Caine Keys parking district, allowing permit holders to park on the street between the hours of 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. Buas noted the goal was to deter people from sleeping overnight in their cars and curb some of the littering associated with such activity.

“It’s a safety concern,” he said.

City Clerk Diana Chavis told commission members her office issued between 600 and 650 residential parking permits in Caine Keys each year. She said regulations in the town code allowed two passes per residence and temporary parking permits for overnight guests.

“This pass allows the residents to park on the street overnight, whereas those that don’t have it aren’t permitted to park overnight,” she explained. “The whole purpose of it was to deter those from leaving vehicles in the residential area overnight.”

Officials, however, said implementing a parking permit in the downtown area posed unique challenges. Unlike the Caine Keys neighborhood, which is zoned R-1 residential, the downtown area features multiple zoning designations.

“The zoning district along St. Louis Avenue, if that’s what we’re talking about, shifts between about three different zoning categories,” said Bill Neville, the town’s planning and community development director. “So we’d have to invent a different rationale to create a similar constraint.”

Buas said parking permits wouldn’t be limited to residents in the proposed area. Neville, however, questioned the impact of a new permit zone.

“The other question to work out is whether putting the pinch on one spot pushes the issue to another,” he said. “It seems to make sense that we actually do a broader area of application on this …”

After further discussion, commission members passed a motion directing staff to identify areas for a new parking district and develop a timeline for implementing a residential parking permit.

“We have the capacity to map this out and identify the structures of who has off-street parking and who doesn’t,” Neville said. “As much detail as you’d like to get, I’d be happy to work that up and provide that back.”

Meehan said information provided by staff would be discussed at future commission meetings.

“If we are going to do it, let’s do it right,” he said.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.