Overnight Sleepers Targeted With Parking District Concept

OCEAN CITY – A resort committee last week got a closer look at the logistics of implementing a residential parking district in the downtown area.

Last week, members of the Ocean City Police Commission met with Planning and Community Development Director Bill Neville to explore the logistics of implementing a residential parking district to the west of St. Louis Avenue from 4th to 15th streets.

“We didn’t start with this as a program to provide guaranteed parking for people that have a parking deficiency,” Neville said. “It’s an enforcement problem between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m.”

In March, Councilman Peter Buas introduced the idea of a parking permit aimed at deterring people from sleeping overnight in their cars and curbing some of the illegal activity associated with car sleepers.

As proposed, a new residential parking district would prohibit overnight on-street parking in areas west of St. Louis Avenue without a residential parking permit. A parking permit – similar to those issued in the Caine Keys parking district – would allow permit holders to park on the street between the hours of 3 a.m. and 6 a.m.

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Last month, the police commission directed town staff to map out areas for the proposed residential parking district and provide additional details for implementing the program. In his presentation last week, Neville said staff identified 200 parking spaces, 76 properties and 423 property owners along St. Louis Avenue from 4th to 15th streets.

“Within the code, it suggests that each owner would be provided two parking passes,” he said. “Taking it to its logical conclusion, we would have 846 parking passes chasing 200 spaces along St. Louis Avenue. So I don’t know how practical that is. The other question was if we provided a constraint along St. Louis Avenue, would it push the problem onto the side streets.”

Officials noted the analysis did not include the number of parking spaces or properties to the west of St. Louis Avenue. Neville replied the number of spaces and residential parking permits would increase if side streets were included in the proposed district.

“That essentially doubles the scenario,” he said.

Neville, however, noted the impacts it would have on administering the permits.

“In terms of administering a program, it increases the scope of how many signs, how many permits are issued, where the enforcement areas are,” he said. “To me, that’s the bigger question. Is it a program that may accomplish the initial goal but is perhaps unmanageable from the administrative side?”

Buas and Mayor Rick Meehan advocated for expanding the parking district to areas west of St. Louis Avenue.

“Not everyone’s going to get a pass …,” Meehan said. “I think if we are going to do it we not only include St. Louis, but definitely the area west of St. Louis.”

He asked town staff to determine the number of parking spaces and the number of parking permits needed for side streets west of St. Louis.

“I think we need to have that brought back to us …,” he said. “It’s going to take us awhile, but I think the concept is doable.”

Buas agreed.

“In the interim what we’ll do is get the number of spaces on the side streets between 4th and 15th,” he said. “By the time of the next police commission, we’ll have a better idea of what’s going on in that area.”

Buas noted the proposed parking district would go into effect next summer. However, he questioned if there was anything the town could do this year to better enforce its ordinance on car sleeping, such as higher fines or additional signage.

Officials said it was something they would consider before the next commission meeting.

“This doesn’t prohibit workers or anybody parking on St. Louis, going to the beach,” Meehan summarized. “We’re not trying to prohibit those activities, we’re trying to prohibit the overnight sleepers.”

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.