FENWICK ISLAND – The first meeting of a new Fenwick Island committee kicked off this week with discussions on residential and commercial parking.
On Tuesday, the Town of Fenwick Island held its first Ad Hock Parking Committee meeting to discuss ongoing parking issues.
“In the beginning there were only a couple of businesses … and traffic and parking really weren’t a problem,” Mayor Vicki Carmean said. “But now there are more businesses and the town has gotten busier.”
Last month, the Fenwick Island Town Council voted to establish an Ad Hoc Parking Committee for the purpose of exploring potential parking solutions in town.
While such issues were initially brought to the town’s Charter and Ordinance Committee for review, Carmean said told council members in March she was recommending the creation of a separate workgroup.
“At first, I thought I couldn’t do anything about our existing problems, all I could do was plan for the future to make sure we don’t come up short on parking places for any new business,” she said at the time. “But I started thinking about it, and I talked to Pat [Schuchman, town manager], we talked about it some more and we decided we would like the town to consider a plan B to address current parking problems.”
In this week’s committee meeting, committee member Ed Bishop said residents have seen an increase in employees and customers parking along the side streets within the residential district.
“We’re starting to see more of the business community move into the residential area with parking,” he said. “And I’m afraid it will continue to grow.”
Committee member Scott Mumford, whose family owns Warren’s Station, said adequate business parking continues to be an issue, particularly for restaurants and particularly during dinner hours.
He said his family had purchased a property, which they allow employees to use during the busy summer months.
“We’re doing the best we can with what we have,” he said, noting that the property had 71 parking spots for a restaurant that seats 225. “You’re talking about an eight-week window where it’s really stressful when it comes to parking.”
Committee member Ann Riley suggested the restaurants and businesses work with other property owners within the commercial district to find additional parking, particularly for its employees.
“Maybe the direction we should think about is if we can find additional parking for employees …,” she said. “We know we’ve got some parking lots here not in use during the evening hours, like the bank and the church.”
Committee members, however, noted that liability concerns and wear and tear were often deterrents when seeking additional parking.
“We tried that and most of the time the property owners are against it because of liability issues,” Mumford said.
Committee member Kurt Zanelotti, however, said he was most concerned about daytime beach parking.
“I personally liked the way it was a few years ago,” he said, “when we had a rather high daily parking fee and season permits.”
Carmean said the issue of parking fees would be referred to the Charter and Ordinance Committee for review. She also suggested the town look at new parking regulations for newly constructed businesses.
“I think there’s a difference between adequate parking for businesses and required parking,” she said.
Carmean added that she also liked the idea of finding commercial properties that would work with restaurants on employee parking.
After further discussion, the committee agreed to find possible locations before its next meeting, scheduled for May 16.
“We’re not going to solve all the parking problems today,” Carmean said.