At the height of the summer season, it could be argued parking is tight in Fenwick Island. This is not unlike most beachfront communities. The problems, though, do not require a massive change to parking ratios in the commercial district.
A proposed ordinance, one that was mysteriously not vetted through the town’s ad hoc parking committee, would reduce restaurant parking ratios from one per 100 square feet of patron space to one per 50 square feet and retail parking ratios from one per 300 square feet to one per 250 square feet.
Rather than drastically impact their livelihood, members of the business community find the proposed changes “very restrictive,” preferring to address the seasonal parking issues through the Business-to-Business parking initiative that allows operators to partner on sharing unused parking spaces. For example, Southern Exposure owner Tim Collins, a long-time business operator in town, noted on a Saturday evening in August there were 300 parking spaces not being used within a one-block radius – 159 of those situated at restaurants. Collaboration on shared space during high demand seems wise.
Through increased dialogue and awareness of individual business open times, he, along with others, believes opportunities exist to ease constraints. We agree with long-time family business owner Scott Mumford of Warren’s Station. At this week’s meeting, he said, “This problem lasts six to eight weeks. And you are talking about imposing regulations for a six- to eight-week problem, not a 52-week problem … It’s a slippery slope.”
There is no need for these sweeping changes unless the goal of Fenwick’s elected officials is to make it impossible for commercial businesses to succeed, resulting in the town becoming a residential community. This would be the wrong direction, as a balance is needed.
Like many other communities, Fenwick Island seems to be working through a challenging environment among property owners. A balance is needed between new residents who see Fenwick Island as becoming overly commercial vs. those long-time property owners who understand the seasonal complexities of the beach communities.
The proposed parking changes would be an example of going too far. An ordinance change is not needed, especially one with huge ramifications. It’s too much. The changes made in 2013 should stand. Allowing the businesses to work together on the issues deserves an opportunity.