Council Defers Vote On Fenwick Parking Ordinance

Council Defers Vote On Fenwick Parking Ordinance
Photo by Bethany Hooper

FENWICK ISLAND – Town officials say they will work with the business community to solve Fenwick Island’s parking issues after voting last week to defer a second reading on parking amendments.

Last Friday, the Fenwick Island Town Council voted unanimously to defer a second reading on an ordinance amendment pertaining to off-street parking in the commercial district.

While the proposed changes would have allowed for new, more stringent parking ratios on new and redeveloped commercial properties, officials agreed to postpone their vote after hearing complaints from members of the business community at last Monday’s public hearing.

“I am going to propose that we defer the vote on this second reading … until December of this year,” Mayor Natalie Magdeburger said. “That will give the ad hoc parking committee an opportunity to come together and meet and hopefully find solutions.”

In July, several members of the Fenwick Island business community came before the town council to share their opposition to a proposed ordinance amendment on off-street parking ratios in the commercial district. As written, the amendment would, for example, change restaurant parking ratios from one per 100 square feet of patron space to one per 50 square feet of patron space and retail parking ratios from one per 300 square feet of floor area to one per 250 square feet of floor area.

Since its introduction earlier this summer, restaurateurs, merchants and commercial property owners have come before the council with concerns the proposed ordinance amendment would impact commercial development. Others, however, have argued the amendment only seeks to address eroded parking ordinances that have allowed for fewer parking spaces on commercial properties.

Those discussions continued at a second public hearing last Monday, when members of the business community urged the town to first implement a Business to Business parking initiative, in which business owners would work together to share unused parking spaces to address summer parking shortages.

“This problem lasts six to eight weeks,” said Warren’s Station owner Scott Mumford. “And you are talking about imposing regulations for a six- to eight-week problem, not a 52-week problem … It’s a slippery slope.”

At last Friday’s town council meeting, Magdeburger said she hoped deferring the second reading would give business owners more time to work with the ad hoc parking committee and come up with solutions to Fenwick’s parking problems.

“I want to thank them again for coming to the hearing,” she said. “One of the things I got from it was that the business community really wanted to work with the ad hoc parking committee. The summer is now over, and they are fully engaged. I take them at their word.”

Magdeburger noted that the committee would meet frequently in the coming weeks and that a second reading would be revisited at the December town council meeting. A vote to defer the second reading on the proposed parking amendments passed 7-0.

“I think everyone is going into it knowing that compromises need to be made and open discussion and dialogue will be a benefit to all,” she said.

Southern Exposure owner Tim Collins thanked the town council for hearing the business community’s concerns.

“We want to make sure the residents, including myself, know what these ordinances mean and how they can affect the town,” he said. “And I think stepping back, as some people recommended, is the way to go. Let’s look at it and see if we can figure it out.”

Mumford agreed.

“I think you’ve made the right choice, taking a pause and seeing if we can figure something out,” he said. “I will be very dedicated to the ad hoc parking committee listing and moving forward in any direction that benefits the town.”

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.