Fenwick Parking Ratio Ordinance Referred To Committee

FENWICK ISLAND – Citing public requests, town officials last week voted to refer changes to Fenwick Island’s commercial parking ratios to the town’s charter and ordinance committee.

Before a second reading was to be held, the Fenwick Island Town Council voted unanimously last Friday to refer an ordinance amendment pertaining to off-street parking in the commercial district – as well as other ordinance changes – to the town’s charter and ordinance committee for review. Mayor Natalie Magdeburger said the referral will allow for additional public comments as town officials continue to work with commercial property owners regarding new parking ratios.

“There’s been further requests to have yet another charter and ordinance committee meeting and report on the topic,” she said. “And although I don’t think it’s necessary, I want to make sure this council maintains transparency and gives everyone an opportunity for input on the issues.”

As written, the proposed ordinance amendment would change, among other things, restaurant parking ratios from one parking space per 100 square feet of patron area to one per 50 square feet of patron area, and retail parking ratios from one per 300 square feet of floor area to one per 250 square feet of floor area.

From the outset, town officials have argued the new parking ratios would address a growing parking problem in Fenwick. Magdeburger noted that changes made in 2013 had eroded the town’s parking space requirements to the point they no longer met the needs of the business community. The proposed ordinance, she said, was meant to restore some of those parking requirements.

Several commercial property owners, however, have argued the proposed ordinance would do nothing to solve current parking problems, as the parking ratios would only apply to new or redeveloped businesses. They also contend the changes would hamper redevelopment in the commercial district.

Since the ordinance amendment was first introduced last spring, Magdeburger said town officials have held three public hearings, six ad hoc parking committee meetings and three council meetings on the issue. Those discussions, she said, resulted in revisions that eliminated parking restrictions in the commercial setbacks and mandatory delivery zones.

“As a result of all those hearings and meetings, there was actually a new first reading that was read at the December meeting,” she said. “It was termed a first reading because it had changed. We had compromises, taking away the consideration for the setbacks, taking away the mandatory delivery zones, which are issues commercial property owners had asked for and we have done.”

Last week, however, Magdeburger made a motion to refer the proposed ordinance amendment – as well as ordinance amendments pertaining to floor area and mechanical equipment in the commercial district – to the town’s charter and ordinance committee.

“I want to make sure everyone gets an opportunity to put their thoughts on the record before a decision is made by this council,” Magdeburger said. “With that being said, for those ordinances scheduled for a second readings, I am proposing that we move to refer it to a charter and ordinance meeting.”

During public comments, Southern Exposure owner Tim Collins recognized the council’s efforts to work with the business community. However, he questioned if the ordinance amendment was warranted.

“When you have an ordinance, or you feel there’s an ordinance that has to be put on the books, some of those ordinances require public participation,” he said. “We had public participation a couple weeks ago, and what struck me was that there was not a single person at that public hearing that supported the ordinance that was being proposed. That concerns me, because I think it puts the council in a position where they have to support their thoughts, their ordinances by saying to the public this is what people want.”

Magdeburger disagreed.

“I think it’s inconsistent with what I’ve seen,” she said. “We’ve actually had a number of people coming in supporting the proposed amendments to the parking ratios, and there were a number of letters and emails … I think the record will show there are a lot of people supporting the change.”

With no further discussion, the town council voted unanimously to refer the ordinance amendments to charter and ordinance committee for review. A meeting has been scheduled for Feb. 10 at 9 a.m.

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.