Fenwick Adopts New Commercial Parking Ratios

Fenwick Adopts New Commercial Parking Ratios
Photo by Bethany Hooper

FENWICK ISLAND – After nearly a year of debate, officials in Fenwick Island last week voted to adopt new parking ratios in the town’s commercial district.

Last Friday, the Fenwick Island Town Council voted unanimously to adopt an ordinance amendment pertaining to off street parking in the commercial district. The changes, officials say, are meant to address a growing parking problem.

“I think what has been proposed is a fair compromise,” said Mayor Natalie Magdeburger.

Last spring, officials introduced an ordinance amendment that would allow for new, more stringent parking ratios on new and redeveloped commercial properties. As written, the amendment changes, 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. New ratios were also presented for hotels.

Magdeburger said 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.

“Mathematically, that ordinance change … had an overall 65% reduction in required parking for restaurants,” she explained. “What that did, in context, was that you had a 212-capacity restaurant built immediately after that ordinance change that had employees of 20 to 30 people and was only required to have 29 parking spaces.”

Officials said the new ratios, similar to ones found in neighboring jurisdictions, would restore some of the town’s past parking requirements.

“While one narrative is that we are doubling the required parking for the businesses, I think the more important part is this is actually a 20 to 25% reduction in parking requirements that existed before the 2013 change …,” Councilman Ed Bishop said. “I think this is a solid outcome.”

Officials said the ordinance amendment also included several compromises, as it would no longer restrict parking in the commercial setbacks or require designated delivery zones, and it would include accommodations for shared parking.

“This ordinance clearly contains multiple compromises, which shows this council is listening to feedback and making changes,” Councilman Bill Rymer said.

From the outset, commercial property owners have argued the proposed parking ratios are onerous and limit redevelopment opportunities on commercial lots. During public comments, Southern Exposure owner Tim Collins said the business community last week had presented the town with new parking formulas, but that they were not discussed by the council.

“In the last two or three years, we’ve had a situation going on in the residential area where literally almost every square inch of the property is being used. I see no backlash from that …,” he said. “If this council was dealing with an issue that was going to devalue or somehow change what someone can do with their residential property, they most likely would be asked to leave Fenwick. It would never happen.”

Collins argued that parking problems at one local restaurant, and claims of littering and urination along the town’s side streets, had created a perception that there was a commercial parking problem.

“I can’t see any connection …,” he said. “I don’t know what they have to do with a parking problem.”

Attorney Richard Abbott, representing Balsamo Real Estate, agreed.

“Urination and littering have no connection to a parking problem,” he said. “You either have enough parking or you don’t.”

Essex Street resident Tim Leahy, however, said he supported the proposed ordinance.

“The ordinance as it’s drafted does give flexibility to the owners of those properties to develop them in multiple ways,” he said.

After further discussion, the council voted 7-0 to approve the ordinance amendment.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

Alternative Text

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.