Ocean City —
Ocean City Council April 26 rejected raising parking meter rates to 25 cents per half hour, but agreed to allow meters to accept nickels and dimes instead of just quarters.
The ordinance would have increased fees for parking meters on Asbury Avenue from 25 cents an hour to 25 cents per half hour.
The city is also increasing parking at the Seventh and Central Avenue lot from 25 cents for two hours to 25 cents per hour. The city also wants to add approximately 24 parking meters to the 1300 block of West Avenue and charge 25 cents per hour.
The city is installing five parking meters in the 1300 block of Asbury Avenue by shortening the loading zone in front of the former St. Augustine Regional School and charge 25 cents per half hour.
Council previously amended the ordinance to extend the enforcement of meters from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
City Chief Financial Officer Frank Donato said the parking time limit on Asbury Avenue will be extended from two hours to three hours at the request of local merchants.
“We did try to talk to a number of businesses prior to putting forth this ordinance for introduction. We appreciated some of the feedback,” Donato said.
He said members of council spoke to Asbury Avenue business owners about the proposed changes.
Donato said the city would reprogram all of the meters in the downtown to accept dimes and nickels, instead of quarters only. He said every dime would give motorists 12 minutes in the meters.
City business administrator Michael Dattilo said changing the meters to accept dimes and nickels would help shoppers who don’t plan on staying too long in the downtown.
“We have very short-term visitors,” Dattilo said. “We like that flexibility.”
Councilman John Kemenosh said the city should draw guests and visitors to the downtown, and increasing the parking meter fees might have an aversive effect.
“I think that the people who should have the most say in this are the merchants on the avenue who pay the bills and pay the rents and suffer the most,” Kemenosh said. “A number of people I’ve talked to are very concerned with the increase in the parking meters. They’re afraid it’s discouraging people.”
Owners of Stainton’s
Gallery of Shops say
it isn’t customer friendly
Lester Argus, co-owner of Stainton’s: A Gallery of Shops, slated to open May 19, opposed raising parking meter fees. He said the timing for the ordinance is “really poor” before Memorial Day.
“You’re doing it at a really lousy time. All of these stores are trying to start this season and you’re putting up a ‘Do Not Shop Here’ sign,” Argus said. “I’m very concerned with what kind of message you’re sending to the shoppers.”
Harry Bassford, another co-owner of Stainton’s: A Gallery of Shops, also questioned the parking meter changes on Asbury Avenue.
Bassford said he and Argus invested $1 million to refurbish the former Stainton’s Department Store. He said Asbury Avenue is “sick” and “struggling.”
“We are the centerpiece of Asbury Avenue and we need your help. We want Asbury Avenue to be a vibrant business district once again,” Bassford said. “Shoppers and visitors will need six quarters to shop on the avenue. What an inconvenience. Visitors won’t come back.”
Councilman Tony Wilson said while it was favorable the ordinance increases the time on parking meters in the downtown from two to three hours, he objected to the parking meter increase.
“There’s no business in this town, I don’t care what business you’re talking about, that you can go and raise rates 100 percent,” Wilson said. “I, for one, cannot support this ordinance on that basis.”
Councilman Roy Wagner said the rates would negatively impact the business community.
“It’s just too big of a jump,” Wagner said. “The rates are doubled.”
Councilman Keith Hartzell said the perception the city raised parking meter fees 100 percent is hard to shake.
“You can’t get away from perception. People go on perception,” Hartzell said. “I think you have to do things incrementally. The only way to do it incrementally is a sophisticated parking system, which we don’t have.”
Councilman Scott Ping said the ordinance should keep 25 cents per hour instead of half hour.
“We have to encourage people any way we can to come downtown and support our commerce in this city. We can’t do it by raising the rates,” Ping said.
Council voted to remove parking meter rate raises of 25 cents per half hour.
City solicitor Dorothy McCrosson said the move is a major change, which would require the ordinance be re-advertised.
The city’s parking meters are in effect May 1 to Oct. 31. Council is scheduled to meet on May 3.
Also at the same meeting, council approved an ordinance setting parking fees for non-gated lots not to exceed $20, a five-dollar increase from the previous $15 fee. Fees for gated or pay station lots will have a maximum fee of $20, up from $18.
The cost of a parking permit for the Atlantic Avenue lot will increase from $650 to $750.
According to Donato, both ordinances could produce $225,000 to $250,000 in increased revenues.
Ping said he’s received negative feedback from residents who oppose increasing parking fees from $15 to $20.
“A majority of the people who live here in town did not think it was a good idea,” Ping said.
Resident Jim Tweed said the fees are necessary to maintain the city’s infrastructure.
“It’s easy for everyone to complain about every fee that goes up that they don’t want. I don’t like to pay them either, but I believe in the principle of those who enjoy the benefit should bear the burden,” he said. “I complain about my beach tag fees, but I understand why they’re there. Every time I go to the beach, it’s clean and protected.”
Hartzell said an increase would be a hardship for those visitors on a budget.
“I think there are people who work hard and one day down here is like two weeks to me. It’s the biggest day of their life,” Hartzell said. “They don’t have a lot of money to spend, but they’re here to enjoy it.”
Mayor Jay Gillian said the city doesn’t have tourism fees or room fees, and must turn to increased fees to raise revenue for maintaining services and infrastructure.
“We’re all using the services and everybody should pay, not just the taxpayers,” Gillian said. “We’re not gouging anybody, we’re not doing anything that other communities are doing.”