Ocean City Today

Fourth of July inlet parking fees revamped

Resort officials test out new tiered system that adjusts for lot turnover this holiday
By Katie Tabeling | Jun 22, 2017
File Photo The inlet parking lot filled early last Fourth of July.

(June 23, 2017) The Ocean City Council has agreed to implement a tiered fee structure for inlet lot parking for this Fourth of July, lowering prices as the day goes on to entice visitors to park there as other cars leave.

During Monday’s session, the council voted to start charging visitors $50 to park in the inlet lot if they arrived between 6 a.m. and noon. After noon, that fee drops to $30, and lowers to $20 for cars arriving at 3 p.m.

For the last four years, the city has charged a $50 flat fee for premium parking at the inlet lot before 3 p.m. and $30 after 3 p.m. The idea behind this policy was to relieve congestion from everyone leaving the parking lot after the fireworks are finished, but Public Works Director Hal Adkins pointed out this system did not encourage turnover.

“When we created the flat fee, the lot was filled to capacity by 11:20 a.m. What we did not foresee was that people would pay the $50, then leave at some point. That leaves a situation where we had open spots,” he said. “With the Fourth falling on a Tuesday this year, we have concerns filling the lot.”

Originally, Adkins and his staff proposed further dropping the flat parking fee to $10 for cars that park in the inlet lot after 6 p.m. Councilman Wayne Hartman supported the tiered system, but had issues with the $10 flat fee.

Metered parking on the streets or other lots is $3 an hour, so the $10 flat rate for the inlet lot after 6 p.m. would be a better deal than four hours elsewhere. Hartman made a motion to keep the bottom rate at $20.

Councilman Dennis Dare disagreed and argued to keep the current policy in place, noting that the tiered system would apply only if the holiday falls on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.

“I’ve never seen available parking downtown after seeing 35 years of Fourth of Julys. A lot of our downtown residents sell their parking spots more than this [$50],” Dare said. “It stands to reason we would fill up first and they fill up later. I think we’re overthinking this.”

Hartman countered that the spaces sold by property owners were market driven, and the city should strive to provide excellent customer service to its visitors.

“We don’t want people to go to Ocean City and say they got gouged for parking,” he said. “There’s no reason to take advantage of anybody as long as we’re not hurting ourselves.”

Mayor Rick Meehan pushed for the new tiered system, including Hartman’s strike of the $10 rate, as it solved all the problems at hand.

“We first thought people would pay the $50 and stay until midnight, and we were surprised when people didn’t stay the whole day and left in the middle of the afternoon,” Meehan said.

“The real purpose is to create a system that helps traffic flow, compensate the town, increase our revenue but to still be fair to the public … charging an exorbitant fee is not our purpose.

“We have business along there that want to see that lot full,” he added. “This will accomplish all of that.”

The City Council voted 5-1 to adopt the new fee structure, but to revisit the matter if the holiday again falls on a Tuesday. Dare dissented and Councilman John Gehrig was absent.

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