Ocean City Today
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Parking task force criticized prior to launch

Parking task force criticized prior to launch
By Greg Ellison | May 10, 2018
Photo by: Greg Ellison The City Council received instant blow back on Monday after voting the previous week to form a parking task force to examine the feasibility of adding on street paid parking from 11th to 33rd streets oceanside.

(May 11, 2018) After voting last week to form a parking task force to examine the feasibility of instituting metered parking from 11th to 33rd streets oceanside, the City Council received quick criticism during its meeting on Monday.

During a fiscal year 2019 budget final review on May 1, the council voted 6-0, with Councilman John Gehrig absent, to form a group to study the matter in greater detail and report back by the end of the year.

Councilman Tony DeLuca said, while making a motion to create a parking task force last Tuesday, the task force approach has proved fruitful on other fronts.

“It’s been successful with the special event zones and the Boardwalk,” he said.

At that time, Councilwoman Mary Knight said although potential changes would not be implemented earlier than next tourism season, initial estimates from City Engineer Terry McGean indicate the roughly 20-block stretch could generate a substantial sum.

“Right now I think it’s conservatively $578,000 in revenue, which is a lot of money,” she said.

While the area in question would likely pull in more than $909,000 in annual paid parking revenue, the city is subtracting roughly $331,000 for lost revenue from resident permits and associated costs.

On Monday, former councilman Vince Gisriel reminded the council a similar proposal five years ago resonated poorly with residents.

“Back in 2013, I was involved in a very successful petition drive that really squashed that concept,” he said.

The issue united residents, tenants, absentee owners, businesses and Realtors for a common cause, Gisriel said.

“The mayor and council at that time decided to kill that ordinance, rather than let it go to the voters,” he said.

While prior efforts also involved a limited number of streets, Gisriel said the concern five years ago was that it would set a precedent.

“Once it got established, it was the beginning of more to come,” he said.

Based on his read of the public pulse, Gisriel said negative sentiments linger on the issue.

“I’m confident in telling you this community will rile up again against it,” he said. “There will be another petition because they don’t want it to go forward.”

Gisriel also noted Mayor Rick Meehan had previously pledged opposition to additional on street paid parking.

“You made a commitment back in 2013, as long as you were mayor you would never sign an ordinance allowing [for paid] on street parking,” he said.

For her part, Knight said the 2013 discussion was focused on ocean blocks in north Ocean City, and an increasing number of day trip visitors.

“The mistake I made in 2013 … I didn’t think about a parking permit in the area you live in, not a citywide one,” she said.

In the interim, Knight said she researched how other tourist areas, like Fenwick Island and Annapolis, have expanded paid parking.

“I think we would be irresponsible not to look at it again,” she said. “It’s about $600,000 and that’s with giving people parking permits in those areas.”

Councilmen Matt James and Wayne Hartman said they might support the changes based on the inclusion of low-cost resident parking permits.

“I would like to hear what the task force has to say and what recommendations they could make,” James said.

Councilman Dennis Dare said although the fiscal 2019 budget is nearly completed and balanced, next year’s financial package would prove more difficult to reconcile.

“We need to look at additional revenue as opposed to reductions of services in town,” he said. “There are so many competing needs that we need to look at everything.”

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