Fenwick Island’s Charter and Ordinance Committee met Tuesday, Dec. 4, to discuss several issues, including the town’s parking situation — primarily east of Coastal Highway — and voter eligibility.
“The parking situation is something that the staff here at Town Hall has to deal with on a daily basis,” said Town Manager Tony Carson.
Currently, each household can receive a hanging permit-type tag that grants access to the beach end, and two bumper sticker decals, which allow for parking on side streets. The cost for printing hanging tags and decals runs the town approximately $2,500. The town received revenue of approximately $18,000 last season, netting close to $15,000.
“There are usually one or two streets that are filled every day,” said Carson, “but if you go through the other nine, most of those spots are empty.” Carson proposed that the town could increase revenue by selling day or weekend parking passes at reasonable prices.
One of the primary concerns with the town’s parking situation is confusion over the temporary tags that are sold to vacationers, who mistake a regular town parking permit with a beach access parking permit. “People will come in and assume that just because they have a hanging permit, they can park right at the beach, and we have to do something to clarify that.”
Fenwick Island Police Chief William Boyden agreed that the confusion has been a problem for the town.
“I agree that something must be done on an enforcement level,” he said. “Since I’ve been here for five years, I’ve found the permit parking to be very confusing to me, the property owners and even more confusing to the tourists. I would like to keep the process with the permits as simple as possible.”
Boyden suggested using a universal permit for the town, with specific markings to denote daily or weekly parking, whether it is a punch-out marking or a designated color. The lack of improved shoulders throughout town poses constrictions, with no painted curbs to designate appropriate parking spots, noted Boyden.
“You can spray paint gravel, but in two weeks, it will likely be gone,” he said. He suggested that parking situation would work more fluently and cause less confusion if signage was improved.
“If we posted the fines,” he said, “that will be a preventative measure. People will think twice about where they’re parking if it’s going to cost them $75. We’ve got some of the highest parking fines on the East Coast.”
Committee member Buzz Henifin said the town should consider striping side streets with parking, implying that newer and better methods of doing so are available today. “If we can associate certain colors with allowed parking spots and label a marked map at the town hall,” he said, “there shouldn’t be that much confusion. All we need to do is color-code certain zones.”
Mayor Audrey Serio added that the confusion with beach parking only escalates safety risks. “People start parking where they want,” she said, “then cars can’t get in and out of the beach parking spots.”
Council Member Chris Clark, who sat in on the meeting, offered some suggestions, such as establishing golf cart parking to encourage more versatile means of transportation around town, and larger bike racks, which could alleviate congestion at beach accesses. He noted that the environmental committee needs to be aware of the conditions, as well, and should offer any suggestions they may have.
“There are plenty of bigger solutions out there,” Clark said. “This isn’t something that’s going to be solved today.” The issue will be presented to the town council for further examination.
Board of Elections (BOE) Chairwoman Mary Wright and Charter and Ordinance Committee Member Henifin (who also holds a seat on the town’s BOE) addressed at Tuesday’s meeting some of the issues with the town’s election procedure, as Carson made a formal presentation.
“There are concerns that we have looked at in the past,” said Carson following the meeting. Last year, the state passed legislation specifying requirements for voting within towns and districts. “There were some slight changes we need to make,” Carson continued, “when looking at voter eligibility. Obviously, we have to follow what the state wants, but each town has the responsibility to enforce the way they handle voting and elections.”
Among issues discussed were voting requirements and proper handling of registered voters within the town.
“There could be trust corporations that own property in the town,” said Carson. “We need to look at all of them and decide where eligibility comes in and how we should handle their votes,” said Carson.
The BOE is expected to meet amongst themselves and with Carson, Boyden and the council before scheduling a meeting with the town solicitor to further discuss the election and voting issues.