Town looks at parking options

With home sales down, and those transfer tax monies lessened, local municipalities and Sussex County government have been forced into both looking at cutting costs and increasing revenues. For beach towns, that often comes down to parking fees and fines.

But, as all of us know, parking headaches in our coastal towns often extend simply past the money. Sometimes, there just isn’t a space to be found.

With those factors in mind, the Fenwick Island Charter and Ordinance Committee recently discussed possible ways to alleviate parking woes, and improve the quality of life for both vacationers and residents in the bargain. The truth be told, it’s a pickle.

For towns like Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island, geography is against them. It’s just hard to find a place to put more parking. Add to that mix the existence of parking tag-only spaces and beach access, and you have what can be confusing — for more than just vacationers.

“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,” said Fenwick Island Police Chief Bill Boyden. “I would like to keep the process with permits as simple as possible.”

It’s true that it can be confusing. Vacationers can buy temporary parking tags, and sometimes assume that beach parking is included, and some parking spaces remain unused for long periods of times, while other parking locations are always filled.

Conversation in Fenwick Island has focused on authorizing daily and weekly parking permits, color-coding spots or simply posting more signs — with the two-fold purpose of pointing out other parking options, and also advertising the steep $75 parking fees in the town.

All great ideas, and ones that should continue to be in the mix as the issue is presented to town council.

The town of Fenwick Island spends about $2,500 each year on printing hanging tags and decals. Last year, the town brought in $18,000 in parking revenues. That’s a tidy profit of close to $15,000 — not bad, but certainly not enough to make up for sagging transfer taxes.

But parking is a commodity, particularly in a beach town. They should continue to study this issue, and get even stronger in one of their inherent strenghts.