Local contractors and construction workers will have a much easier time paying for parking this summer season in Bethany Beach, after a move recently by town officials aimed at easing what had become a financial burden for many.
Adopted partly due to complaints and feedback from the contracting community, Bethany’s parking fees for contractors have been cut by nearly 50 percent and went immediately into effect. The full town council will vote on making the measure permanent during their next official meeting, later this month.
“This was honestly something that we had been thinking about doing anyway,” admitted Terry Gordon, parking director for the Town of Bethany Beach. “But after hearing feedback from the contracting community, we decided that [what we implemented] was a good rate because it gives them the flexibility to park in either the paid parking or the residential parking areas.”
The old rates of $27 daily, $79 for three days and $135 for five days had been in place since 2015. These were considerably higher than other nearby beach towns, leaving some contractors in Bethany Beach with what they felt was an unfair financial burden.
The new rate of $15 per day was developed by taking the hourly rate of $2 and multiplying it by the 7.5 hours per day that contractors are allowed to legally work during the summer months, not counting the hours of 8 to 10 a.m., when parking enforcement has not yet begun for the day.
The rate cuts parking fees nearly in half for contractors working during the traditional summer season, but some, including Ocean View builder Bruce Mears, claim it’s still not enough.
He compared the new rates with those offered to other local businesses in the town, which run $50 per week, or 25 percent less than the $75 weekly rate now offered to contracting companies and their employees.
“I just feel that if other businesses can get that parking pass for $50, why can’t construction workers?” he said. “They can very easily put terms and conditions on it, indicating that it’s only good at the construction site and during construction hours. It makes me feel like we’re being discriminated against because we’re construction workers.”
Even with the recent reduction in fees, parking fees in Bethany Beach are still considerably higher than in neighboring beach communities.
Though Bethany officials said they feel the comparisons are unfair, a deeper look is nonetheless warranted, they said.
Rehoboth Beach, Southern Delaware’s largest and most visited coastal resort town, offers transferrable parking passes for $250 for the summer season, or $225 for a non-transferrable sticker. Other rates there are $90 for a weekly parking pass, $45 for the weekend or $15 to $20 daily, depending on the day of the week.
Additionally, if someone has applied for and been approved for a business license in Rehoboth Beach, they are given one free parking permit for the summer season. Additional passes can be purchased at regular rates.
For those who have a business license in South Bethany, up to five parking permits are handed out free of charge for the summer season. To the south, Fenwick Island offers unlimited parking permit decals for $5 each that are needed from May 15 to Sept. 15.
For further comparison, across the state line in Ocean City, Md., a parking plan is required by the Town for any work being done during the traditional summer months. Plans must be approved by the planning and zoning department, clearly indicating where employees will be parking, if work is being done during the summer.
Sufficient parking is required in Ocean City businesses’ parking plans, though meters could also be used if necessary.
“Comparing Bethany Beach to the surrounding towns is really like comparing apples to oranges,” said John Apple, Bethany Beach code enforcement officer and assistant town manager. “Others don’t have a boardwalk that goes up to the beach, and Rehoboth is just a much larger area. We only regulate a quarter of the town of Bethany Beach, and people can park wherever they want to in the rest of town.”
Much of what Apple and other town officials said they deal with daily is finding a balance between summer visitors, and local business owners and contractors. It’s never an easy task, he said.
“We hear the concerns, but we also receive a lot of complaints from residents and renters about construction that’s allowed to occur during the summer months,” said Apple. “We try to accommodate contractors by allowing construction to continue through the summer. But at the same time, people are spending a lot of money to rent properties here, and they want peace and quiet and places to park their cars while they’re here.”
A final vote that would make the new parking fees in Bethany Beach permanent will occur when the town council meets on Friday, June 21.
By James Diehl
Special to the Coastal Point