Scooter riders in Rehoboth Beach will need a $40 permit to park in designated scooter parking areas this summer.
Scooter riders will need a permit to park in designated scooter corrals, where parking will be free, and to park in nonmetered car permit spaces. Scooters with or without permits can also be parked in metered spaces if the meter is paid.
Residents get free parking permits for their cars, but they will have to pay for scooter permits.
The new regulations, which the Rehoboth commissioners passed by a 6-1 vote, bans scooter parking on the sidewalks and at the bike racks.
Most parking corrals will be at the beach block street ends, with additional corrals near the Village Improvement Association clubhouse on Grenoble Place and near Deauville Beach on Oak and Park avenues.
At the March 15 commissioners' meeting, Commissioner Pat Coluzzi said the city's plan would add 180 spaces. The plan all along has been to have parking on the beach blocks, but to accommodate workers who ride their scooters into town, Coluzzi said, corrals would be available on Third Street and behind the Rehoboth fire hall. No scooter parking is planned on Rehoboth Avenue.
Coluzzi said city officials would look into more parking on Rehoboth Avenue, but, she said, the city was running out of time to design and print permits and develop a communication plan before summer.
Commissioner Stan Mills was the only “no” vote. He endorsed getting scooters off the sidewalks and away from bicycle racks, but he said he prefers free parking areas available for scooters.
Mills said he has doubts about the plan, saying the city was rushing forward.
“I just wish we were two months prior,” he said. “In my mind, I believe in the KISS philosophy: keep it simple for scooters, and the enforcers.”
Mills called for multiple free zones, using the space behind the fire hall among other spaces, while allowing scooters to pay for parking at metered spaces and at to park in permit spaces. He said there was never any analysis of any alternatives to the proposed plan.
Commissioners Bill Sargent and Lorraine Zellers said the commissioners need to provide places for scooters to park if scooters can no longer park on sidewalks or bike racks.
Voting in favor of the ordinance, Commissioner Patrick Gossett asked the streets and transportation committee to come up with a communication plan for the commissioners’ review.
Public opinion varies
Former mayoral candidate Bob Sokolove said by charging scooter riders to park, the city was taking away the convenience of riding a scooter into town. Sokolove said people from outside of town ride their scooters into town because they can’t find a place to park their cars.
“They have a way of parking conveniently. What you are doing is putting scooters in exactly the same position as the cars. They cannot find a place to park, and that is the problem,” he said.
One of the criticisms of the new $40 fee is that it is a revenue grab by the city.
Gossett said by converting 10 metered spaces, the city is giving up $13,000 in revenue, which means selling 338 scooter permits just to break even, Gossett said. He said that number is before factoring in the administrative costs of implementing the plan, such as printing permits and posting signs.
“We’re not making money on this folks,” Gossett said.
Commissioner Mark Hunker said, “It’s not about raising dollars. It is about keeping the scooters off the sidewalk.”
Sokolove, who agreed the $40 fee was not a money grab, argued that there have been no reported cases of pedestrians being hit by scooters on the sidewalk. He called the regulations “a solution in search of a problem.” Sokolove said the city has not made clear what the rules will be and has not considered the repercussions of the ordinance.
Mills said he has seen scooters ride on the sidewalk, and there is a safety issue.
“How many near-misses are acceptable? How many injuries or knocking someone over are acceptable? None,” he said.
Mayor Sam Cooper, while not 100 percent in agreement with the plan, said, “My bottom line is, I don’t think the scooters belong on the sidewalk.”
Scooter rider Sharon Messina, who works in Rehoboth, said she had no problem paying $40 for the permit. She said the locations of the scooter corrals favor beachgoers over workers, and that the city could make some allowances for scooters at the bike racks.
Linda Kauffman, 206 Laurel St., said the city should enforce what is on the books already in keeping motorized vehicles on the sidewalk, but the city should allow scooters to park on the bumpouts along Rehoboth Avenue. She said the city is exacerbating a parking shortage for cars.
Dennis Diehl, a member of the streets and transportation committee, said he would also like to see scooter parking that is more convenient for businesses and their employees.
“They’re going to stop using their scooters, which defeats some of the purpose of what we’re doing,” he said.
George Panerello, owner of All Wheels, said the city should enforce the law preventing scooters from riding on the sidewalk. He said the new parking areas were a good start, although the city should look into additional parking options downtown.
Coluzzi said the streets and transportation committee decided against Rehoboth Avenue spaces on the advice of the Rehoboth police department.
“I think we need to move forward with this plan,” she said. “We have 180 spaces. It’s not like we can never change it. Let’s move forward with what we have, and let’s look at possibly having something on the avenue if we need to.”
After the meeting, city manager Greg Ferrese announced that the scooter parking permits will on sale at 8:30 a.m., Monday, April 29. Permits will be available at the parking meter department, 30 ½ Rehoboth Ave. The city has already posted signs, made by the city's sign shop, but nothing will be enforced until parking regulations go into effect Friday, May 24.
Although it was not mentioned at the March 15 meeting, the planned park-in protest of the new regulations is still on for Saturday, May 25. Scooter riders plan to park at the parking meters during a busy summer day to show city officials how a mass of scooters parked at the meters could be a problem for the city.