Update: Rehoboth to defend itself against scooter suit

Attorney argues $40 permit is unconstitutional
A federal lawsuit has been filed against the city of Rehoboth Beach arguing the new $40 scooter parking permit fee is unconstitutional. BY RYAN MAVITY
May 23, 2013

Rehoboth Beach Mayor Sam Cooper said the city would vigorously defend a federal class-action lawsuit over a new $40 scooter parking permit fee.

Rehoboth resident Lawrence Myslewski, 2 Dover St., filed suit May 20 in the U.S. District Court of Delaware alleging the new scooter permits violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment because residents have to pay for a scooter parking permit, but not for car or motorcycle permits.

Myslewski, who owns two Vespa scooters, said in the suit that he couldn’t park his scooter in front of his home without paying for a permit. His attorney, David Finger, said the scooter ordinance does not treat all motorists equally.

The suit calls the ordinance discriminatory and fails to achieve its stated goal of safe and effective scooter parking. The suit also says the ordinance does not prevent scooters from riding or parking on sidewalks, which is already prohibited in the city code.

“There is no basis to conclude that use of motor scooters results in any greater threat to public safety than any other form of motorized transportation such that different treatment is required,” the suit says.

Cooper said parking meters are not free to residents who go into the downtown commercial zone. He said while he would have liked to have an ordinance that closer resembles the city’s policy on cars, the commissioners tried to make the regulations as simple as possible and to avoid having multiple types of scooter parking permits.

The driving force behind the ordinance, Cooper said, was to get scooters off the sidewalks, where they had been parking at and around the bike racks.

“It’s pretty clear that scooters are a motor vehicle. Why were they allowed to park on the sidewalk?” he said.

If the city was going to ban scooters from parking on sidewalks, the commissioners wanted to find them a place to park, Cooper said, since the use of scooters in Rehoboth has substantially grown over time. The commissioners decided to create scooter parking corrals around the city, mostly in the beach block street ends, but with some in the commercial areas, by taking away car parking spaces and converting them to scooter parking. In order to make up for the lost revenue, Cooper said, the commissioners instituted the $40 permit.

Finger is asking the ordinance be declared unconstitutional and for judgment including costs and attorneys fees. He does not yet know how big the class is, because the suit was just filed. Finger said he has no timetable on when the case would be heard.

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