Judge dismisses Rehoboth scooter suit

Homeowner says he'll appeal ruling
October 22, 2013

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of scooter permits in Rehoboth Beach.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Andrews ruled the scooter ordinance and scooter parking-permit program do not violate equal protection laws.

“The court holds that the use of a parking-permit system is rationally related to the legitimate objective of preventing motor scooters from parking on the sidewalks and in bike racks. The inquiry ends there,” Andrews wrote in his seven-page opinion.

The scooter ordinance requires scooter riders who want to park in nonmetered areas to buy a permit. The city also enforced existing laws that prohibited vehicles, including scooters, on sidewalks.

Passed in March, the ordinance was challenged by Rehoboth resident and scooter rider Larry Myslewski. His attorney, David Finger, argued the ordinance prohibited Myslewski from parking a scooter on a public street without a $40 permit, even though the city provides free parking permits for homeowners. Finger said this was a violation of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

City attorney Megan Mantzavinos said the ordinance served a legitimate legislative purpose: promoting public safety for pedestrians by getting scooters off the sidewalks, while providing alternative parking areas throughout town.

In response to Myslewski’s argument that scooters were being treated differently than cars, Andrews wrote, “But motor scooters are distinct from other vehicles in that motor scooters are the only types of vehicles which can easily access and be driven on sidewalks.”

Andrews agreed with Mantzavinos’ contention that the parking-permit system was a viable way to discourage scooter riders from parking and driving on the sidewalk.

Myslewski said he plans to appeal Andrews’ ruling. He said the suit is not about safety or a permit fee, but about residents being issued free permits to park each of their motor vehicles on public streets, while people who own scooters must pay. Myslewski said his property on Dover Street is unusual in that he has to park on the street: he has no driveway and there is no sidewalk.

He said the city provides homeowners with permits for not only cars, but also for motorcycles, some of which are smaller than scooters, to park on public streets. Myslewski said this is discriminatory towards scooter owners and a violation of his equal protection rights.

“That’s the focus of this lawsuit,” Myslewski said. “We expect it to continue.”

He said he does not know the number of homeowners who are also scooter owners, but he said he believes the number is around 100. Myslewski said he believes the scooter ordinance is about raising revenue and not about addressing safety.

Meanwhile, city officials were happy the suit was dismissed.

City solicitor Glenn Mandalas said, “The mayor, commissioners, and city manager deserve a strong congratulations for having the determination and willpower to tackle sometimes controversial legislation directed at preserving the unique quality of life that makes Rehoboth Beach special.  The court affirmed the good intentions of our local elected and appointed city officials.”

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