Parking in downtown Lewes will cost $1 per hour when meters go into effect in May.
Lewes Mayor and City Council approved the measure Jan. 13, which is estimated to generate an additional $30,000 in revenue annually. Officials also voted to begin charging for use of handicap parking spaces throughout town during the meter season.
Visitors will see the quarter increase when parking in the business district and the parking lots at 1812 Park, Canalfront Park and W. Third Street. The lots at Lewes Beach will not be affected by the increase.
“I think this is an equitable solution to perhaps raise some revenue,” said Deputy Mayor Ted Becker, also chair of the city's finance committee.
City Financial Officer Ellen Loraine McCabe indicated revenue from the parking increase could surpass the original $30,000 estimate, Becker said.
City council purposely held off on taking action on the item in December in order to provide the public an opportunity to share their opinions with the city. Mayor Jim Ford drafted a letter that was distributed to business owners by the Lewes Chamber of Commerce.
“We did hear back from about five members of the business community and as you might imagine there were probably five different opinions,” he said.
He said the responses varied from folks in favor of the change to those who called for year-round meters to those against the increase.
The city has raised property taxes twice since the last time meter rates were modified five years ago. Becker said this is right time.
“I think it's a prudent move on the part of the city,” he said.
Even with the increase, Lewes will remain among the cheapest municipalities to park in throughout Sussex County's resort area. A parking meter rate of $1.50 per hour is in effect during the summer season in Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach and Bethany Beach.
Mayor and City Council also eliminated Lewes' free parking policy for those using handicap spaces. Instead, the city will move forward with an “all park, all pay” outlook. Councilman Fred Beaufait said the move will bring Lewes in line with the rest of the state.
“When the traffic committee did its study, it found that Lewes was the last town in the state of Delaware to have free parking for the handicapped,” he said.
Among the comments received by the city were people calling for more handicap spaces because of Lewes' older population. Beaufait said that would be difficult because one handicap space will eliminate two regular spot.
"We have a parking problem as it is, and I would hate to exacerbate that problem by adding additional handicap parking," he said.
Paid parking for handicap spaces will also take effect when meters go online in May.