In the interest of public safety, Dewey Beach Town Council will eliminate 29 metered parking spaces on Dickinson Avenue.
Council voted 3-1 Feb. 8 to remove center-street parking before the summer season and place barriers in the median to guide pedestrians and motorists.
“We have no horse in the race,” said Len Read, co-chair of the town's public safety committee. “We'd just like to see something done for the health and the safety of the public.”
Businesses, residents and police have all asked for changes to the parking situation on Dickinson, one of the busiest streets in Dewey during the summer. The road between Ruddertowne and The Rusty Rudder becomes so congested on weekends, Beach Ride Taxi owner Jim Allen tells his drivers to pick up and drop off customers on Route 1.
“Come 10:30, 11 o'clock my drivers don't go down there,” he said. “Something has to be done or someone is going to get seriously hurt.”
Although the change was approved, council did not move forward with a broader plan to redesign the street. Highway One had offered to construct a sidewalk along the north side of the street at its own expense. Highway One and DBE would've worked together to construct and maintain a center-lane island on Dickinson.
Councilman David Jasinski said he wants to wait until the second phase of Ruddertowne is more clear before moving forward with a redesign of the Dickinson Avenue. He said he believes eliminating the center parking addresses the immediate safety concern. In the meantime, he would like to see the town consult a planner regarding the street.
Councilwoman Anna Legates agreed, saying she didn't want to move forward with a project that may not be appropriate in the next few years.
“I'm so tired of piecemealing items in this town,” she said. “If we piecemeal this, we'll regret it.”
The center parking spaces were added to Dickinson and Van Dyke avenues as part of the Ruddertowne construction project. Residents have also expressed a desire to have the center spaces removed from Van Dyke. Town Manager Marc Appelbaum said that issue may be addressed at a later time.
“The idea was we felt [parking] is a precious commodity and we do not want to take them out unless there is an urgent need,” he said. “The feelings were that there is an urgent need on Dickinson that does not exist to the same extent on Van Dyke.”
As part of the tentative agreement with Appelbaum, Highway One agreed to reimburse the town for the lost meter revenue for three years, estimated to be about $30,000 annually. However, Appelbaum said, he does not know if Highway One is willing to honor their part of the deal without the other components included.
Mayor Diane Hanson, the lone dissenting vote, said she saw the sidewalk and median as an important piece of solving the public safety issue.
“We're really making a mistake,” she said. “If you don't have a sidewalk, you're not [solving] the problem of people walking among those cars.”