Scooter lawsuit could reach resolution

Rehoboth Beach property owner and officials find common ground
A resolution to a year-long lawsuit against the city Rehoboth Beach regarding a scooter permit ordinance was discussed during the Streets and Transportation Committee meeting March 24. SOURCE FILE
March 31, 2014

A little face-to-face communication is sometimes all it takes.

A year-long lawsuit brought against the city of Rehoboth Beach regarding a recently enacted scooter permit ordinance took a step towards being resolved on Monday, March 24, when the plaintiff attended a Streets and Transportation Committee meeting to discuss a possible resolution. The presentation was well received.

Passed in March 2013, the 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.

Rehoboth Beach property owner Larry Myslewski filed a lawsuit against the city arguing the ordinance prohibited him from parking a scooter on a public street without a $40 permit, even though the city provides free parking permits for homeowners. He said this was a violation of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

The lawsuit was dismissed in October 2013, but Myslewski appealled to the Third District Court of Appeals. A federal mediator assigned to the case suggested Myslewski attend the committee meeting to seek common ground, Myslewski said.

Myslewski suggested the city follow a permit process similar to the one used for motorcycles, which allows one nontransferable permit per homeowner vehicle. Additionally, if that homeowner wanted to spend $40 for another permit for preferred parking associated with scooter parking corrals, it would be up to the homeowner.

Myslewski said he wanted to be able to park in front of his house, which doesn't have a driveway.

Before Myslewski even began talking and without realizing he was in the audience, committee members Cindy Lovett and Kathy Osterholm brought up issues with the scooter-permitting process they thought should be addressed before the 2015 summer season.

Osterholm said scooter parking should be more in line with other vehicle parking.

City Commissioner Toni Sharp, who sits on the committee, questioned why it would take until the 2015 season to make changes. She said the number of people whom this may affect is so narrow that making a change shouldn't be that big a challenge.

“It seems like it would be a very simple administrative fix. We have the framework in place. All we have to do is drive that little scooter right through,” she said.

City Commissioner Bill Sargent chairs the committee. At the beginning of the discussion he stood by the ordinance that was passed, saying that last year 600 people lived with it, and it seemed to work relatively well.

By the end of the discussion he appeared to have come around to Myslewski's idea, but not before hearing City Manager Sharon Lynn say adjusting signs would be a quick fix and Parking Department office manager June Embert say there would be no special issues with enforcement.

“It seems to be a fair thing to pass up to the commissioners,” Sargent said.

Following the discussion, Myslewski was pleased with the progress.

“It's only taken me a year for them hear this,” he said. “I think Sargent realizes this is something that should be taken up this year to fix an apparent inequity. That's the whole issue. I'm just looking for equity.”

A tentative decision was made to discuss a change to the ordinance during the mayor and commissioners April workshop scheduled for 9 a.m., Monday, April 7, at the Commissioners Room of Rehoboth Beach City Hall.

Elimination of parking on Surf Avenue

In other news, the committee discussed the elimination of all parking on the east side of Surf Avenue from Lake to Henlopen avenues to make room for a bicycle lane.

Rehoboth Beach resident Walter Brittingham opposed the proposal calling it drastic. It would be a pretty dramatic change for the people who use those parking spots on Surf Avenue when they go to the beach, he said.

Osterholm said a change to the parking situation on Surf Avenue had been discussed for years and was part of the bike route the city was trying to develop from the canal to Gordon's Pond.

Committee member Jim Ellison confirmed Osterholm's statement.

“We at the state now we we're coming up with the details to follow through on what was determined a long time ago,” he said.

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