Lewes Mayor and City Council have restricted parking on four Lewes Beach streets after residents raised concerns over public safety and congestion on the narrow streets.
Motorists are now prohibited from parking on the west side of Vermont and New Hampshire avenues and the east side of Ohio and Oregon avenues. Council authorized the city manager and police chief to work together to place signs on the streets.
Some residents said the width of the streets is not the problem. They say it is the culmination of a slow encroachment of property owners on the city's rights of way over many years.
“The real problem is that year after year people are encroaching on these streets,” said resident Stephanie Tsantes. “They're putting big boulders, plantings; they're putting things to make it annoying for people like me, who enjoy old Lewes Beach, to be able to go there to use and enjoy our public land.”
Tstantes was against council restricting parking because it is such a precious commodity. She asked council to consider making the streets one way.
Council voted 4-1 to move forward with parking restrictions. Mayor Jim Ford was the dissenting vote, saying while he agreed with the intent, the encroachment problem is much broader than these four streets.
“The parking problem on Lewes Beach is quite involved and extensive,” he said. “We attempted to add additional parking spaces there, and we were basically railroaded out of town at that public meeting. I think it's a larger complex issue that needs further addressing without a simple one-time approach.”
Deputy Mayor Ted Becker said the width of the city's right of way is 50 feet in most areas of town, but a little narrower in others.
Resident Mike Tyler said a survey is in order.
“I think the city needs to define the right of way and establish where the city streets are and where the private property is,” he said.
Tasking the city engineer with surveying these four streets is a good first step in solving encroachment issues, Becker said. Before voting in favor of the motion, Becker noted that they may rescind the parking restrictions in the future.
Councilman Dennis Reardon, a Lewes Beach resident, said the parking situation is growing more dire each year. While the streets have not changed, he said, the number of visitors has dramatically increased in the last few years.
“The situation was tolerable in the past but with increased traffic, if you park on both sides of the street, you might be able to get a vehicle up the middle of the street,” he said, noting all four streets in question are two-way roads. “Some of these homes have encroached upon the street. That's something that's been done.”