Lewes Beach parking talk just starting

April 23, 2014

Lewes Mayor and Council opened a can of worms recently when members voted 4-1 to restrict public parking on four Lewes Beach streets. The vote came in response to complaints from resi­dents about safety and congestion issues on the narrow streets.

In one of his final votes during more than two decades of public service in Lewes, Mayor Jim Ford cast the dissenting vote. No truer words were spoken than when he said the issue is far more extensive than limiting parking on just four streets.

It will be surprising if in the next few months many more residents on the dozens of other narrow beach streets don’t come before council asking for the same treatment. But, as former council member Stephanie Tsantes pointed out at the meeting, the restrictive measure imposed by the council further limits public parking on Lewes Beach while not addressing the root cause.

That problem, as anyone who has any kind of historical per­spective on Lewes Beach knows full well, is the well-established encroachment of proper­ty owners into the public right-of-way. That is what is forcing more and more people to park in the travel lanes.

But the causes don’t end there. As rapid growth continues around the edges of Lewes, the demand to use the pretty, public Delaware Bay beach in Lewes is also increasing. And, when Lewes several years ago increased the building height and permissible footprint of houses on Lewes Beach, more bedrooms were built, bringing more renters to occupy them; and with more renters, more cars.

The restrictions enacted by Lewes are a band-aid. Encroachment that takes away public parking for a public resource must be addressed squarely, or it will only get worse.

While that is being addressed, Lewes also needs to look south toward Rehoboth Beach and Dewey Beach where similar issues have been discussed and addressed for years.

With demand growing for such a popular public resource - the beach - can a parking permit system be far off?

  • Editorials are considered by the editorial board and written by Laura Ritter, news editor, and Dennis Forney, publisher, with occasional contributions from other board members: Trish Vernon, editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; Nick Roth, sports editor; and Chris Rausch, associate publisher.