Lewes Beach parking permits not likely for 2021 season

Possible system will be discussed at future public workshop
February 19, 2021

Don’t expect to see a parking permit system on Lewes Beach this summer, as mayor and city council determined there is still a lot of work to do before making a decision.

At their Feb. 11 meeting, city officials tasked city hall staff with further development of the idea before holding a public discussion at a future workshop or hearing. 

“There is a lot involved in doing this correctly, transparently and with the input of the public,” said City Manager Ann Marie Townshend. “We plan to increase parking enforcement for the coming season, but permits are likely a 2022 change.”

Mayor Ted Becker agreed.

“It will take time to develop the plan, share with the community for their feedback, work out the funding details and then implement it,” Becker said.

Finer details that would need to be ironed out include who would be eligible to get a permit, associated fees, where to purchase passes and other issues. Becker said it’s likely the city would charge a fee for a permit.

“I think we would try to structure the parking pass system to be self-funding,” he said, noting that not everyone in the city uses the beach.

Mayor and city council are in the midst of 2021-22 budget meetings. At this time, they are planning to hire additional staff to enforce parking regulations in the non-metered area from Savannah Road to Roosevelt Inlet. If a permit system is approved and implemented in the future, such personnel would also be responsible for enforcing it.

“They’ll monitor parking and serve as a presence of the city on the beach, and have a salutary effect on some of the behaviors that have been brought to our attention,” said Deputy Mayor Bonnie Osler.

Those behaviors, as described by Lewes Beach residents, include using the dune area as a restroom, changing clothes next to parked cars, littering and even using outdoor showers without permission.

As it relates to a permit system, Osler said she is not in favor of capping parking permits because it is not common at other Delaware beach communities.

“That’s just not the way it’s done,” she said.

A parking permit system is just one of 11 recommendations developed by the city’s beach parking committee over 12 virtual meetings. At city council’s Feb. 11 meeting, the group adopted three recommendations as presented by the committee, referred seven to city staff for additional work and referred one to the bicycle and pedestrian advisory committee for analysis.

Recommendations referred to city staff include:

  • Surveying the streets between Cedar Street and the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal
  • Clustering mailboxes where feasible 
  • Ensuring the city’s application of its right-of-way policy be consistent, prospective and enforced with consideration for preservation of trees, and safety for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians
  • Maintaining the status quo for parking on paper streets – streets that are marked on the Sussex County tax map, but do not exist as such – and former paper streets that were rezoned to open space
  • Developing and implementing a parking permit system
  • Reviewing bicycle safety issues, including adding a bike lane on Cedar Street. Staff is expected to consult with the bicycle and pedestrian advisory committee and DelDOT
  • Ensuring consistency of “no parking” signage.

Recommendations receiving council approval at the Feb. 11 meeting include:

  • Annually restriping lines to delineate parking spaces at Children’s Beach House and in front of Lewes Yacht Club, as well as lines to mark 30-foot restricted parking areas from stop signs on Cedar Street
  • No expansion of the public parking lots on Cape Henlopen Drive
  • Enforcement of rules governing parking on Lewes Beach, specifically parking within any designated areas and parking within prohibited areas.

Mayor and city council referred to the bicycle and pedestrian advisory committee a recommendation to add more bike racks at the beach parking lots, including Roosevelt Inlet, and to add bike racks or posts to a few beach dune crossings.

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