With concerns growing over parking, Lewes Mayor and City Council have created two new committees to tackle the issues head on.
One committee will analyze the parking situation on Lewes Beach, including public parking lots and on-street parking on the residential streets. The other committee is tasked with looking at parking in the downtown business district. “We’ve been mired with this problem for a long time, and I don’t know what we’re going to come up with in terms of resolutions,” Mayor Ted Becker said. “But I think there are some options, and I look forward to seeing how creative we can be.”
In April, council unanimously voted to authorize City Manager Ann Marie Townshend and city staff to begin clearing the right of way on all city streets, particularly the roadways between Cedar Street and Bay Avenue on Lewes Beach.
Frustrations have mounted over the years, as residents, summer visitors and single-day beach users battle over parking in the residential neighborhood. Over the years, property owners have taken over city-owned rights of way and extended their landscaping, hardscaping and other amenities close to the roadway. The result is a very narrow path for vehicles to pass through, especially with cars parked on both sides. Some beach residents have testified before council, saying property owners and renters of Lewes Beach homes have become very aggressive in their attempts to keep people from parking in front of their homes, from the use of cones to pouring jelly on cars.
Becker suggested a possible approach at the June 5 capital projects committee meeting. He said the city could consider adding parking to the main beach parking lot by removing the sandy dune between the existing parking lot and Cape Henlopen Drive. They could rebuild the dune between the parking lot and the bay to prevent sand from blowing onto the pavement.
In downtown, city officials recently learned of a discrepancy that requires some businesses to have off-street parking, while it is not required for others. Council voted 3-1 at its April 9 meeting to amend the off-street parking requirements in the Town Center zoning district to fix the issue; however, parking remains a general concern in the downtown area.
The goals of the committee will include reviewing existing regulations to ensure they are consistent and the issues of encroachment are being addressed. They will also review alternative sites for the possible expansion of public parking. The groups are required to hold at least one joint meeting, and recommendations must be submitted to council no later than Monday, Oct. 15.
“We want a timely response should either of these committees come forth with recommendations that would require budgetary [requests] or personnel issues,” Becker said. “That way they would be done in a timely manner so they can be considered for our 2020 budget.”
The beach parking committee will comprise Deputy Mayor Fred Beaufait, Councilman Dennis Reardon, a beach resident, a frequent beach user who is not a beach resident, a beach-based business owner and Townshend.
The downtown business district committee will comprise Becker, Councilwoman Bonnie Osler, a downtown business owner, a historic district resident, a chamber of commerce representative and Townshend.