Lewes council addresses beach parking issues

Parking enforcement aims to stop space saving
April 30, 2021

With the summer season rapidly approaching, Lewes Mayor and City Council considered two issues affecting parking at the beach. 

It is not uncommon to see cones or other objects placed in front of homes on Lewes Beach. Some are used to ensure a driveway isn’t blocked, while others purposely prevent parking in front of homes.

With parking enforcement officers planning to patrol the residential streets for the first time this summer, city officials are attempting to clearly state in city code what is not allowed.

Mayor and city council couldn’t quite finalize language at its April 26 meeting, but will likely revisit the issue at its May meeting with a new council. 

“I get the spirit of it ... the idea that people are putting out cones to restrict parking, but I don’t know if it’s specific enough to what constitutes this action versus a tree,” said Councilman Andrew Williams.

City Manager Ann Marie Townshend said the city’s right of way policy that was adopted in 2018 says residents are not to place anything such as landscaping or trees in the right of way.

Deputy Mayor Bonnie Osler said the policy is forward-looking; it does not deal with existing obstructions.

The parking enforcement supervisor is seeking better clarity for his crew, Townshend said. They want something added to city code that can be cited as a violation if they’re going to move or confiscate items in the right of way.

Lewes Beach resident Kevin McGuiness, a member of the city’s beach parking committee, said the city needs to do more work before adopting the proposed changes.

“There is quite a bit of confusion as to where the public spaces on different streets are on Lewes Beach,” McGuiness said. “If we’re going to have an actionable item involving the police, it would be helpful if people knew where these parking spaces are.”

A recent survey of all properties between Cedar Street and Bay Avenue revealed that the city’s right of way is not in the middle of each street. In some cases, there is little to no space between the paved surface and a home. The city’s right of way is inconsistent throughout Lewes Beach.

Councilman Rob Morgan pointed out that some residents have added signs that say parking is reserved. Some of those signs are simply to alert people that a driveway exists so they do not block access to a home. Many driveways on Lewes Beach blend in with the streetscape because they are natural without stones, pavers or asphalt.

“I don’t think under any circumstances would we keep somebody from doing something to make sure their driveway isn’t blocked,” Townshend said.

Morgan recommended code be updated to clearly state signs are prohibited except to denote a driveway.

Mayor Ted Becker said it’s important mayor and city council provide the parking enforcement team with clear direction this summer, and that he hopes to have the issue resolved in May. 

There are special circumstances when the city may grant a designated parking space for a resident. Becker said the city was contacted by a handicapped resident of Lewes Beach who has no off-street parking and no ability to add parking on their property. Situations such as that would be handled on a case-by-case basis, he said.

Parking on Cape Henlopen Drive

Council also discussed a proposal by the Delaware Department of Transportation to prohibit parking along both sides Cape Henlopen Drive from the Cape May-Lewes Ferry terminal to Cape Henlopen State Park. 

Morgan, who lives in Cape Shores next to the state park, opposed the state’s plan. He said the problem was infrequent, as people only parked along the road a few times last summer when the state park reached its reduced 60 percent capacity limit. Even then, he said, most cars did not block the bike lane or prevent people from walking along the road. 

It was discovered the city already prohibits parking along the beach side of Cape Henlopen Drive from Savannah Road to the state park. Morgan suggested the city amend code to allow parking. 

“Unless there’s a problem I don’t see, I don’t understand why we would want to ban people from parking along the bayside,” he said. 

In conversation with DelDOT, Townshend said the state considers parking along Cape Henlopen Drive to be a public safety concern for bicyclists and pedestrians. 

Councilman Tim Ritzert said most people can use common sense when parking; if terrain requires the car to partially block the bike path, they likely won’t park there. 

Osler disagreed. 

“People on vacation don’t always exercise the same degree of common sense that they do at home,” she said. 

She said she dislikes sign clutter, but sometimes it’s necessary to tell people what they can and cannot do. 

Mayor and city council unanimously voted to ask DelDOT to not move forward with banning parking on the north/beach side of Cape Henlopen Drive. Council also noted that hunters also occasionally use the south side of the road to park.

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter