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Lewes meters go online May 1

April 24, 2019

When Lewes’ parking meters go online Wednesday, May 1, people will see new machines and new kiosks in the city’s parking lots.

Crews from IPS Group were out and about this week installing new meters in the city’s downtown district. The new kiosks are next.

Mayor and city council approved the replacement of the city’s dated meters before adopting the annual budget. The estimated cost is about $216,000.

The city has 91 on-street, single-space meters. They were very old, and it was difficult to find parts to repair broken meters, said Lewes Parking Supervisor Dennis Crawford. The new meters will accept quarters and credit cards, and ParkMobile is still an option.

The kiosks were also old, with limited replacement parts available, and they used 3G modems that were going to be obsolete within the next few years.

The new kiosks are pay-by-plate, meaning users must enter their license plate number, including all letters such as PC, into the kiosk when paying. If the letters are not included, a citation will be issued. The kiosks will accept cash and credit cards, and ParkMobile is also an option.

Previously, people displayed a ticket from the kiosk on the dashboard of the vehicle. Crawford said his staff had a lot of trouble with that because wind would blow the ticket off the dashboard, resulting in unnecessary tickets and angry phone calls. The new method, he said, is better for everyone.

Although meter rates are not changing, mayor and city council voted to extend metered hours to 8 p.m. and add a 50-cent convenience charge to all credit card transactions at meters. The 50-cent charge will not apply to ParkMobile, which already charges a 50-cent convenience charge. 

The convenience charge became an option after the city chose single-head meters with a credit card option. City staff estimated a $20,000 bump in total fees paid for credit card transactions due to increased credit card use at meters.

Parking meters run from May 1 to Sept. 30 at the beach and to Oct. 14 in the downtown area. It is $2 per hour at the beach and $1 per hour downtown, not including a convenience fee for credit cards.

Also changing in the upcoming season is the parking fine structure. Parking meter fines will increase from $20 to $30, with seven days to pay before the fine increases. Other similar parking-related fines were also increased to $30.

If a ParkMobile user selects the wrong vehicle and receives a citation or inputs their license plate incorrectly, they must now pay a $10 administrative fee to have the ticket dismissed. City Manager Ann Marie Townshend said the city is getting a lot of requests to dismiss due to user error on the ParkMobile app.

Lewes to install new meters on Kings Highway
Council approves despite opposition from neighbors

Ignoring a petition from 20 nearby residents, Lewes Mayor and City Council approved the expansion of meters along Kings Highway from the Zwaanendael Museum to the beginning of the residential area. 

“This is one thing that was unanimous. I have signatures on there from every house, starting from the park all the way up to the fire station driveway and the house on the other side,” said Kings Highway resident Martin Yerick, who spearheaded the petition opposing meters. “It didn’t matter if we were young, old ... Trump supporters, not Trump supporters, everybody said the same thing.”

By adding meters, Yerick said, residents fear people will now park in front of their homes because it’s free. 

Deputy Mayor Fred Beaufait said the meters will more than pay for themselves in the first year, but it’s not about the money. For years, he said, people have been abusing nonmetered parking, using it to park all day, well beyond the two-hour limit, which is rarely enforced. Police Chief Tom Spell said it’s likely easier to enforce parking meters.

“The trend today is being able to park in front of the store you want to go to,” Beaufait said. “For several years, we’ve had free parking four blocks away, less than 10 minutes to walk, and nobody uses it. They will drive around the block time and again looking for a space on Second Street.”

There is enough space between Savannah Road and the residential area of Kings Highway to add 14 parking spaces, but council approved only 10 metered spaces. Two spaces in front of the Lewes Chamber of Commerce and two spaces near the Zwaanendael Museum will be unmetered for short-term parking and dropoffs and pickups. The new meters will be installed and the spaces will be marked before May 1. 

In the eight months Councilwoman Bonnie Osler has been serving on the city’s downtown parking committee, she said, she’s heard over and over from merchants that turnover in parking equals better business. By having meters on Kings Highway, she said, the parking enforcement staff can monitor the area to ensure no one is staying longer than allowed. 

“Can we accomplish the churn without parking meters? Yes, hypothetically, but I know we’ve had these struggles trying to enforce it,” Osler said. 

She urged nearby residents to monitor the parking situation in front of their homes and tell city officials if there are any problems.

“If this does become a burden, you come to us and tell us, and we can take those meters out,” she said. 

Council voted 4-1 to approve the new meters. Councilman Rob Morgan was the lone vote against. He said the public’s testimony convinced him it was not a good idea.