By unanimous vote Feb. 2, Rehoboth Beach commissioners formally approved Meterless Monday for the entire 2021 summer season.
The city needs to be bold, and this is something that can be done to help the businesses, said Commissioner Richard Byrne, who has pushed for this business-related incentive for months.
Last summer, at the request of downtown businesses struggling to attract customers during the week, the city instituted Meterless Monday from 4 to 10 p.m. for the final eight weeks of the parking meter season. In a previous meeting, City Manager Sharon Lynn said the city lost an estimated $60,000 in parking meter revenue, or $7,500 per day, from the program last year.
There was a brief discussion on running the meterless program through June and then extending it if needed, but ultimately commissioners made the decision to do it the whole summer. As approved, the hours of 4 to 10 p.m. will remain the same.
Commissioner Jay Lagree said if the city is booming, revenue will be booming in all sectors, and the parking revenue lost because of the program won’t be missed.
Last summer, the city installed and paid for hundreds of barriers in parking spots along Rehoboth, Wilmington and Baltimore avenues so businesses could have outdoor dining on city sidewalks and still have pedestrian walkways. Months ago, commissioners approved a continuation of the program this summer, through the state of emergency.
During the recent meeting, commissioners agreed that the state of emergency will probably last into the summer and that it would not be good to stop the outdoor dining program in midsummer if restrictions were lifted halfway through.
Mayor Stan Mills said he would be inclined to let the program run through November rather than cut it short, because businesses need to be able to plan for the entire summer. There wasn’t a formal vote, but the other commissioners generally agreed with the assessment.
There is a change to how the outdoor dining program will be conducted this summer – primarily in who will pay for the barriers. This coming summer, the city will still procure and install the barriers, but business owners will cover the expense. Lynn said the city will determine how many barriers are needed for each business, and the cost to install the barriers will be $25 per barrier per month.
There’s still some question as to who will pay for the ADA-required ramps needed to get from the parking spots to the sidewalk. Lynn said each ramp costs approximately $1,000 to install.
The deadline for businesses to submit applications to the city for placement of outdoor barriers is Monday, March 1. Lynn said the city will be sending out letters to businesses reminding them of the deadline by the end of the week.