After months of discussion over a committee-generated list of suggestions, Rehoboth commissioners have finalized parking changes for the 2019 season that raise prices on commercial-area meters, but keep the status quo on permits for property owners.
Commissioners came to their Jan. 18 meeting with all but a few details figured out for this year. At the beginning of the discussion, Mayor Paul Kuhns said the changes were a good start, but by no means the end of the discussion on parking.
During the public comment portion of the commissioners’ meeting, Parking Committee Chair Linda Kauffman said she was disappointed with the commissioners’ decision to piecemeal committee recommendations. The idea is to incentivize people to move, she said, which isn’t going to happen if they aren’t inconvenienced.
The goal was to create more parking, without physically making more parking, said Kauffman.
All the commissioners agreed to increase the cost of meters in a significant portion of the commercial district from $2 an hour to $3 an hour – Rehoboth Avenue, from the Boardwalk to Fourth Street; Baltimore and Wilmington avenues, from the Boardwalk to Second Street; First Street, from Baltimore to Wilmington avenues. On Rehoboth Avenue, from Fourth Street to Canal Street, the meters will remain $2 an hour.
Commissioners also agreed to impose 3-hour time limits for meters on Rehoboth Avenue, on both the island side and the storefront side, making them all uniform.
The number of parking spots designated for use of the post office on Rehoboth Avenue will decrease from seven to five. The change comes in the form of unmetered spaces, which are dropping to three from five. There will still be two more spaces that are unmetered during the day, but instead of the meters turning on at 6 p.m., they will now turn on at 5 p.m.
Kuhns said the postmaster said the change in parking was fine. Kuhns said she said post office customers may also use the parking lot in the back.
Former Mayor Sam Cooper spoke out against reducing the number of post office parking spots. It’s clearly the most-sought destination on a daily basis, he said. It’s going to create more people driving around looking for spaces in an area that already has more accidents, he said.
In a move Commissioner Stan Mills described as a housekeeping measure, the commissioners voted to codify a number of handicap parking spaces that are currently in existence on Rehoboth, Baltimore, King Charles and Lake avenues, Laurel Street and in the parking lot of the convention center.
Metered parking will end at 10 p.m. instead of midnight.
Again, Cooper questioned this move. He said it will result in lost revenue and asked if that amount had been estimated. This change only helps the bar and restaurant owners, he said, and it’s certainly going to be a negative, not a positive.
The commissioners voted in favor of codifying the creation of four 30-minute parking spaces in the convention center parking lot for the use of city hall business.
In another housekeeping measure, commissioners voted in favor of extending the length of the permit season to mirror the meter season, which means it now ends the second Sunday following Labor Day.
Based on the parking committee’s recommendations, there had been numerous discussions about limiting the number of free nontransferable permits property owners receive, but in the end commissioners voted to leave those permits unchanged.
The vote for the status quo on this issue was 4-3, with Kuhns and Commissioners Richard Byrne and Toni Sharp voting against.
Prior to the vote, Kauffman had argued the point of limiting the number of permits to property owners was to get cars off the streets. Byrne said he agreed with Kauffman’s arguments.
Commissioners voted to eliminate the ability of rental property owners, including hotels and motels, to purchase $30 transferable permits. Previously, Kuhns said the city sold 2,000 of the $30 permits last year, with approximately 15 percent to 20 percent – or up to 400 permits – for hotels, rooming houses and guest houses.
Commissioners also agreed to increase the weekly parking pass from $80 to $90.