Enjoy the free parking in Rehoboth Beach while it’s available.
Enforcement of parking meters and permits was scheduled to go into effect Friday, May 22. However, in an effort to allow businesses to recoup some of the spring season’s lost revenue, Rehoboth Beach commissioners, during a meeting May 12, delayed enforcement until at least Friday, May 29.
A week later, during a meeting May 19, commissioners voted 6-1 in favor of beginning parking enforcement Saturday, May 30.
Mayor Paul Kuhns estimated that by delaying parking enforcement, the city would lose about $250,000 in revenue Memorial Day weekend – $50,000 in permits, $200,000 in meters. There are still COVID-19 related restrictions in place for how businesses can operate, but he said he thinks ultimately employees of businesses will park as close to where they’re working as possible.
Commissioner Lisa Schlosser was the no vote. In an email May 21, she said dealing with a crisis like COVID-19 is all about prioritization.
“Right now, we should be supporting the safe opening of life in Rehoboth,” said Schlosser. “I would prioritize putting city resources on those efforts over parking enforcement for the sake of revenue. I understand the downside to that approach, but we have to make choices.”
In Rehoboth, nonmetered parking requiring a permit runs 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily; metered parking is 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Meters are $3 an hour on Rehoboth Avenue, from the Boardwalk to Fourth Street; Baltimore and Wilmington avenues, from the Boardwalk to Second Street; and on First Street, from Baltimore to Wilmington avenues. All other meters are $2 an hour. Over the winter, commissioners changed all meters to a 12-hour time limit.
Another COVID-19 related change to parking is the elimination of the parking kiosk on Bayard Avenue. All parking permit sales will have to be made at the parking department building behind city hall or at the Rehoboth Avenue kiosk.
Beginning Saturday, May 30, the parking department, 1 City Hall Drive, will be open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week. The kiosk, located on the south side of Rehoboth Avenue, east of the roundabout entering town, is open 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Friday through Tuesday.
Continued discussion on planned reopening
Commissioners spent a significant portion of the May 19 meeting going back and forth on how to balance supporting struggling businesses, avoiding significant losses of city revenue, and keeping visitors and property owners safe.
Commissioner Edward Chrzanowski began the discussion with a report from Rehoboth Beach Main Street, which had spoken with dozens of downtown businesses. The city’s businesses do not think they can survive capacity restrictions expected to go into place June 1, he said.
With that in mind, Chrzanowski said, businesses – restaurants and retail – would like the city to allow use of parking spaces and to give blanket approval to modified floor plans or an expansion of services. Two options allowing businesses to expand would be to remove all parking from the sidewalk side of Rehoboth Avenue, or, he said, to allow businesses to block off parking in front of their location.
Kuhns said he was in favor of allowing businesses to expand, but he was not in favor of blanket approval. He said he would like to see each business submit at least a sketch of how they would use the sidewalk or parking spaces.
Restaurants that serve alcohol and want to expand their premises will have to submit a plan to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commissioner for approval. Kuhns said retailers who want to expand onto city property should do the same so the city can come up with a plan.
If a retailer wants to use public space, submit a plan to the city, he said.
Commissioner Susan Gay said she had heard from a number of neighborhood property owners who were concerned about pushing crowds into the streets surrounding the commercial district. She suggested a way to control parking would be to charge more for parking.
Related to potential lost revenue the city would see from businesses using parking spaces, former Board of Adjustment Chair Tom Evans suggested the city spread out the loss over a number of years instead of putting it all on this year’s budget. The city needs those businesses to stay in business for the health of the city, he said.
Ultimately, no decision was made. Kuhns tasked Chrzanowski with continuing to facilitate the discussion among Rehoboth Beach Main Street, business owners and the commissioners.
Commissioners are scheduled to continue the planned reopening discussion with a virtual meeting at 3 p.m., Tuesday, May 26. The meeting and materials are available on the city’s civic web portal, cityofrehoboth.civicweb.net.