Thoughts on Lewes Beach parking controversy
On Jan. 8, the Cape Gazette published an informative article by Nick Roth on the increasingly controversial topic of parking in the beach neighborhood of Lewes, essentially the area extending from the metered parking at the end of Savannah Road to the Roosevelt Inlet at the very end of Cedar Avenue. From the comments of beach area residents, a casual reader might get the impression that the City of Lewes has embarked on a major project to turn this more and more exclusive area into a new Coney Island open to hordes of invaders streaming from all corners of the state. The reality is very different.
Far from making the beach area more accessible, the City of Lewes has facilitated and continues to tolerate a major movement of appropriation of public space and parking opportunities to the exclusive benefit of beach neighborhood homeowners. As a result, residents from other Lewes neighborhoods are finding it more and more difficult to go to the beach in the summer. These constituents were counting on the Beach Parking Committee to restore their ability to park near the beach. This naïve expectation overlooked the fact that the Beach Parking Committee is mostly comprised of beach neighborhood homeowners, with only one member from the general population who resides on the town side of the canal. As a result, it is now clear that the committee has no intention to slow down or reverse the capture by beach homeowners of public domain and parking areas that belong to all of us.
Gazette readers should understand that we are not talking about an occasional bush planted in the public right-of-way or a few huts erected to hide trash cans. These minor encroachments are not the issue. What is outrageous is the paving and integration into private properties of swaths of public land that are sometimes 30 feet long by 10 feet deep. Beach area homeowners capture the public domain to create private parking areas for themselves while eliminating on-street parking for everybody else. In doing so, they are also transferring an enormous amount of wealth from the community to themselves.
All of this is done with the acquiescence and complicity of the city council, most of the time in contravention to city ordinances governing setbacks or the width and characteristics of driveways. Living in the non-beach area of the Lewes, I can only imagine what the city manager’s reaction might be if I decided to place on the public domain next to my house things such as landscaping elements, a shed or a private parking area!
In the Jan. 8 article, the Gazette quoted a parking committee member saying: “Taxpayers of Lewes should be the priority here.” Maybe the Beach Parking Committee members and city council should remember that not all Lewes taxpayers live in the beach area. Each time a beach area homeowner appropriates part of the public domain or right-of-way next to his house, the value of his property goes up while the values of properties in all other neighborhoods of the city go down, in synch with our ability to enjoy the beach.