The time has come for a parking garage in Rehoboth

March 3, 2023

Rehoboth Beach has a parking problem – just as the Rehoboth Beach Public Library does.

Officials of the 100-year-old institution announced recently that while they plan to keep a presence downtown, they have decided to build a new main facility outside city limits. Among the reasons given for the move was a lack of parking options.

Parking issues are not new in Rehoboth Beach. For years now, instead of creating new parking, city officials have encouraged parking outside town and using a transit service. Unfortunately, that is not the reality of the situation – bigger houses are replacing old cottages, and commercial land owners are looking to redevelop, both of which are going to draw more vehicles.

In early 2019, city officials listened to a pitch from a company willing to enter into a public/private partnership that would have seen a 300-space “mobility center” on the parking lot next to city hall. Under that arrangement, the city would lease the land, while the company designed, built, funded and managed the operation. The city and the company would share net operating income. At the time, the estimated cost was about $10 million.

A task force was created to explore the proposal, but it lost steam after a change in city leadership and hasn’t been pursued since. Failure to act has already cost the city more than the loss of the library or a handful of businesses. If the estimate was $10 million in 2019, it’s almost certainly a few million more now.

If city officials don’t have an appetite for a partnership, changes could be made to the city’s parking program and the extra revenue could be earmarked to pay for the facility. The pay-for-parking season in Rehoboth – at least on weekends – is too short and the pay-by-hour rate is too low. Many visitors are coming from areas where parking costs more than $3 per hour and paid parking is year-round.

Rehoboth Beach has a full plate of projects – continued wastewater treatment plant upgrades, stormwater infrastructure needs, a new beach patrol building, streetscape improvements to Baltimore and Wilmington avenues – but now is also the time for commissioners to take action on a parking garage.

  • Editorials are considered and written by Cape Gazette Editorial Board members, including Publisher Chris Rausch, Editor Jen Ellingsworth, News Editor Nick Roth and reporters Ron MacArthur and Chris Flood. 

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