OCEAN CITY – Ocean City officials this week formally approved an increase in the Inlet parking lot rates during the peak summer season, but not before a brief discussion about relaxing the rules for downtown parking in general during the shoulder months.
In what was essentially a mere formality, the Mayor and Council on Monday voted 5-1 to increase the parking rates at the Hugh T. Cropper Inlet Parking Lot for the coming season. The new pay schedule includes a $1.50-per-hour rate from April 15 to Memorial Day, with the fee jumping to $2.50 per hour from Memorial Day through Labor Day. From the Tuesday after Labor Day through Oct. 15, the rate goes back down to $1.50 per hour.
The lot brought in about $1.8 million in revenue for the town last year, and the new rate schedule is expected to increase that figure by about $650,000. However, Councilwoman Mary Knight wondered if the start date for paid parking on the Inlet lot shouldn’t be move up.
“I would like to see April 1 as the start date for paying to park on the Inlet lot instead of April 15,” she said. “I was on the Inlet lot all weekend, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and I saw people circling around looking for a place to park. I saw revenue evaporating.”
Councilman Joe Hall, said he could vote for the Inlet parking fee increases if his colleagues would consider relaxing the rules on downtown side streets from Monday to Thursday before Memorial Day and after Labor Day. Currently, residents and visitors have to pay to park on downtown streets through the city’s meter system regardless of the day of the week or the time of the year, and resort police are not shy about writing $15 tickets to violators.
“I’m willing to vote for this motion if I can get the parking rules relaxed in the downtown area between Monday and Thursday,” he said. “There’s nobody down there most of the time. They should get a thank-you note on their windshield instead of a parking ticket.”
The council did not act on Hall’s proposal, but did vow to look at just how much revenue the downtown meters were bringing in as opposed to the goodwill that could be gained from relaxing the rules.
“Let’s get the revenue figures and see if they are as paltry as you seem to think they are before we decide to change anything,” said Councilman Jim Hall.