OCEAN CITY — As the City Council continues to look for the ace in the hole in regards to saving more money in the budget, the issue of more paid parking throughout the resort continues to be proverbially sitting at the table.
This week, a new idea was pitched and it appears to make a lot of sense for some in the town’s hierarchy, while others are adamantly opposed to anymore paid parking in Ocean City.
City Manager Dennis Dare said that if the council wanted to look into ways to increase revenue and address obvious traffic congestion in downtown Ocean City, it might look into placing parking meters on all downtown streets, rather than pursuing the placement of parking meters north of the Boardwalk.
“If the goal is to do something different, the council needs to look at everything that we offer, and everything that we aren’t,” said Dare. “If we were to put paid parking throughout the entirety of the downtown area, it would get the streets to turn over much more, and that would free up spaces for the cars who are essentially circling the blocks and looking for parking.”
Ocean City is one of the only regional resort destinations that offers free parking, mostly in the mid- to uptown portions of town, when compared to Delaware beaches, such as Fenwick Island for instance, where virtually all parking is either permit or paid parking. Nonetheless, Councilman Jim Hall argues that despite the loss opportunity to raise needed revenue he wants to keep it that way.
“I’m against any additional parking fees in town,” said Hall. “Yes, we might be one of the only places that still offers free parking, but I don’t think that is a bad thing.”
Councilman Joe Hall recently proposed an idea to put metered parking spaces on the ocean block spots all over the resort, but the idea was met with little support from his colleagues.
Still, Dare noted that adding parking meters to the downtown streets, particularly on Philadelphia Avenue, would encourage employees of downtown businesses to use the Park-n-Ride and would drastically help retailers.
“With the Boardwalk for instance, some of the employees of those shops come down and park their cars in those free spots and leave their cars there for eight hours or whatever their shift is,” said Dare. “By freeing up those spaces, and metering them, not only would it create revenue, but it would help retailers get more customers in the door, and would help with traffic because right now people are driving in circles.”
Ocean City Development Corporation (OCDC) Executive Director Glenn Irwin believes that Dare’s theory would hold true and that retailers would be pleased, and traffic would be “greatly improved.”
Yet, Mayor Rick Meehan believes that the issue of to charge or not to charge and even how much to charge for resort parking is something that is never going to go away.
“It’s a controversial topic, but it’s also emotional and philosophical in some respects,” said Meehan/ “I don’t think we’ll take action on it this year, but as time goes on, I think it’s something that we will have to look at with a serious eye.”