Council To Hold Special Meeting Feb. 12th On New Paid Parking Program

Council To Hold Special Meeting Feb. 12th On New Paid Parking Program

Council To Hold Special Meeting Feb. 12th On New Paid Parking Program Featured

By / Local News / Tuesday, 09 February 2021 04:59

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

KURE BEACH - The last beach Town in New Hanover County voted on February 1st, to begin charging people who park their vehicles in public parking spaces. That ends a long standing tradition in the County where Kure Beach was historically the beach where you could park for free while Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach began charging for parking as early as the 1980's and 1990's. The Council approved moving forward with a plan to hire a contractor to manage a new paid parking program.
On February 12th, the Council will hold a special meeting at 9:00am at Town Hall to continue discussions on how to roll out the new program and establish the details such as hours of enforcement and rates.
During the Council's February 1st, meeting Councilman John Ellen said, "Over six months, April through September (180 days) you have 660 slots. Twelve hours a day from 8am to 8pm, that's over a million four hundred slot hours. If you average a dollar an hour... you would clear $1,230,000 dollars. So I think it is a good idea. I haven't quite decided on my position on the rate. But the way I added up the numbers from the presentation the other night it  takes about $188,000 dollars for the contract. So if you have $1.4 million coming in and take $188,000 out, you clear a million 200,000. I think we ought to try it."
Councilman Joseph Whitley said on Tuesday February 2nd, "I think it will help us control parking which has gotten steadily worse over the years and all the populations from new developments coming over the bridge. Paid parking is about control. I don't see it being a cash cow or a windfall for the town. It will help some, but more it's just about controlling traffic and parking and people parking poorly which we've seen a rise of especially with COVID-19. and other Towns like Topsail Beach and others going with paid parking we saw a rise" in attendance because Kure Beach has always had free parking.
He explained, "We have to maintain rest rooms and other amenities, services, trash and recycling to deal with influx of people visiting the beach."
Ellen said there are clauses in the contract that can allow the Council to reconsider if the program doesn't work. He said, "I'm in favor of paid parking."
Councilman Whitley said, "I think they said in they're presentation they factored everything in to 60% occupancy over the course of the season. I'll go on the record and say if we make anything over $100,000 dollars I think that will be amazing. I see us making revenue but not that much revenue. I hope I'm wrong and if I am I will sit up here and say I'm wrong."
The first year is anticipated to carry additional costs for new equipment such as pay stations and getting the operation in motion.
Councilman David Heglar explained said when Wrightsville Beach began their paid parking program in the 1980's, it was not well received by the public. He said, "I'm not saying I'm not in favor of it, but I want to make sure our police department is ready for the private property owners in Town and the friction that comes with them, the visitors that come down and don't want to pay and will park in their yards. Believe me, from what happened in Wrightsville Beach, I believe that is going to be our biggest issue in my opinion. As long as we can say we are ready for that... I agree with Commissioner Whitley. I don't see millions of dollars coming to the Town and I would be surprised if when budget time rolls around and [The Finance Officer] proposes the cost that he's going to throw a million dollars in there to solve all our budget problems. Because he's been very conservative in our budgeting."
Heglar said other residential streets such as E. Ave., I. Ave and 6th Ave. should be included because area residents don't want the parking areas in the median to become the only free parking areas in Town for visitors.
He explained the Council will have to discuss restricting free parking at Town Hall and other areas such as parks located in close proximity to the downtown area as well as setting hours and rates at a future meeting.
Councilman Whitley said, "This whole parking thing for me is not about revenue, it's about control. Especially this year with COVID we saw some very poor behavior. The citizens have a level of frustration. For this is about a level of control and a source revenue that will cure all of our ills."
Police Chief Mike Bowden explained, "Back in 2017 we were at 40 civil citations. Last year alone we were at 570." Bowden said with the new parking program they will be able to handle parking violations where people try to park further back in residential neighborhoods in violation of existing Town parking ordinances. The 570 parking violations were issued for people parking in violation of Town code.
Councilman Heglar said, "There is a huge disagreement on rates and who gets what on Council."
The Council will meet at a later date to discuss setting parking rates and hours of enforcement as well as fines for violations.
The Council voted unanimously to set a three year period for the contract with Premier Parking to manage a paid parking program for the Town.
The Council will meet again on February 12th from 9am to 11am to work out the details. The meeting will be held at Town Hall.
Heglar said he still has concerns on the details regarding rates and who can buy season passes prior to a final contract.

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