By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
KURE BEACH - The Town of Kure Beach is the last remaining beach town in New Hanover County that doesn't charge for public parking.
That may soon change.
The Kure Beach Town Council is considering a proposal from Lanier Parking Solutions- the same company that manages parking collection and enforcement programs for Carolina Beach, Wrightsville Beach and the City of Wilmington. The Council voted at their March 20, meeting to hold a public hearing on the idea of paid parking and enforcement.
During that meeting Councilman David Heglar said the Town Clerk requested
a copy of parking ordinances from the Town of Wrightsville Beach and, "That's 29 pages double-sided. Their first amendment was in 1993" and he counted 34 amendments since that time.
He said the amendments were in response to issues in their Town and for Carolina Beach, they are, "Up to ten pages right now."
Heglar said at a recent meeting with Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach, it was stated, "You are constantly reacting to the enemy." He said, "That was kind of the view of one of the two councils."
Heglar said, "I looked at what the Town could realistically make based on Lanier information." He said, "I believe the actual range is between $30,000 to $60,000 for the Town."
Initially Lanier Parking Solutions quoted the Town revenues of $245,320.00 with expenses of $124,000.00 leaving a net income of $121,320.00.
Heglar said since that initial meeting there have been a lot of discussions.
Heglar said his figures center on two factors. He explained, "One is your assumptions around what we would charge, or if we have - which I assume we would - for residents having a parking pass and how much you think that will offset people actually staying."
He said, "I'm assuming that if we were to move forward we would have some type of residential permit. If we did, that impacts the revenues."
He said, "The other thing that drives that range is your estimate of how long the equipment will last on the beach front. Lanier said seven years. When we talked to Carolina and Wrightsville Beach they said five to seven years. If you use five years verses seven years it drops off because of the capital reinvestment rate."
Heglar said the faster equipment has to be replaced impacts the amount of revenue.
He said, "I'm looking for council, where do you want me to go next. I feel comfortable with money. I have no confidence on what it will do in the Town. My sense is, and maybe the right thing to do is ask at the public hearing about it, but my sense from all the feedback I'm getting is pretty negative."
Heglar said, "I've had two people tell me they were in favor of it. Then I asked, how much money is it before you are really in favor of it and no one can answer that. That's really the issue. The Council has to decide how much money makes it worthwhile because I think it's a pretty big change to the Town."
He said, "I definitely know that anyone on Third Street will be unhappy and we will be fighting parking in those areas. E. and I. Avenues... those medians will get filled up if its paid parking."
Heglar said the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources told the Town that parking revenues collected at state funded CAMA beach access areas had to be used for those access areas.
Heglar explained, "At least that's their position. Now Carolina Beach got CAMA grants after they did what they did. I think they meandered around it. I don't know if CAMA will watch closer or not."
The total number of spaces to become paid spaces is 443 including all of the downtown area and beach access areas.
Heglar said based on his calculations, "They don't want to tell you because it's proprietary, but I did some estimates and it's between 20 and 40% fines. That's how they got their revenues."
The proposed rate would be $1.25 per hour.
Councilman Chuck Keener said he put out a request to a Town Committee and many people were against paid parking.
Council member Emilie Swearingen said, "This is one time when I really feel like I need to listen to the people who live here. And everyone I have talked to has been opposed to it. I think several months ago I had one that might have been in favor."
Swearingen said, "I've talked to several people outside of the Island who have said if I have to pay for parking in Kure Beach, would I travel much further to get there because it's a much nicer place to be, but I'm going to have to pay for parking I might as well just go to Wrightsville Beach or if I'm coming to the Island I'll just stop at Carolina Beach. Not just day-trippers but just tourists in general."
Councilman Steve Pagley said, "I think we need to have a public hearing on it. After that, we make our decision from there. That's all."
He made a motion to have a public hearing to get input from the citizens.
Pagley said, "I'm for it to, but I mean I've only seen two letters against it come to me and then I've had people talk to me."
Tony Gonsalves - chair of the Town's Shoreline Access and Parking Committee - said, "There's a lot of different people that live here that are afraid it’s going to cost them money. They didn't know about paying for a permit. None of these things that we could tell them, there's a figure to it because we are still at the beginning stages of this. We can't say a parking permit will cost you $25 per car. We don't know that. We don't know anything really. It's whether you want parking or not. It's mainly for people coming in that are going to use our facilities. It will help us pay our taxes. That's the only thing I can say. Is it going to be trouble for people in the Town of Kure Beach? Absolutely. You will be tweaking this."
He said as soon as paid parking is implemented, people will find other areas to park for free and the Town would have to address that issue as well.
Council member Swearingen said when Lanier estimated revenues based on the 443 parking spaces, they didn't know which were residents or tourists.
Heglar said that's why he gave a range for potential revenues. If residents purchased a parking permit, that would alter the level of revenues.
The Council voted unanimously to hold the public hearing at their April 17, regular meeting at 5:30 PM or soon thereafter at Town Hall.
Councilman Heglar said there is no definite detailed plan and he wants to hear from the public in general before continuing to work on the issue.
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