Staff photo by Emmy Errante
Becky Crager pays for parking near the south end of Wrightsville Beach on Tuesday, March 11.
Metered parking began March 1, but the Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen is expected to vote on six potential parking changes following a Wednesday, March 19, public hearing.
The proposed parking changes include extending parking enforcement hours, either beginning an hour earlier at 8 a.m. and/or ending one or two hours later, at 7 or 8 p.m. The current enforcement hours run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. If enforcement hours are extended, residential parking passes would be allowed in paid parking lots after 6 p.m.
Other changes could increase the hourly rate from $2 to $2.25 or $2.50, and the daily rate from $12 to $13 or $14. Increasing the hourly rate to $2.25 would result in an estimated $224,000 in revenue.
Alderwoman Lisa Weeks sent a Jan. 29 email to Wrightsville Beach Chamber of Commerce members to gather input about parking enforcement hours and rates.
“Probably the most common response is that businesses have really been negatively impacted by the bridge, and obviously most of us have been,” Weeks said, about the Heide Trask Drawbridge construction. “So they’re just really concerned this would add salt in the wound, so to speak, and hurt their business.”
She added business owners do not feel the timing is right on the heels of the bridge work.
Discussion about parking changes began in November 2013, and a parking workshop was held on Jan. 27.
After Lanier Parking manager Bryant Sikes estimated a $127,000 loss in potential revenue from commercial parking passes, the board looked into capping the number of passes purchased by businesses and raising the cost of commercial passes, currently at $290 with 113 passes sold in 2013. Since metered parking began March 1, temporary commercial passes have been issued until the board makes a final decision.
The parking revenue is the second highest town revenue source, projected at $2.08 million for fiscal year 2013-14. The highest revenue source comes from ad valorem taxes, projected for $3.25 million for 2013-14.
While the funds are not earmarked for any specific budget line items, town manager Tim Owens said the revenue is combined within the general fund, listing recouping the cost of added police and lifeguard protection, and restroom cleaning as examples of services the money supports.
“The board is looking to generate additional revenue to help do a number of things in our general fund budget,” Owens said.
Weeks listed specific examples like being able to open the restrooms at Johnnie Mercer’s Pier year-round and future plans to repair walkovers at public beach accesses.
“If you look at the revenue that’s generated from parking, it’s being reinvested back in making sure our beaches are clean and safe,” Weeks said.
Another item is the consideration of amending a town ordinance to allow up to four motorcycles per paid parking space as long as the meter has been paid by one occupant in an effort to create more available spaces for vehicles.
The board is also considering adding compact car spaces and additional parking spaces where feasible.
There are 25-35 potential additional locations for parking spaces in town and about 17 potential compact car spaces, with an estimated revenue of up to $90,000 if all spaces are added.
The public hearing will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 19, in Town Hall Council Chambers.