Wrightsville Beach parking rates will increase by 50 cents per hour to $2.50, generating an estimated additional $448,000 in revenue.
The Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen continued the Wednesday, March 19 meeting to Tuesday, March 25, to approve a new parking ordinance featuring a host of changes and to consider commercial parking alternatives and fine increases.
With the ordinance amendments, the daily rate will increase to $15 and the weekly rate to $75.
Board members said additional parking revenue would help fund future beach renourishment projects. Parking revenue is the second highest town revenue source, projected at $2.08 million for fiscal year 2013-14.
Before the parking public hearing began March 19, board members said they would not consider extending parking enforcement hours, which will remain from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. March 1 to Oct. 31.
“That seemed to be the least popular,” Mayor Pro Tem Darryl Mills said. “… Nobody up here wants to raise rates, but we’ve got to have the money to take care of this beach.”
Ten residents and nonresidents spoke during the parking public hearing both in favor and against the changes.
Separate from the new parking ordinance, town manager Tim Owens will look into adding 25-30 regular parking spaces and 11 new compact spaces throughout town, generating an estimated $60,000 in additional revenue for 40 spaces. He is also scouting other locations for about 20 more parking spaces. Board members unanimously approved a $23,000 budget amendment to cover the cost of meters and the creation of spaces, which will also include funds to purchase signs for Harbor Island with accurate parking dates.
The parking fines will increase by $10, from $25 to $35, to discourage motorists from using citations as a means to park. The change comes along with the increase of the hourly rate to $2.50 and the daily pass rate to $15.
If unpaid after 72 hours, the fine will rise to $45. Following 10 days, the parking fine will increase to $65. Handicap and lifeguard parking space fines will remain $250, and the violation of operation of meters will remain at a $100 fine across the board.
New commercial lot planned in municipal complex
The town will soon see the addition of about 40 parking spaces in a new lot located in the municipal complex behind the N.C. Coastal Federation Southeast Regional Office.
The spaces will be available to Town of Wrightsville Beach brick-and-mortar businesses for $250 each in the next few weeks, but are capped at 20 spaces per business.
The cost of the lot construction is estimated at $5,000, to be funded from the current budget.
“I’m going to put a light out there too for safety purposes,” Owens said.
The board will consider restricted or permitted use of the new parking spaces during the April board meeting, to pave the way for a heftier fine, about $150, for citations issued in the new lot.
The lot passes will be identified as Commercial II, with a cap of 20 or fewer based on need. Commercial I passes will also be available for businesses with adjacent on-street parking for $500 each, up from $290, with a cap of 10 passes per business.
The number of commercial passes rose from 32 in 2012 to 113 in 2013, with half purchased by the Blockade Runner Beach Resort and the Oceanic Restaurant.
Mary Baggett Martin, co-owner of the Blockade Runner Beach Resort, argued against the high cost of passes by speaking out during the meeting, saying the brick-and-mortar businesses are the hardest hit of all parking changes.
“We are the taxpayer too,” Martin said. “… The brick-and-mortar on the beach are the taxpayer.”
Mayor Bill Blair said he does not have a problem revisiting the changes after the parking season, and a financial analysis determining costs has not been conducted.
“This is new, it’s experimental,” Blair said. “I’m trying to be fair.”
There is also a stipulation in the ordinance that the amount of both Commercial I and II passes should not exceed the amount sold in 2013.
Contractor passes will also be created, costing $7.50 per day for up to seven days. Any time period longer than seven days must be approved by Owens, who said he will also take a harder look at all requests.
The board voted unanimously, 4-0, in favor of the changes. Alderwoman Lisa Weeks was absent from the March 25 meeting due to an out-of-town business trip.
In addition, the town will be more stringent about enforcing illegal parking within the town complex, putting up additional no parking signage and increasing patrol by the Wrightsville Beach Police Department and Lanier Parking.
“You think people wouldn’t park in front of a fire hydrant, but they do that anyway,” said Alderman Hank Miller III.
Ending the March 25 meeting, Alderwoman Elizabeth King mentioned charging for the free three-hour parking near Wrightsville Beach Park. Board members agreed that would be a discussion for another day.