A stated goal of the Ocean City Parking Taskforce is to use increased parking revenue to make sure day-trippers pay their fair share of the cost for beach cleaning, maintaining the Boardwalk and infrastructure and other amenities that make Ocean City a desirable destination.
According to Dan Kupferman, the parking consultant hired by Ocean City Engineer Terry McGean, “Ocean City is not going to become a ghost town because of paid parking” and that people have expectations to pay for parking.
He makes a valid point regarding parking, but fails to recognize that visitors look at their total cost to vacation to in Ocean City. Their additional total costs could include not only paying more for parking, but also paying more from the pending increase in the room tax.
Our elected officials are attempting to pass a bill that will raise the room tax rate of 4.5 to 5 percent. According to a report provided to our elected officials, this added .5 percent expense will be passed on to visitors.
The aggregate costs over time of the many small fees and tax increases may not make Ocean City a ghost town, but it can be a deciding factor in whether to go to Disney or visit Ocean City.
In regard to Mr. Kupferman’s opinion that people have expectations to pay for parking, I recently visited Daytona Beach during its bike week. I was struck by the amount of free parking and free beach access in Daytona Beach and surrounding communities.
For example, SRA1A, the main highway, is their Coastal Highway. Free parking was generally permitted along both sides of A1A.
In addition, many bike trailers were also parked on A1A without incurring any fee or permit requirements. Also, all along A1A there were parks like the Andy Romano Park (www.daytonabeach.com/listings/andy-romano-beachfront-park/1122) where people could pull off A1A, park for free next to the beach, have access to free restrooms and showers and walk to the beach.
In speaking with residents and visitors during bike week, I got the impression that everyone recognized the town were not out to squeeze every last tax dollar from their visitors.
There is no doubt that parking fees will be increased even though Mayor Rick Meehan told us that he will not support any additional paid parking areas. Politicians find clever ways of repudiating their campaign positions.
For example, new Council Member Mark Paddack, who ran against any property tax increase, now has been “educated” about the City’s financial problems and voted to increase the property tax rate to bring in an extra $638,000.
Then we have Council Member Dennis Dare, who, since he was City Manager, wants all streets east of Coastal Highway to be plastered with parking meters from the inlet to the Delaware state line. Unfortunately, the Council believes that revenue shortfall are best resolved by using their unlimited taxing authority to increase parking fees instead of implementing costs cutting measures.