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Kure Beach Council Says No To Paid Parking Proposal

Here's something you won't see pop up in Kure Beach, NC. A parking pay-station in Carolina Beach. The Kure Beach Town Council agreed last week not to pursue a proposal from Lanier Parking to manage a paid parking program similar to Carolina Beach.

Managing Editor

KURE BEACH -  The Town of Kure Beach will remain the only beach town in New Hanover County that provides free public parking.
The Town Council decided not to continue exploring a proposal for a paid parking program at their April 17, meeting following a public hearing.
Lanier Parking Systems made their most recent presentation to the Council at their January 17, meeting. It's not the first time the topic had come before the Council. The last time was in June 2011. At that time the Council reached a consensus to ask Lanier and the Shoreline Access and Parking Committee to return with more information on revenues and expenditures.
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.
Councilman David 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."
He said several factors he considered included offering resident parking passes which would affect revenues and the life of parking equipment which he believes is shorter than previously indicated by Lanier because of the oceanfront environment.
During the April 17, public hearing Heglar explained, "The Council has a responsibility to review all revenue options. As everyone in the audience knows... this is going to be a tough budget year."
He explained, "This hearing is to seek public input on the consideration of paid parking."
He explained, "Our estimate, working with Lanier Parking, if you include the capital costs, the estimated revenues of paid parking... is about $68,000 a year. That comes from a mixture of fines, fees and then considering resident parking passes of some undefined types."
He said, "The source for this was the parking company presentation in January combined with discussions with Carolina Beach and Wrightsville Beach" as well as speaking with the Town's finance officer and Lanier Parking.
Heglar said Wrightsville Beach has a program over 25 years in operation and have over 35 pages of ordinances for paid parking. He said with most parking programs, when one is started, a Town has to constantly evolve their ordinances to address issues such as motorists finding other places to park for free.
He said now Wrightsville Beach even has ordinances governing parking on residential streets. Also, unlike Carolina Beach, their residents can't park in areas closest to the beach using their parking decals. That's reserved for visitors.
He said Carolina Beach has about eleven pages of ordinances because they started their program more recently. They have a resident parking pass program but no limitations like Wrightsville Beach.
Wrightsville makes in excess of a million dollars a year from parking revenues. Heglar said, "Carolina Beach makes $300,000 a year. That's what they said at the meeting" and that Carolina Beach has the popular Freeman Park at the north end that charges for 4x4 vehicle access to the beach.
Local resident Judy Lair said she believes, "Paid parking offers very little benefit to our Town and creates an unfriendly, unwanted environment to tourists and a detriment to our business community. This sends the opposite message than 'Welcome to Kure Beach."
She explained, "I think there is a huge potential to increase parking along our neighborhood streets. The same that's happened in Wrightsville and Carolina Beach. Anybody is going to search for parking where they don't have to pay... and the last thing we need are more signs throughout our neighborhoods which leads to more costs."
She said the aspect of towing vehicles would be negative for the Town and she doesn't believe residents should have to pay an additional charge to park.
She said it would become a tax and, "It's more trouble than it's worth" adding that Town's with parking programs are often raising rates, funding repairs and it would be an inconvenience to businesses. She said, "No one seems to make much money except Lanier Parking and the towing companies."
She said, "I beg you to put this where it belongs. In the trash."
Mike Robertson, owner of the Kure Beach Fishing Pier and other commercial properties in the downtown area, explained he agreed with Judy and said he was concerned with how it would impact people fishing on the pier. He said after speaking with pier owners in Carolina Beach and Wrightsville Beach, "It's definitely hurt their business because folks are having to feed the meters all day long. It's twelve hours to go fishing and it's two dollars and hour to park."
Robertson said if there is a parking pass for residents, employees should be given the same because they have to park downtown and paying would impact their earnings.
He said paid parking is a bad idea and the Town should consider increasing public parking options.
Another resident said they have an older beach cottage on Fort Fisher Blvd that has no parking on the property. She was concerned how it would affect their parking on the street side under a paid parking program.
Local property owner Jerry Hammil said when he was a kid there were parking meters in Town and, "It didn't work back then" and were eventually pulled out of service.
He said, "Maybe Kure Beach needs a parking deck" and perhaps the Town could obtain grant funding.
Mayor Dean Lambeth said, "I hear very clearly from the people they don't want paid parking."
The audience applauded.
Councilman Heglar said, "I'm not a proponent of paid parking" and, "I'm doing exactly what you elected me to do which is look at issues. Paid parking actually came up from the previous Council before I was elected, when I was assigned to the Shoreline Access and Parking Committee."
He said the Council directed them to get more information on the issue and, "What I am is the actor for the Council on investigating a revenue issue. As we move forward, clearly understand we want to investigate any revenue issues that are brought up to the Council."
He said at this point they wanted to hear from the public before doing more detailed research.
Councilman Chuck Keener said the issue has come up over the years and like now there was never enough money to be generated to make it worthwhile.
Council member Emilie Swearingen said Carolina Beach "barely broke even" on their parking meters.
Councilman Steve Pagley said his mission was to hear from the public before considering to proceed further.
Keener said for CAMA beach access areas funded by state grants, "It's not mandatory, but they request that you do not put that money" out of those parking revenues, "into your general fund. They ask that it’s used only for beach access improvement or maintenance. If we take that out, then what's left of the $68,000 is the big question. That's another reason why I've been against this because we won't have enough parking outside of the beach accesses to justify paid parking. Other Town's have done that and for years they did not get any grants from CAMA because of that. So that would hurt us" when going for future grants from the Division of Coastal Management.
The Council voted unanimously not to move forward in any way with paid parking at this time.