Cape Gazette

Lewes reviews downtown parking fees

City increases fees for building plan review
By Henry J. Evans Jr. | Dec 23, 2013
Photo by: Henry J Evans Jr. Even during winter Lewes' 1812 Park parking lot is full. Downtown parking is free until spring, when it could cost $1 an hour to park in this and other downtown lots and metered spaces. The city is considering increasing the fee, which last summer was 75 cents an hour.

Lewes — City of Lewes officials are thinking about increasing downtown parking meter fees from 75 cents to $1 per hour and eliminating free parking for those who have state-issued handicapped parking permits.

Councilmember Ted Becker, chairman of the finance committee, said it has been five years since the city increased parking meter fees.

“It’s in keeping with what’s been happening in other towns,” Becker said at the panel’s Dec. 9 meeting. Meter rates outside the downtown area would not change, Becker said, and the meter fee at Lewes Beach parking lots 1 and 2 would remain what it has been for several years, $1.25 an hour.

Lewes Mayor Jim Ford said the city would not implement a meter rate increase until after the community has an opportunity to comment.

Becker said two new change machines would be needed downtown. Where they should be placed or how people would be directed to them has not been determined.

Becker later said he and city financial officer Ellen Loraine McCabe ran the numbers separately, and they both came up with a little more than $30,000 as the amount generated by the increase.

He said the city has considered installing smart meters that accept credit cards and automatically reset to no time remaining when a vehicle leaves a parking space but they’re costly.

Where the city is using credit card machines, nearly 50 percent of fees are charged.

The proposed increase has been discussed with most downtown merchants, Becker said, adding that no one has spoken against it.

City officials are also considering doing away with free parking for people who use handicapped parking permits.

Becker said Lewes is the only municipality in the state still allowing those with handicapped permits to park for free. He said many motorists aren’t aware that in Lewes, vehicles displaying a handicapped permit are allowed to park for free in any metered space whether designated handicapped or not. Councilman Fred Beaufait said he has witnessed people abusing handicapped parking privileges.

“It’s fair to ask them to pay as well as everyone else,” Beaufait said.

Building fee increases

Mayor and City Council unanimously approved an increase in fees for re-inspection and building construction plan review.

City officials have approved doubling the building re-inspection fee from $25 for each inspection of more than three, to $50. There is no fee for three or fewer inspections.

Becker said building fees haven’t changed since 1993. “We’re trying to adjust to what has happened in the last 20 years,” he said.

The new fee for construction plan review is $300 for buildings up to 2,000-square-feet, and $500 for buildings of more than 2,000-square-feet.

The plan review fee had been a flat $25 for any building exceeding 2,000-square-feet.

The increased fees won’t be effective until the city ordinance is changed.

A sign in Lewes' 1812 Park parking lot suggests motorists look for a space in nearby Canalfront Park parking lot. The city is reviewing increasing the cost to park downtown 75 cents an hour to $1 an hour. The rate would also apply to the W. Third Street parking lot and business district if approved. (Photo by: Henry J. Evans Jr.)
Although Lewes is considering an increase in downtown parking fees, city officials did not discuss changes in fines for parking violations. Mayor and City Council will probably discuss the proposed fee increase next month. (Photo by: Henry J. Evans Jr.)
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