Owners focus on parking advice | Commercial

Proposed changes to Fenwick Island’s off-street parking regulations will be presented to Council again on Friday, September 9. On the 23rd, at the second public hearing and committee meeting last month, business owners expressed concerns about the changes.

At a 90-minute hearing last week, the city council heard from business owners who said the changes – which would double the number of parking spaces required – would hinder their ability to operate successfully in the town .

Fenwick Island resident and longtime owner of Southern Exposure clothing store Tim Collins told the council he was asked to speak at the meeting on behalf of Fenwick Island business owners.

“Most business owners in this town are very concerned and opposed to any changes to the existing regulations,” he said. Current regulations require one parking space per 100 square feet of customer space. Proposed changes include increasing the minimum space to one space per 50 square feet of customer space.

“I know the business world on Fenwick Island,” Collins said. “I know it’s like the back of my hand.”

He urged the city council to delay action on the parking change until business owners had more time to sit down with town officials and hoped to come up with a solution that would benefit the entire community.

“Let’s look into it,” he said. “I think there is a way to fix this” without hindering the potential development of the town’s commercial sector. The proposed regulations will affect new businesses and businesses undergoing major renovations or expansions – existing businesses will be cancelled.

Mayor Natalie Magdeburger said the town was “very engaged in continuing the conversation” with business owners, but added that they “haven’t seen a plan” beyond suggesting businesses work with each other and plan for shared parking between restaurants and businesses that close at night.

“The committee has been around since March,” Magdeberg said of the ad hoc parking committee, adding that she had not seen applications from business members to join the committee and that a letter seeking comments was “almost no respond”.

Collins and other business owners complained that discussions about the parking changes occurred during the peak summer months, when they had little time to focus on anything other than the day-to-day operations of their businesses.

Magdeburger and Collins also disagreed on the nature of the town’s parking problem, each citing different datasets and information.

Magdeburger’s presentation shows the evolution of parking regulations since 1995, when one parking space was required per 100 feet of gross floor area, and through “maximum shifts” in 1996 and 2013, one parking space for every two employees. The 1996 change increased the requirement for one space per 75 feet of gross floor area, or one space for every three customer seats, with the same requirements for employees.

In 2013, this requirement was reduced to one space per 100 square feet of gross customer area and no employee parking was required.

The latest proposed change requires one space per 50 feet of total customer area (including outside service areas), with no staff requirements.

A “total customer area” is defined in the 2022 proposal as a restaurant area open to the public, excluding kitchen and storage areas or restrooms.

According to calculations included in the town’s presentation, the proposed changes would give two types of restaurants the same or necessary parking space — one with 3,500 square feet of patrons and one with 2,900 square feet of patrons.

Magdeburger also showed figures for some surrounding towns and unincorporated areas governed by Sussex County regulations. According to her chart, the towns of Selbyville and Seaview, as well as Sussex County, need one space for every 50 square feet of customer area; South Bethany currently needs one space for every 75 square feet of customer area, or every three A space is required for customer seating, whichever is greater.

Meanwhile, Collins said he conducted an informal survey of parking spaces in the town and concluded that on a “peak” night in August, 300 were unused, “mostly in one block. Inside” restaurant.

Warren’s Station boss Scott Mumford said the town needed to “build a better bridge” between town officials and the business community in order to tackle the parking problem.

“Fenwick Island business owners want to do everything we can to help you,” Mumford said.

He called the proposed “business-to-business initiative”, through which businesses would work together to share parking spaces, “a big step forward”.

Mumford also urged the council to reach out to state and county officials as development to the west of the town has and will continue to increase traffic in the town. He suggested a park-and-ride mass transit system might be a solution.

Kinsley Hazel, whose family owns property in the 1100 block of Coastal Highway, said the new rules would severely hinder the possibility of new businesses. She gave the example of opening a new breakfast shop on a property that is currently in a different use. Hazel said a new “breakfast shop” type of business would require 30 parking spaces – something she said was not feasible on the existing property.

Homeowners who spoke at the hearing expressed concern that a lack of commercial parking would encroach on residential streets and cause safety and quality of life issues. “We are basically a small residential community and don’t want to be an extension of Ocean City,” resident Jack Pine said in a written statement read into the records by Mayor Raelene Menominee.

Another resident, Gail Warburton, said she was “very” supportive of the proposed changes.

“I think we need to suspend this ordinance,” until further discussions can take place, Mumford said.

The town council plans to hold a “second reading” and vote on the issue on Friday, September 9. Meeting on the 23rd at 3:00 pm at City Hall at 800 Coastal Highway. The meeting can also be accessed via a link on the town’s website at https://fenwickisland.delaware.gov.

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