Monday, December 4, 2023

Wrightsville Beach to hold public hearing on parking changes, higher fees

The parking lot at Wrightsville Beach Park, which is currently free. The lot lies between the tennis courts, children's play area and basketball courts. Photo by Hannah Leyva.
The parking lot at Wrightsville Beach Park, which is currently free. The lot lies between the tennis courts, children’s play area and basketball courts. Photo by Hannah Leyva.

A public hearing will be held Thursday evening in Wrightsville Beach regarding proposed changes to the town’s parking ordinances for the upcoming season.

Among the changes the town is considering are an increase in the price of residential parking permits, the installation of pay stations in lots that are currently free and making some streets pay-by-phone parking only.

The current residential parking permit costs $25. If approved, the price will be raised to $35. The pass allows locals to park in certain lots and in on-street metered spaces without having to pay extra. There will also be a change in who can purchase them. If approved, residential parking permits will only be sold directly to property owners or to rental agencies that have express permission from the property owners. Currently, renters are allowed to purchase permits with written permission letters from property owners.

Increases to the prices of commercial parking permits, which come in two forms, will also be considered. The current price for a commercial I pass is currently $500, and the price for a commercial II pass is $125. Those rates could go up to $550 and $150, respectively.

The town is also looking to move some pay stations and meters around and designate certain streets as pay-by-phone areas. Pay stations will be removed from Lagoon Street, W. Columbia Street, Seagull Street and Shearwater Street. Meters will be removed from West Oxford, West Fayetteville, West Asheville and West Atlanta Streets. Signage will be installed on all these streets to identify them as pay-by-phone only. The meters removed from those streets will be placed on Keel Street. One of the pay stations will be installed on Marina Street. West Greensboro and West Henderson Streets were converted to exclusively pay-by-phone areas prior to the 2015 season, the first in the town to be designated as such.

The biggest change will be in parking lots around the town’s municipal complex off Causeway Drive. The lots located in front of Town Hall and next to the recreation center and Wrightsville Beach Park are currently free and unmetered with a three-hour time limit. The proposal recommends installing one pay station in the Town Hall parking area and two in the other lot, which is often used during special events like festivals, races and other organized activities in the park as well as by people using the tennis and basketball courts or running the Wrightsville Beach Loop.

“The changes to the municipal parking area could be the most challenging,” state the documents presented for the public hearing. “In the past, the town has had concerns about visitors taking up parking for a long duration that was intended for recreational use or access to town facilities.”

Though the three-hour time limit was implemented in the past, the town said enforcement of the rule was “virtually impossible” due to the number of reasons people park in the lot. Turning it into a paid lot, according to the documents, will help people remember to stay within the time limit.

No changes are proposed to the hourly parking rate, which is currently $2.50 per hour. The parking meters and pay stations are run by Lanier Parking Solutions.

The public hearing will be held during the during the town’s Board of Aldermen meeting, which starts at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in council chambers adjacent to Town Hall. The meeting’s full agenda can be found here.

Parking is always an issue in the beach towns during the tourist season. In September, the Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen verbally committed to extending their contract with Lanier, which offered several suggestions on how to increase revenue for the town. The contract was finalized in December, and the proposed changes that will be discussed Thursday are a result of subsequent discussions between the town and the company. The Wrightsville Beach parking season runs from March 1 to October 31.

On Tuesday, officials in Carolina Beach approved over $120,000 in funding for two new parking-related projects. In addition to converting a mulch parking lot into a gravel one, 115 parking meters will be installed in the town’s central business district, which services several beach accesses and the boardwalk. Carolina Beach charges for parking from April 1 to October 31 at a rate of $1.50 per hour.

New Hanover County’s smallest beach town, Kure Beach, does not charge for parking in both lots and on town streets.

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