Thursday, July 18, 2024

Wrightsville Beach increases parking rates, violation fees

Parking rates and fees are up in Wrightsville Beach as town leaders look to cover revenue shortfalls and match their neighbors in Carolina Beach. (Port City Daily photo/File)
Parking rates and fees are up in Wrightsville Beach as town leaders look to cover revenue shortfalls and match their neighbors in Carolina Beach. (Port City Daily photo/File)

Correction: The violation fee for parking overtime has not increased.

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH — The Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen voted to increase several parking rates and violation amounts in a special meeting Friday.

Hourly rates in all non-business lots are up 66% from $3 to $5; daily rates are up 47% from $17 to $25; weekly rates are up 50% from $100 to $150.

Related: State law restricted use of on-street parking revenues, until legislators exempted Wrightsville Beach

Hikes for violations were even higher. Fines for parking in a fire lane increased from $50 to $250; tampering with meters is up from $100 to $300; parking in the Harbor Island residential district is up from $50 to $150; and parking illegally along Pelican Drive, Old Causeway Drive, Keel Street, and Marina Street is up from $100 to $150.

Aldermen debated and voted on each increase line-by-line. Each decision was unanimous except the hourly rate, with Alderman Jeff DeGroote voting against the motion. As the owner of South End Surf Shop, DeGroote shared concerns that increasing the hourly rate would further burden businesses already hurting from the pandemic.

Parking fees have steadily risen in recent years. Hourly rates already increased once this spring, at $2.50 earlier this year. Daily rates were $15 before the town increased the rate to $17 in 2018.

In March, Carolina Beach increased its hourly rate for most lots by 100% to $5 and its daily rate from $17 to $20. This hike influenced the Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen’s decision, with Aldermen recognizing their town’s fees were lower than Carolina Beach’s (meanwhile, Kure Beach has 300 free spaces).

Many Aldermen were frustrated with enforcement and urged staff to step up oversight of parking violations. The fees go into effect immediately.

Major source of revenue

Wrightsville Beach was granted an exemption to state law in 1998, which allowed the town to use on-street parking revenues for purposes other than keeping up with the costs of maintaining the spots.

In other words, on-street parking fees were required to be revenue-neutral in every other North Carolina municipality before the 1998 law. Three years later, New Hanover County wanted in, and was also granted an exemption. To date, New Hanover County apparently remains the only county in the state that can legally use on-street parking revenues for other public purposes.

In fiscal year 2018, the town collected $2.9 million in parking revenues. Despite the pandemic, the parking program continues to “prosper,” according to the town’s recently approved budget. The town projects it will collect $3.2 million in parking revenues this fiscal year. This projection and budget approval was made before the Aldermen approved the fee and violation increase Friday. But Town Manager Tim Owens said the increase was anticipated and necessary even though it wasn’t implemented in the recent budget.

Owens said the major driving force behind the increase is the need to cover other revenue shortfalls. Room Occupancy Tax is projected to decrease by 17% down to $475,000 and sales taxes are also projected to take a downturn.

If revenue parking generates for the town were instead covered by property taxes, the tax rate would increase from $0.1275 to $0.2269. Wrightsville Beach routinely has one of the lowest property tax rates around, with the town able to shift a major revenue burden away from residents and onto visitors.

View each change in fees below:

In yellow, fees that increased Friday. In red, the previous fee. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy Wrightsville Beach, edited by Port City Daily)
Wrightsville Beach Board of Alderman discuss increasing parking fees during a socially distanced meeting Friday. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)

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