OAK ISLAND — A Brunswick County beach town is inching closer to developing a paid parking system. Oak Island council members will hold a public town hall to discuss its proposal early next month.
If the plan is signed off on, it could be voted on as early as November. Oak Island is one of the few remaining coastal towns in the region to still offer parking for free.
READ MORE: ‘It’s time to revisit paid parking’ in Oak Island, golf carts also in trouble
The topic of paid parking comes up every few years, according to town staff. It was last considered in 2019, but the town unanimously rescinded an agreement with vendor NC Parking Co. The deal was expected to bring the town around $400,000 a year in revenue.
Recent discussions reignited at the July 12 council meeting, as Mayor Pro Tem John Bach presented his research and rationale to monetize parking: It will help pay for the town’s beach renourishment plan. Efforts were previously funded through FEMA, but in April, council voted to move to a town-funded beach management plan.
The total cost of sand projects through fiscal year 2024-2025 will reach $47.1 million, to be allocated from the town’s accommodations fund, sand tax and $3.8 million from the general fund. Charging for the town’s over 1,000 parking spaces would generate revenue to go toward the price tag.
As residents contribute most revenue for the town, paid parking would place some financial responsibility on incoming travelers that also use the beach each summer season. They would help provide for its maintenance, a “form of equity” as written in Bach’s presentation.
In July, Bach said the “visceral impact” of increased traffic over the Memorial Day and Independence Day holidays justified the need to seriously consider paid parking. It would help ensure the existence of enough parking for Oak Island residents and provide clear designation for tourist parking.
The paid parking season would run April 1 through Sept. 30. Ideas council will discuss include adding a shuttle system to transport off-islanders to the beach, how best to provide resident immunity and prohibiting right-of-way parking without a permit.
Right-of-way parking especially was of interest to councilman Mark Martin at the August meeting. He said visitors often park in right-of-ways along with delivery trucks or other service vehicles; if parked illegally, they can impede traffic and cause safety hazards.
“If we’re not going to do something about right-of-way parking, there’s no point in doing this,” Martin said.
If approved, parking will be on a first-come, first-serve basis, but residents with parking stickers will not be charged the hourly rate. What those costs will look like has yet to be divulged.
Right now, the town is in the process of collecting information from “sister” communities who have installed a paid parking program. September will be dedicated to input sessions with a final decision slated by the end of the year.
By January, the town is scheduled to select a vendor that will be charged with enforcing the town’s adopted rules. The presentation estimates, if all goes through with affirmative votes from council, deployment could start as early as March 2023.
The town will hear public feedback during a town hall meeting on Sept. 6 as it discusses its strategies for a paid parking plan.
Reach journalist Brenna Flanagan at email@example.com
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