Thursday, June 13, 2024

Paid parking season arrives: Here’s what it will cost and what beach towns gain

Oak Island is gearing up to implement a paid parking system for the first time. (Port City Daily/File photo)
Oak Island is gearing up to implement a paid parking system for the first time. (Port City Daily/File photo)

SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — Many coastal communities from Pender to Brunswick counties will begin their paid-parking programs starting March 1, with a few slated to kick off in April.

Parking costs, passes and timelines have shifted for some areas, in some instances costing beach-goers more. Yet, financial gains to area municipalities help offset beach upkeep and property tax rate increases, defraying costs from residents.

ALSO: 400 parking spaces, with plans for more as ILM adjusts to record passengers, growth

Port City Daily has compiled a list of details below for beaches within 50 miles of Wilmington. Click the beach name to be taken to the paid parking website.

Pender County

In partnership with Pivot Parking, Surf City will begin enforcement of its paid spaces March 1 through Oct. 31, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Port City Daily/File)

Surf City

In partnership with Pivot Parking, Surf City will begin enforcement of its paid spaces March 1 through Oct. 31, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Surf City implemented its program in 2021 and received roughly $400,000 its inaugural season, April to October, which increased to $659,952 during 2022. Changes were made last year to start the season earlier, March 1, bump up rates and add spaces, now equaling over 1,300.  

Rates are:

  • Hourly: $5 per hour for spots closest to the beach; $3 an hour for outlying lots and spaces
  • Daily passes: $25
  • Weekly passes: $80 

Residents receive free passes for up to two vehicles and can buy more for $100. Visitors can purchase season passes for $270 to $300.

Surf City projects $1.3 million in parking revenue in its 2022-2023 fiscal year budget.

Monies collected help fund beach renourishment through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The city received the go-ahead from the General Assembly in 2021 to use some of its fees for renourishment. Statute § 160A-301 dictates revenue from on-street metered parking on public streets — not town-owned lots — can only go toward maintenance for a paid parking program.

Municipalities must petition legislators for an exemption to utilize proceeds as allowed for off-street parking. Those monies can fund needs benefitting public use, such as combatting beach erosion or paying for lifeguards.

The GA has granted exceptions for Atlantic Beach, Beaufort, Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, Sunset Beach, Wrightsville Beach, Holden Beach and the City of Wilmington.

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

Topsail Beach

Last year, Topsail Beach regulated one of its southern lots, garnering payment for about 27 spots, Port City Daily previously reported. The town received $83,206 in 2022 prior to its 70/30 split with Otto, the parking contractor. 

This year it’s considering an expansion, with town commissioners meeting March 8 to discuss adding 172 spots at Topsail’s 22 oceanfront lots. Estimates aren’t available yet as to the amount of funds it could receive by expanding its program.

[Ed. note: This will be updated following any action taken by the commissioners at its upcoming meeting.]

Parking costs currently are:

  • Hourly: $5
  • Daily: $25

Topsail does not list weekly or annual passes. 

Violations are $50 and decrease to $25 if paid the same day or increase to $75 if paid after 30 days of the citation.

Enforcement is March 1 through Oct. 31, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Onslow County

North Topsail Beach

Parking is paid year-round in North Topsail. More than 900 spaces are paid in town-owned lots from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the northern end, with seasonal passes available to drive onto the beach.

Costs for standard lots:

  • Hourly: $5
  • Daily: $25
  • Weekly: $100
  • Annual: $150 per vehicle if purchased one at a time (new for 2023)
  • Annual: $250 for two vehicles purchased at the same time.

North Topsail’s 4×4 drive-on lot parking rates:

  • Daily: $25
  • Weekly: $100
  • Annual: $150 per vehicle if purchased one at a time (new for 2023)
  • Annual: $250 per two vehicles purchased at the same time

Fines include $50 issued to parkers without a permit; however, it will reduce to $25 if paid the same day. It also can increase by $25 if not paid within 30 days.

On-street parking is no longer permitted and citations will be issued to motorists parking in rights-of-way regardless of paid permit.

According to town manager Alicia Derian’s message to the mayor and aldermen, signed in June 2022, North Topsail’s fiscal year 2022-2023 budget projects $730,000 in parking revenue, though it received $1.1 million in its first year of implementation and $929,100 in 2022.

The budget reflects 25% going into the general fund and 75% into its shoreline protection fund. 

New Hanover County

Paid parking on Wrightsville Beach takes place March through Oct. 1. (Port City Daily/Preston Lennon)

Wrightsville Beach

Wrightsville Beach contracts with Pivot Parking for enforcement March 1 through Oct. 31, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Some exceptions exist, with enforcement ending at 6 p.m. or 8 p.m. in certain lots. See them all here.

Rates — last increased in 2020 — will remain the same.

  • Hourly: $5 (though some meters are $3 an hour with one-hour limits)
  • Daily: $25
  • Weekly: $150

Wrightsville Beach does not list annual passes for visitors, though residents can purchase up to two decals for $50 each (tax decals are also required of residents in order to reenter the beach upon emergency evacuation).

Fines are $50 if paid within 72 hours, before increasing to $60 to be paid within a 10-day window of citation date, and thereafter ticks up to $70. Violation costs increase for parking in fire lanes, handicapped spaces without a decal, and other designated areas determined unlawful.

Wrightsville Beach’s 2022-2023 fiscal year budget indicates the town could collect at least $5.3 million in revenue; expenditures are expected to be more than $1.2 million. The budget shows a $431,000 increase over the previous year. It also notes without the revenue — replaced by using ad valorem tax — the estimated property tax rate would rise from $0.0923 to $0.20. 

“Meter revenue has increased significantly over the past several years due to rate increases, a higher number of visitors and the Town adding on-street parking spaces throughout Town to increase the total number of spaces available,” its budget indicates.

The town has just over 1,600 paid spaces. 

READ MORE: Wrightsville Beach church parking deal is estimated at $100,000 return

Carolina Beach

A lot of changes have taken place to Carolina Beach’s parking program in the last few years. But one thing remains: Its parking revenue — including lots, meters, citations and permits — is on the rise. For fiscal year 2022-2023 it’s projected to reach at least $3 million.

According to previous Port City Daily reporting, between January and July 2022, the town’s parking program generated $2.6 million, without accounting for expenses. It brought in $1.2 million from July through September 2022.

In 2021, Carolina Beach council voted on paid parking to be year-round and switched contracts to use Pivot Parking.

Council reversed course on year-round parking in spring 2022 and enforced it March through October, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Charges were $5 an hour and $20 a day.

READ MORE: Increased revenue not enough to protect residents from inflation costs in Carolina Beach

Yet, by fall, after the parking season ended, the town made changes again, lessening hours and even adding free months. Parking is now enforced March through December. It is free in January and February.

Rates in-season have risen and decrease after the height of tourism dissipates and the holidays arrive:

March 1 – Oct. 31, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

  • Parking lots: $5 per hour or $25 per day
  • Bus, limo, and oversized vehicles: $10 per hour or $40 per day
  • On-street parking without time restrictions: $5 per hour or $25 per day
  • On-street parking with time restrictions: $5 per hour (two-hour limit)

Nov. 1 – Dec. 31, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • Parking lots: $2 per hour or $10 per day
  • Bus, limo, oversized vehicle: $5 per hour or $20 per day
  • On-street parking without time restrictions: $2 per hour or $10 per day
  • On-street parking with time restrictions: $2 per hour (two-hour limit)

Citations are $100 but are reduced to $50 if paid within 24 hours — or to $75 if paid within 48 hours. A $50 penalty will be added for nonpayment after 15 days and will increase to $100 if not remitted after 30 days.

Also added this year are weekly visitor passes, something many over-the-bridge residents asked for; they’re $100 and viable for seven consecutive days. Residents, business and property owners passes are $40 a year. This year the town has expanded the offer to neighboring Kure Beach residents as well.

Kure Beach

The Pleasure Island town has broadened its paid-parking window with contractor Premium Parking. It once began in April but has moved up to start March 15; the season ends Sept. 30. Enforcement is from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Rates are:

  • Hourly: $5
  • Daily: $20
  • Weekly: $100

There are some dedicated spaces on the south side of K Avenue from Fort Fisher to Atlantic Avenue that offer 30 minutes of free parking.

Residents and property owners can purchase up to two season passes for $20; additional purchases will cost $100. This year the town has also combined parking allowances to residents in the neighboring Carolina Beach town; property owners can also purchase a season pass for $20 (one allowed).

Non-resident annual passes have increased from $200 to $225. 

Kure Beach received $371,000 in parking fees during its inaugural year, 2021; it increased to more than $740,000 in 2022, with similar projections for 2023. It estimates expenses for the 2022-2023 budget will be $200,000.

There are more than 600 paid spaces in the Kure Beach town. Funds are used to help cover costs of maintenance from increased traffic through the town during summer months (it swells from 2,500 population to 8,000), as well as beach replenishment and lifeguards.

Brunswick County

Oak Island's Barbee bridge will close for at least eight months starting next week as crews work on a $7 million rehabilitation project. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy Google Maps)
Travelers headed over the Oak Island’s Barbee bridge will find parking fees awaiting to visit the beach this season. (Port City Daily/Google Maps)

Oak Island

The beach town located 35 miles from Wilmington is ushering in its first paid parking season April 1, which will close Sept. 30. Council debated the program for six months last year, much to the dismay of residents. Some started a petition to remove council members who voted for it yet halted the move after receiving just over 550 signatures; they needed 2,050 by Feb. 27.

Mayor Pro Tem John Bach brought the paid-parking conversation back to the forefront after council shut it down in 2019. Bach said in December it will increase revenue stream and “reduce the strain, if you will, on the taxpayer.”

The council signed on with Otto Connect in December and hashed out its contract for a month, voting on its approval in January. The contract can be updated anytime by council, but for now the rates are:

  • Hourly: $5 up to three hours
  • Daily: $20 per day or any duration greater than four hours
  • Weekly: $80 per week for seven consecutive days
  • Annually: $175, with a limit of 1,000 passes sold

Residents will receive up to three annual passes for $10 each. 

Citations will be $25 if paid by midnight on the issue date; otherwise, they increase to $50 through day 30, and $75 thereafter.

Roughly 182 parking spaces have been identified to be metered in the town, in addition to town lots and more than 60 beach access. Otto and Oak Island are assessing an additional 182 to be paid this year. 

State Port Pilot reported the town could get anywhere from $689,000 to $1.7 million from the arrangement. Oak Island spokesperson Michael Emory told Port City Daily in January any estimates are speculation at this point.

Council approved for Oak Island to apply to the General Assembly to allow its on-street parking revenues to be used in the same manner off-street parking is allowed. Representative Charlie Miller (R) filed it as House Bill 78 on Feb. 9. 

Ocean Isle Beach

Currently, parking is free at beach accesses at Ocean Isle, including more than 200 spaces. Though overnight parking is not allowed in the town-owned spaces.

Parking is paid at the Ocean Isle Pier for $10 daily, $45 weekly and $175 seasonally. It’s free after 6 p.m.

There is also a private-owned lot that charges fees, but is not operated by the town.

According to town administrator Daisy Ivey: “There was discussion in the past regarding paid parking for Ocean Isle,” but nothing has gone into effect at this time. 

Holden Beach

Located between Ocean Isle and Sunset Beach, Holden Beach began its paid-parking program May 1, 2022 with Otto. Rates have increased slightly from the first season, which runs April 1 through Oct. 31, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Last year, the beach town charged $3 an hour, $15 a day, $60 per week, and $150 annually to access more than 500 spaces.

Rates in the 2023 season are:

  • Hourly: $4 up to four hours
  • Daily: $20 for duration longer than four hours
  • Weekly: $80 per seven consecutive days
  • Annually: $150

Violations are $50 with a $25 late fee in effect after 30 days. A collection agency will take over citations that aren’t paid in 60 days.

The 2022-2023 fiscal year budget in Holden estimates it will receive $10,000 in parking violations, as well as $55,920 for off-street parking revenue and $192,018 for on-street parking. Part of parking revenue will go toward paying off bond obligations for the town’s purchase of Holden Beach Pier, according to the StarNews.

The $4.3 million capital plan to restore the building and pier will come with $3 million approved by the Local Government Commission last year and the remaining $1.3 million will be covered by Beach Preservation/Access and Recreation/Tourism fund.  

Sunset Beach

The coastal town sought feedback last summer about implementing paid parking but nothing has come to fruition yet.

“Councilmen [Mike] Hargreaves and [Charles] Nern have been tasked with conducting a parking management study,” town administrator Lisa Anglin wrote in an email to PCD. “At present, they are working on forming a committee to assist with the study.

It’s one of the remaining beaches to offer parking for free in Brunswick County. However, parking at the pier is $10 per day with seasonal passes available through a lottery.


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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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