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After some disagreement on public parking rates, Dewey commissioners voted 4-1 March 18 to amend for the fifth time an agreement with Dewey Beach Enterprises that would eliminate the company’s requirement to provide retail space in the Lighthouse Cove Event Center area.

Attorney Richard Forsten, who represents the town through fees paid by DBE via the 12-year-old agreement, said DBE had tried unsuccessfully to obtain a retail establishment in the required space. A better use of the space would be for conference rooms in conjunction with the convention center, he said.

The town is holding a $600,000 letter of credit to secure construction of 85 public parking spaces in the facility parking garage per the agreement, Forsten said. Public spaces will be identified and all storage sheds on the spaces will be removed by April 1, he said, and DBE’s annual payment to the town would be increased from $37,500 to $50,000.

After the meeting, Town Manager Bill Zolper said town employees will check on April 1 to confirm both tasks have been completed.

Under the agreement, parking rates charged by DBE cannot be less than what the town charges. Forsten said DBE was not keen on the town placing a cap on how much more DBE could charge. Mayor Bill Stevens noted the town would not receive any income from parking fees at DBE.

Commissioner David Jasinski said town officials did not want to determine DBE’s parking rates, as they should be able to profit, but the fee should not be so high that it discourages the public from parking there.

Jasinski then proposed setting a maximum rate at 50 percent higher than the town rate, and said visitors should have equal opportunity to use the parking garage as hotel guests. Commissioner Gary Persinger said he also wanted some assurance the public has a reasonable opportunity to park.

DBE Executive Vice President and General Counsel Michael Kinnard told commissioners they were getting close to fixing prices. He said he was reluctant to set a price that is tied to someone else’s price because DBE parking rates may go up or down at times based on events or other factors. Kinnard said DBE would treat non-hotel guests consistently with hotel guests and accomplish what commissioners are attempting.

Stevens said the Rusty Rudder has installed gates and will be charging to park, and that dictating what private companies charge for public parking would be like dictating what hotel rooms should cost. Commissioner Paul Bauer said the town doesn’t tell other entities what to charge and he did not agree with setting a cap. Town counsel Fred Townsend said the comparison is not apples-to-apples because DBE has an obligation to provide public parking, which is unusual.

Jasinski proposed passing the amendment provided public parking will be equally available for the public and hotel guests; that rates should be no more than 50 percent higher than town charges; that parking cannot be prioritized for hotel, convention and Lighthouse restaurant guests; and that DBE should try to make paying for parking available through a kiosk or mobile app. Persinger seconded, but the motion failed.

Bauer then motioned to approve the amendment including language that rates would be the same for visitors and hotel guests. He said public is public, which includes hotel guests, and asked how the town would police who goes to the hotel, restaurant or beach.

Stating commissioners have “a lot of heartburn over the maximum rate,” Jasinski said the hotel could still block all parking for a weekend or charge an exorbitant fee so people won’t want to park there. He said the hotel would state the lot is full all the time and parking will be preferred for hotel guests.

Persinger said there weren’t enough votes to support setting a maximum rate. He said he was concerned about equal opportunity but did not believe the hotel would engage in the practices Jasinski described. He said he would like to see language added that prices would be posted.

Bauer amended his motion to include that parking cannot be prioritized for hotel and convention guests and blocked to the public.

Kinnard said he objected to new terms being added at the eleventh hour. He said commissioners were trying to set prices and were now saying a hotel guest isn’t a public guest. Some hotel guests will pay for their parking in advance, Kinnard said, and the hotel has to be able to tell the public those spots have been paid for.

DBE President Thomas Hanna said he hoped to avoid greater conflict. He said DBE created 100 new spaces and repaved Van Dyke Avenue at its expense, and that Jasinski was not depicting the full picture. DBE’s project has been an economic engine for the town, he said, and these attempted restrictions will create more conflict, not a resolution once and for all.

Hotel guests deserve to have a place to park on the street or in the garage, Forsten said, and they deserve a reserved spot if they’ve paid in advance. Jasinski said if hotel guests can reserve a spot in advance, others should be able to as well. Persinger said he agreed those who have prepaid parking should receive it.

Bauer’s motion, with the addition that rates are publicly posted, passed 4-1, with Bauer, Stevens, Persinger and Commissioner Elisabeth Gibbings voting for, and Jasinski voting against.


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