By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
MARGATE – Despite amending its ordinance to double the time limit for paid parking on Amherst Avenue, residents and business owners expressed dismay at the thought of paying for parking in Margate.
The Board of Commissioners Thursday, May 5 held a public hearing on the new ordinance establishing a virtual parking area along the promenade overlooking the bay on Amherst Avenue. The ordinance, which was introduced at the commissioners’ last meeting, included a “minor amendment” to increase the time limit for parking to 24 hours from the original 12-hour period.
“We feel this can accommodate people utilizing the docks and boats in the area,” Police Chief Matthew Hankinson said. “It’s a minor change that will be a great assist to that area.”
Motorists will pay $1 per hour to park in the angled parking spaces along the promenade using the ParkMobile virtual app. ParkMobile is a contactless parking payment system being utilized in Philadelphia, Ventnor, Ocean City and Atlantic City. The parking fees go into effect on May 27 and will be payable through the summer months.
The fine for violations is $35.
Numerous residents, marina business owners and boaters spoke against the ordinance and asked the commissioners to table implementation of the parking fees for a year so it can complete a thorough investigation, they said.
Charter boat operator Steve Bent said it will now cost his customers extra money on the 150 days of the year that he goes out. He said he would be willing to purchase parking permits for him and one customer.
“If we have to pay for parking meters…I would be willing to purchase a parking permit,” he said.
Sal Calabrese, owner of Blue Water Marina that has 47 boat slips, said individual and charter boats often spend longer than 24 hours when they go out to the Canyon to deep sea fish and would be the most affected. He said neighbors who live in the townhouses, restaurants, the water park and marinas are all competing for spaces.
“Table it for at least another a year until you can do a better study,” he said.
Barry Blum, who moors his boat at Blue Water said people will try to avoid paying the parking fee and will park on residential side streets if they go fishing for the entire weekend to avoid paying $75 for parking.
“You’re penalizing a small percentage of people,” he said.
Len Geria of Longport also asked the commissioners to table the ordinance because it is unfair to boat captains.
“It is unfair for charter boat captains, marina owners and patrons to have to pay on top of what they pay to go fishing,” he said. “Consider some other options.”
Mary Friel, whose mother lives a block away on Monmouth Avenue said she already has problems finding a parking space.
“We can’t even park now,” she said. “Residents would love it if you built a multi-story parking garage somewhere, which would be better for everybody,” she said.
Amherst Avenue residents Jodi Singer said she has seen a lot of changes to the neighborhood over the years, and residents are already getting “squeezed out” by the water park.
“We get one spot and everyone has two cars. We have to jockey so much to even run an errand,” she said. “You have to come up with a solution that would please the residents, so we are not trapped. There’s nowhere to go on that street.”
Madison Avenue resident Debbie Phillips, who has three off-street parking spaces at for her and her tenants said she also feels trapped in her home.
“I park on the street on Wednesday, so I maybe will have a spot for a visitors to come,” she said. “I feel trapped in my house.”
Builder Jim Leeds said the city has improved the area and questioned how the ordinance would be enforced.
Hankinson explained the police will have a companion app notifying them when time has expired.
“Officers on patrol will check to make sure everyone who has a spot is paid,” he said.
Commissioner Maury Blumberg explained that the city is not trying to make money on parking, just help the businesses in the Marina District.
“For me, the driving force is to see spaces turn over,” he said.
Commissioner John Amodeo said Margate spent more than $2 million to modernize the area for the public, rebuild the bulkhead, build a promenade, establish a bike lane, and that the city has become a “very desirable place to be” during the 10 weeks of summer.
“Now we will have more turnover with the parking spaces, especially near the water park,” he said.
All three commissioners said they made the decision to support the businesses.
Amodeo suggested people park at the city owned lot at Decatur and Monmouth avenues, which has 20 free parking spots.
The ordinance passed unanimously.
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