WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NC (WECT) - It will cost more to visit Wrightsville Beach this year, if you plan to park on the island.
Despite overwhelming opposition during a public hearing on Wednesday, town leaders decided to increase fees for parking in metered spaces, pending a final vote from the Board of Alderman next week.
Changes include raising the hourly rate from $2 to $2.50. The daily rate was raised from $12 per day to $15. The weekly pass was increased from $60 to $75 and commercial passes will go up from $290 per year to $500.
Town leaders also voted to add 25-30 new parking spaces throughout the town and an estimated 11 new compact spaces. The revenue generated from 40 new spaces is estimated to bring in $60,000.
The Board of Alderman and Mayor Bill Blair explained that while they don't want to make people pay more to park, rate increases are necessary to pay for town services provided to residents including police, fire, and beach nourishment.
"It pays for our parking problem, pays to clean bathrooms, keep police officers on the streets, that kind of thing," Town Manager Tim Owens said.
There was also a proposal to increase the hours of enforcement both in the morning or the evening; however, town leaders did not approve that. The parking fee schedule will continue to be enforced between 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. between March 1 and November 1.
Business owners we spoke to were pleased that town leaders decided not to touch the enforcement hours, but Robert Ray, the owner of Mellow Mushroom said he is worried that the rate increases will prompt beach-goers to go elsewhere.
"In the grand scheme of things, 50 cents doesn't seem like a whole lot but I'm sure there are people who choose other beaches," said Ray.
The official vote was not made Wednesday night because the new ordinance has not officially been written, but a special meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, March 25 where town leaders are expected to formally adopt the changes.
The new rate increases will go into effect immediately after the new ordinance is approved.
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