What will it cost? A closer look at Surf City’s paid parking plan

Updated: Feb. 7, 2021 at 11:45 AM EST
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SURF CITY, N.C. (WECT) - Paid parking, it’s become a topic of debate for beach towns across Southeastern North Carolina for some time now. As the population in the region continues to grow and beaches attract more and more tourists each year, towns that previously offered free parking are starting to realize the need to monetize the services.

In Surf City, paid parking has been an ongoing discussion and last week, the Town Council decided to hit the brakes on making a decision and proposed hosting a drop-in session where those with questions can speak with town staff and the proposed plans.

“On February 12, 2021, at 9 a.m., Town staff will be available for a 1-hour long drop in session to be held at the Surf City Welcome Center. We invite anyone with questions to come in and talk with us. Immediately following the drop in session, Council will hold a Special Meeting to continue their discussion on the implementation of the paid parking program,” according to a town press release.

Naturally, people had lots of questions about the parking program, specifically, just how much will it cost?

Well, the town has released its proposed payment scale, and, much like other beach towns in the area, residents are catching a break. The prices are also less than New Hanover County beach towns, but a full day at the beach will still cost visitors $15.

Proposed pay schedule:

  • Surf City Resident (mainland or island) - Free
  • $3/Hour
  • $15/Day
  • $60/Week
  • $250/Seasonal Pass

“Along with the recommended fee schedule above, Council may consider offering a 10% discount on Annual Passes for Military Personnel (active duty or retired), Senior Citizens, and residents living in the Extra Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) of Surf City. For residents not in these areas or qualifications, a seasonal pass can equate to $1.17 per day,” according to the town.

The town plans to use a mobile app to allow visitors to pay for parking.

“The basic concept of the paid parking program is to utilize a mobile application, eliminating the need for costly pay stations or kiosks as well as long term maintenance and liability to the Town. Prior investigation in other solutions required the Town to purchase these at an estimated cost exceeding $250,000,” according to the town.

Paid parking, for the most part, will be focused on parking lots as opposed to on-street parking. That’s because of a state law that prohibits towns from using the funds collected through parking meters on public roads for anything other than parking itself.

“Proceeds from the use of parking meters on public streets must be used to defray the cost of enforcing and administering traffic and parking ordinances and regulations,” according to General Statute 160A-301.

However, there will be charges associated with on-street parking, although physical meters won’t be installed, according to Town Manager Kyle Breuer.

“A majority of the parking will be concentrated to parking lots as we were trying to limit on-street parking. Understanding that the proceeds from on-street can only go towards enforcing and administering, the ongoing maintenance and improvements to these areas will be realized from those proceeds,” Breuer said. “On-street parking areas will be zoned, physical meters will not be installed. Users of the on-street parking will select the zone in the same manner as if they were in a parking lot.”

Although towns like Kure Beach in New Hanover County, and Surf City in Pender County have been known for their free parking for years, the need for additional revenues are only increasing.

In Surf City, the beach nourishment program is a costly venture, and although there is some federal funding provided, the town is responsible for millions.

“With the 50-year project commitment from the US Army Corp, the Town is responsible for a portion of the initial construction cost as well as recurring (6-year intervals) costs for renourishment ... Based on best- and worst-case scenarios provided by the Corps, those costs will range from $173,438,452 to $227,898,125 over the term of the project,” according to the town.

The state also helps pick up some of the funding for beach nourishment projects, but that funding (like the federal funding) is not always guaranteed.

“The State covers 25% of the renourishment costs and Surf City will pay the remaining 25%. This figure equates to $86,719,226 to $113,949,062.50. Although the 25% State share has historically been provided through the State Budget it is not guaranteed. Surf City’s portion will equate to an additional $1.97 - $2.6 million annually over the project life,” according to town staff.

The need for beach nourishment projects has increased over the years as storms continue to batter the coast which is why the town has worked to keep a balance on hand for the beach nourishment fund - but - the town needs more.

“When we look at the beach nourishment fund and the initial project construction cost, we’ll have a gap in funding which will have to be closed. Paid Parking revenues will assist the Town in closing that gap, reducing the reliance to add additional funding coming directly from property owners and taxes,” according to the town.

Similarly, the town is at least considering the addition of lifeguards at the beaches which could be funded by paid parking.

“Adding lifeguards to the beach is currently being evaluated through a 5-year Ocean Rescue Strategic Plan. If lifeguards become an option, proceeds from paid parking can go to help offset this cost,” according to the town.

Public safety issues have also arisen as the beach town continues to attract more visitors.

“As reported, the Town has seen a consistent increase in the need for parking enforcement as a surge in visitors has led to people parking anywhere they can throughout Town, including rights of ways, private property, and in areas that cannot fit a vehicle. This has led to increased conflicts with pedestrians and bicyclists and creating potentially hazardous situations, according to the town.

Through the creation of a paid parking program with a third party, enforcement would become easier and handled by the parking company, instead of police.

A full look at the town’s proposed paid parking program, along with answers to frequently asked questions can be found online.

You can also submit questions three different ways, according to the town:

  1. “Click Here to Submit Questions
  2. Leave us a voicemail at 910-338-5510:
  3. Attend the Special Workshop on Friday, February 12th at the Surf City Welcome Center, located at 102 N. Shore Drive. At 9:00 am Council and Staff will be available to answer questions before the Council meeting at 10:00 am.”

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