Aldermen approve new parking meters, restrictions

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The Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen approved several parking changes for Pelican Drive and the Harbor Island commercial district during a special meeting May 28.

Old Causeway Drive will now be metered with an option to pay by phone. Coin-operated meters from West Henderson and West Greensboro streets will be relocated to mark the 56 spaces. The meters will be enforced May 1 through Sept. 15 during the hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. No boat trailers, attached or detached, are allowed to park in the marked spaces.

Boat trailers are also now banned from parking in the marked spaces on Marina Street and on the stretch of Keel Street between Old Causeway and Seacrest drives.

The parking changes in the Harbor Island commercial district are the results of months of debate and multiple public hearings to address the issue of beachgoers parking all day in the free spaces on Old Causeway Drive without patronizing the nearby businesses. Board members said the issue would only get worse as residential development in Wilmington increases and at least one new business, Poe’s Tavern, opens on Old Causeway Drive.

The aldermen hope the coin-operated meters will force parking turnover without deterring potential patrons. They agreed to meet again with business owners and residents after the parking season to determine the success or consequences of the meters.

Board members also predicted if they metered Old Causeway Drive, beachgoers seeking free parking would migrate over to nearby Pelican Drive. During previous public hearings, Pelican Drive residents said roadside parking would create safety concerns for walkers and cyclists along the narrow street, and difficulties for residents to back out of their driveways.

However, residents were opposed to the town’s original solution of charging to park along the road, saying they wanted extended family and guests to be able to park there for free.

Based on that feedback, the board decided Pelican Drive will now be exclusively residential parking between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, May 1 through Sept. 15. Residents may park along the road with a current residential hangtag or a parking decal. Boat trailers attached to vehicles are banned between May 1 and Sept. 15 and detached trailers are banned year round.

Town manager Tim Owens said the changes would be implemented as soon as possible, but he said it would take a few weeks to install pay-by-phone signage on West Greensboro Street and West Henderson Street and then relocate the meters to Old Causeway Drive.

During a June 2 phone interview, Owens estimated the signage would be installed in about a week; and a few days afterward, the meters would be moved.

Budget public hearing scheduled

Also during the board’s May 28 meeting, members received a final copy of the town’s proposed $13.21 million budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year.

The town’s top sources of projected revenue are about $3.2 million from property tax and about $2.7 million from parking fees.

Balancing the budget did not require a tax increase this year, but the town did draw from its reserve fund. The increase in expenditures is due in part to a $50,000 increase in the amount the town sets aside for beach renourishment from $350,000 to $400,000; the hiring of an additional police officer; replacement of outdated financial software; the purchase of a load packer and general inflation of goods and services.

The board is scheduled to hold a public hearing to adopt the budget during its June 11 regular meeting.

email emmy@luminanews.com

Read our previous coverage of this ongoing issue from May 7 and April 23.

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