Visitors to Wrightsville Beach will see face higher rates for parking starting March 1 after the town’s board of aldermen voted unanimously to make a series of changes to parking rules, including raising the hourly parking rate.
Citing the need for revenue to meet expenses for tourism, beach renourishment and other town activities, the board voted to raise the hourly parking rate from $2.50 to $3, as well as extending parking hours across the town to make the collection periods on Harbor Island consistent with the rest of the island.
The board also voted to buy nearly 200 new individual parking meters, at a cost of nearly $160,000, since the “gray meters” that have been in service can’t be modified to accept the higher rates. An official with Lanier Parking, the company that operates the town’s parking services, said it takes an average of three months for parking revenue to recoup the expense of the new meters.
It will also cost residents more to acquire an annual parking pass, with that rate moving from $35 to $50, while the cost for the limited number of commercial passes available to select businesses in town are also going up, as C1 passes will go from $550 to $600 and costs of C2 passes rising to $200 from $150. Additionally, any business that doesn’t purchase its allotment of commercial passes this year will lose the right to purchases those passes in the future. Officials said the town is seeking to phase out commercial passes altogether.
The collection season will also change on Harbor Island, as parking on Old Causeway Drive, Keel and Marina streets, town hall and other locations will be expanded to March 1 through Oct. 31, from its previous collection season of May 1 through Sept. 15. Collection hours will also be expanded on Harbor Island, going to 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., up from the prior daily parking hours of 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. The change will make all parking collection on Wrightsville Beach consistent, with the exception of the town’s four lots that are primarily for visitors that collect parking until 8 p.m.: Beach Access No. 2 on the north end, the “L-shape” lot at Beach Access No. 4, the Salisbury Street lot by Johnnie Mercer’s Pier, and the South Lumina parking lot by Crystal Pier and the Oceanic Restaurant.
The board of aldermen also restricted residential pass use for parking on West Salisbury Street to match the current residential parking restriction on East Salisbury Street.
During the proceedings of the January 15 board “retreat” meeting, Mayor Bill Blair said that while the town’s parking rate is often criticized, the revenue is needed to fund and maintain tourism activities. Each year, parking revenue contributes at least $500,000 to the reserve fund the town will likely need to pay for beach renourishment. The cost of the 2018 Wrightsville Beach renourishment project was nearly $9.5 million.
Revenue from parking will also be used to help improve the facilities at Salisbury Street, as the board is working with architects to redesign the parking and upgrade the pavilion at the beach access, Blair said.