NC - 'It was inevitable': Surf City visitors, business owners react to first day of paid parking
During a Feb. 19 work session, town council members decided to forgo Surf City’s status as one of the few remaining coastal towns along the state’s southeastern coast to offer free beach parking to visitors.
SURF CITY — Jeff Allsbrook, a retired Wilmington Police captain, was standing on the boardwalk next to the Surf City Welcome Center late Thursday morning checking out the waves, like he had done many times before. On this morning, the avid surfer had to first go to a makeshift plywood shack, set up next to the old town hall, which was halfway demolished. He was there to purchase a $250 annual parking pass ($225 for senior citizens, military veterans, and extraterritorial residents) from Pivot Parking.
“Nobody’s happy about having to pay another fee,” he said. “It’s just a sign of the times. I think people saw it coming, and you just pony up and go on.”
During a Feb. 19 work session, town council members decided to forgo Surf City’s status as one of the few remaining coastal towns along the state’s southeastern coast to offer free beach parking to visitors. A new ordinance to enforce paid parking — created to fill a $700,000 annual deficit in its beach nourishment fund, according to Town Manager Kyle Breuer — for visitors on the island side of the town passed on a 4-to-1 vote.
Councilman Dwight Torres, who cast the lone dissenting vote, previously suggested the town should first increase parking capacity to meet a growing number of visitors and residents entering the island during spring and summer months. The town should only establish a paid parking model after more spaces were added, he told fellow council members.
On Thursday, Torres said he suspected an initial decline in visitors who are accustomed to free parking, as experienced from other beach towns that have adopted paid-parking programs.
“These visitors will likely go to the next available beach town not charging to park. Unfortunately, free-to-park beaches are starting to become a rare commodity in our particular area. . . . However, I do hope the program succeeds and achieves the intended goals,” Torres said.