Merchants in Ventnor’s North Beach business district say recent parking regulation changes in the area are hurting their businesses and that they were happier with the former parking rules.
In mid-July, new two-hour and 30-minute parking signs were installed in the city’s business districts, in many cases replacing parking meters or altering parking-time regulations. The new signs indicate the south sides of Atlantic and Ventnor avenues now have two-hour parking in the business district and the north sides, 30-minutes.
The North Beach business district includes Atlantic and Ventnor avenues between Victoria to Jackson avenues.
But for a window-service ice cream shop, which relies on quick turnaround, a change from 15-minute to 30-minute parking can be a big deal. The opposite may go for a restaurant that used to have parking meters in front of its building, allowing people to park for as long as they needed. Some of those spaces are now limited to a half hour.
“It was 15 minutes for 28 years, and then overnight one day they just changed the signs,” said John Battista, who runs Carisbrooke Ice, an ice cream shop on Ventnor Avenue between Victoria and Little Rock avenues. The new signs say parking in front of his business was changed from 15 to 30 minutes.
“Nobody asked us or just said to us, ‘Hey, is this going to affect your business?’ Nobody notified us at all,” Battista said.
The change also affected the parking enforcement times in front of Battista’s shop. Parking previously was restricted to 15 minutes until 11 p.m., but now it’s restricted to 30 minutes until 5:30 p.m., after which time people can park for as long as they want until 7 a.m. the next day.
“Now people park here and go to dinner (at one of the area restaurants), but at the same time our prime business time really starts around dinner time,” he said.
Former Ventnor Business Association President Mike Wiesen, who is the owner of AAAA Bike Shop next door to Carisbrooke Ice, said his main issue with the parking changes is the merchants weren’t given any prior notification.
“It was never discussed, we never heard about it,” Wiesen said.
Across the street from their shops, at Best Bites Restaurant and Cafe, owner Mike Youakime said the spaces in front of his shop used to be metered, now they’re 30 minutes.
“People don’t really have enough time to sit and eat,” Youakime said. “Our goal is to make our customers comfortable, and having only 30 minutes isn’t really enough time.”
Ventnor Mayor Mike Bagnell said the parking time changes were talked about at multiple City Council meetings. He said the topic was first brought up in April and the ordinance was passed in May. The new parking signs were installed in mid-July.
Bagnell said the signs in front of Carisbrooke Ice are actually wrong, which he had not been aware of and doesn’t know why that is. In accordance with the ordinance, the south side of Ventnor Avenue is supposed to be two-hour parking, he said.
Nonetheless, he said the sign will remain as is for now, and in the fall he plans to go door-to-door throughout the business districts and ask the merchants how they feel about the changes. He’s personally heard both positive and negative reactions.
“I’ll reassess it,” Bagnell said. “I’m never afraid to admit if I was wrong, and I’m willing to hear the business owners out and consider changes if necessary.”
The goal in changing the parking regulations was to normalize parking throughout the business district, not to burden the business owners.
“Before parking was so helter-skelter,” Bagnell said. “You had 15-minute parking on one corner, two-hour metered parking on the other, 45 minutes in between and that was all in one block. We had to standardize it.”
He said the bottom line is that parking is a premium on the barrier islands in the summer and it will always pose an issue.
Battista said now that the summer is over, the damage has already been done for this season, but he plans to bring his concerns before City Council this fall with a hope of having the parking regulation reversed by next spring.
“Hopefully they will hear us out and realize it was a big mistake,” he said.
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