Shore Town’s increased parking fees anger some residents who say they now have to pay

Metered parking will come into effect Saturday in Belmar for the upcoming summer season, when parking by the beach will cost $ 1 an hour on some blocks and $ 2 an hour on others, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., payable via the ParkMobile phone application or automated. telephone line.

Paid parking is nothing new this year at Belmar. The borough started using the ParkMobile app in May 2020, a technology that allowed Belmar and other municipalities to monetize the increased demand for fresh air and the great outdoors offered by beaches during the coronavirus, while avoiding any physical contact involved in the collection of parking fees.

But paid parking has been expanded this year to include various city blocks inside Ocean Avenue, and without the availability of residential parking permits, some residents who have relied on free street parking say they will have to. now pay to park in front of their home or look for a free parking space somewhere further from the beach and their front doors.

“We’re not against them raising money for the city through tourism, but for the working class people who live in the city, I don’t think it’s fair for them,” said Michael Boyce, who lives one block from 5th Avenue. – one block west of the beach where paid parking will be in effect for the first time this year.

Boyce lives in one of 30 apartments in a building with only 23 on-site parking spaces and relies on street parking. He works from home as an events manager for the Grand Center Terminal, so his car is usually parked on the block all day. At $ 2 an hour for the 15 hour period on the meter, the new fee would cost him $ 30 per day, seven days a week.

He rents his apartment and does not pay property taxes to the borough. But he assumes his owner does. Thus, for Boyce, having to pay for parking while indirectly contributing to the borough’s coffers through his rent seems unfair. He said neighbors who pay property taxes feel the same way.

“An owner on 6th Avenue, he’s not a big fan of it because he only has one seat in his driveway,” Boyce said.

Parking in some areas, including the Borough’s Shark River waterfront near the Marina Grill along Route 35, will also cost $ 2 an hour, but at different times, from 16 h to 2 h.

Parking in one of the predominantly diagonal locations on the east side of Ocean Avenue, the oceanfront boulevard that runs the entire 1.5 mile length of the borough, will cost $ 1 per hour from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. That said, parallel parking on the west side of Ocean Avenue will remain free – a steep discount for residents of mostly single-family homes that line the street or visitors who have to cross it to spread their towels on the sand.

Green ParkMobile road signs advising motorists of parking restrictions increased on the new blocks this week. And the parking page on the borough’s website, as well as the borough’s Instagram page, specify which streets are subject to paid parking, the hours it is in effect and the hourly rates.

There is no mention of a residential parking permit or any other program that might offer exemptions or discounts on parking fees. Boyce said he was never told of such permits – nor, for that matter, that the paid parking requirement was coming to his block – and he said borough officials had not replied to his messages asking for the subject.

Belmar’s metered parking via the ParkMobile app has expanded from Ocean Avenue inland this year to this block on Sixth Avenue and other streets.Photo by Michael Boyce

Likewise, the Mayor of Belmar and the Borough Administrator did not return calls and emails from NJ Advance Media.

While it’s unclear exactly why residents don’t appear to be exempt from Belmar’s parking fees, there is a body of case law and an ancient legal principle known as the Public Trust Doctrine that supports access. Universal at the Shore, which have been used in New Jersey and elsewhere to oppose local laws or regulations favoring residents over visitors with respect to beach access.

Andew Chamberry, an attorney with the Surfrider Foundation and the American Littoral Society, said that, according to the details, residential parking permits on streets near beaches where visitors must pay could be interpreted as a violation of the public access doctrine.

On a related note, last year Governor Phil Murphy issued an executive order in connection with the coronavirus state of health emergency prohibiting municipalities from giving residents preference over visitors in terms of access to the beach.

But Chamberry expressed sympathy for the residents who might be hurt by Belmar’s situation, and he preferred that there be no parking fees, especially as Belmar charges for beach badges, as do most towns on the Jersey Shore.

“The beach fee law should not allow municipalities to charge for parking if they are forcing people to pay for beach badges,” Chamberry said. “It is not reasonable to force people to pay for both.”

Belmar apartments parking

This Sixth Avenue apartment complex has 30 units but only 23 on-site parking spaces, meaning residents will have to pay to park on their block or find a spot elsewhere.Photo by Michael Boyce

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Steve Strunsky can be reached at [email protected].