Parking fees for non-residents are going up to $15 every day for Short Beach and Long Beach, which town officials say is what other Connecticut shoreline towns charge.
The exception is for non-resident guests invited to parties at picnic pavilions at Short Beach, who will be charged the old rate for the rest of 2011.
The old parking fees are $5 for weekdays and $10 for weekends and holidays at Short Beach and $10 every day at Long Beach. Town residents with beach stickers park for free, and residents without beach stickers would still be charged the old rates. Non-residents can buy a beach sticker for the whole season for $100.
Mayor John Harkins has not announced when the new rates will go into effect, but it could be as early as this week. The town website still displays the old rates.
The Town Council enacted the increase earlier this week, based on a recommendation by the Short Beach Commission.
Council member Stephanie Philips, D-2, asked for the exception because people have already rented the Short Beach picnic pavilions with the understanding that their non-resident guests would be charged the current parking fee.
Forty-eight rentals have been paid for at Short Beach through October, said Philips. It would not be fair to charge them more, she said.
Non-resident picnic guests would be charged the lower fee by informing the parking lot attendants when they arrived.
The fee would be deducted from the pavilion rental damage deposit bond prepaid by the pavilion renter. Those deposits range from $60 to $510, depending on whether the renter is a resident, a non-resident or a business and how many guests he/she expects.
The increase was proposed to match the parking fees charged by neighboring communities and to collect extra revenue for the town, which is facing a budget deficit this year.
Some of the Town Council members questioned whether parking attendants, who are summer employees paid the minimum wage, should have the responsibility to navigate the additional complications caused by the fee exception.
The Council members anticipated some beachgoers who aren’t coming to a pavilion picnic might question why they were charged a higher fee than those eligible for the exception.
Philips suggested tabling the increase for a month until all the details are worked out. "It was hastily done and I thought it was going to be sloppy," she said.
But Harkins urged approval. "We don’t want to lose a month of potential extra income," Harkins said. He told the Council he would make sure the details were worked out administratively.