By Jane Smith

Boynton Beach boaters were able to persuade the City Commission to raise the $50 annual parking pass at Harvey Oyer Jr. Park to just $200 instead of a proposed $350.

The decision was made at the city’s Sept. 22 final budget hearing. The new rate takes effect on Oct. 1.

“The $350 rate is causing quite an uproar,” said Boynton Beach resident Sven Mautner. “They are basing it on $1 a day.”

But he said the annual parking pass cost just $50 in the financial year that ends Sept. 30.

“I have a 21-foot boat with a single motor,” said Mautner, who first read about the proposed increase in The Coastal Star. “I use it to go snorkeling with my wife.”

Resident Clifton J. Bell emailed Commissioner Christina Romelus and Public Works Director Andrew Mack with this subject line: “City Resident Boat Decal 700% Increase is EXTREME.”

He objected to residents having to pay the higher cost of the permit when Boynton Beach plans to install metered kiosks that will operate 24/7, seven days a week. “Our taxes already go towards funding of city parks,” he wrote.

The city will charge any vehicle that uses the long boat spaces $1.50 per hour, payable at the two parking kiosks. The maximum charge is $10 on weekdays and $25 on weekends.

Boynton Beach will offer boat owners an annual parking pass at $200 for Florida residents and $350 for non-residents.

At the final budget hearing, Mack explained that the city is using penny sales tax money and a Florida Inland Navigation District grant to replace the Oyer Park boat ramp, on the Intracoastal Waterway. Requests for proposals will go out before the end of the year, he said. Construction will start in late spring or early summer.

Because of the construction, Commissioner Justin Katz proposed a $100 annual parking pass. “Boaters might not be able to use the ramp,” he said.

But Mayor Steven Grant wanted to keep the parking pass at $200.

“If you use the boat ramp eight times during the weekends or 20 times during the week, the pass will pay for itself,” he said. “People abuse the boat ramp and leave their trailers there.”

The idea of charging for parking is to allow more boaters to use the park, said Colin Groff, assistant city manager. “Ten shorter spots will be free. But if you park in the longer spaces, you will have to pay,” he said.

Reducing the pass cost by $150 will mean about $50,000 less in revenue to the city, Groff said. “But the city could sell more passes at the lower rate. We just don’t know where the numbers will be,” he said.

City commissioners narrowly approved the $200 annual parking pass rate, with Vice Mayor Ty Penserga and Katz voting no. Penserga had said at the first budget hearing that the pandemic was not the time to be raising rates.

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