By Jane Smith
Boynton Beach boaters were able to persuade the City Commission to reduce the annual parking pass from $350 to $200 at Harvey E. Oyer Jr. Park on the Intracoastal Waterway.
The Sept. 22 decision was made at the city’s final budget hearing. The new rate of $200 for Florida residents took effect on Oct. 1.
“The $350 rate is causing quite an uproar,” Boynton Beach resident Sven Mautner told The Coastal Star on Sept. 9. “They are basing it on $1 a day.”
But he said the annual parking pass cost just $50 in the financial year that ended Sept. 30.
“I have a 21-foot boat with a single motor,” Mautner said. “I use it to go snorkeling with my wife. We bring along some sandwiches.”
He first read about the proposed $300 increase in The Coastal Star.
Resident Clifton J. Bell sent an email on Sept. 9 to Commissioner Christina Romelus and Public Works Director Andrew Mack with this subject line: “City Resident Boat Decal 700% Increase is EXTREME.”
He objected to Boynton Beach residents’ having to pay the increased cost of the annual permit when the city has installed metered kiosks that operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “Our taxes already go towards funding of city parks,” he wrote.
The city now charges any vehicle that uses the long boat spaces $1.50 per hour, payable at the two parking kiosks.
The maximum daily charge is $10 weekdays and $25 on weekends.
Boynton Beach offers boat owners an annual parking pass at $200 for Florida residents and $350 for nonresidents.
Ramp replacement in the works
At the Sept. 22 final budget hearing, Mack explained that the city is using penny sales tax money and a Florida Inland Navigation District grant to replace the boat ramp. Requests for proposals will go out in the first quarter of the new financial year, he said. Actual construction will start in late spring or early summer, Mack said.
Because of the boat ramp 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 would mean about $50,000 in reduced 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.