Seaside Heights council members didn’t hold back at their first meeting since the July 4 holiday, when both officials and visitors began seeing private parking lots in town charging up to $100 for one day’s worth of parking.
“To charge this kind of money and chase people away is a crime,” said Councilman Richard Tompkins. “There’s no reason people can’t make money – my family has been in business here forever – but if you want to bring people to this town they can’t feel cheated.”
Borough Administrator Christopher Vaz said fees of $80 to $100 were noticed at just one or two lots in town, but the mere presence of such signs could be seen as unwelcoming to tourists.
Vaz said just after July 4, officials began preliminarily investigating whether parking fees could be regulated, but he has not yet authorized formal research from the borough attorney since the council has not yet called for such a move.
“It seems like it was limited to a couple of lots,” said Vaz. “It wasn’t widespread. I was here most of the day and I saw most charging $40 or $50.”
Vaz said he even heard from rival parking lot owners complaining about the $100 fees since it made the industry look bad.
“I fainted at those prices,” said Councilwoman Penny Graichen, who called them ‘disgraceful.’ “I thought it was greedy.”
Mayor Anthony Vaz said parking fees are a legitimate concern for the borough as it tries to attract more families.
“We have to look at the clientele we want to bring back to our community – and we’re focusing on families,” said Vaz. “We want affordability – we want people to come and enjoy the activities we have to offer.”
Shorebeat could find no examples of municipal ordinances regulating the price of private parking lots or garages in New Jersey, including in the state’s large cities such as Newark and Jersey City. The only regulations in the state administrative code deal with parking garages at Atlantic City casinos and the process by which cars can be towed from private property.
New York city imposes regulations on price gouging during emergencies, such as storms, but otherwise limits its regulatory power to calculate the number of allowable spaces on a property. In 2007, there was an effort by a city council member to regulate fees at stadiums after he saw a sign charging $150 to park at a New York Mets game, but the ordinance was never adopted.
Whether the borough has the power to regulate private parking lots or not, the issue has caught the eye of officials, who are hoping businesses don’t become too greedy on busy weekends.
“If I came to this town and was charged $80 per car, I would never come back,” Tompkins said.