By Donald Wittkowski
Over the years, boat owners who rent slips at Sea Isle City’s municipal marina have been given an extra perk – two free parking passes for their cars.
The passes gave them the convenience of using highly coveted bayfront parking spaces next to the marina without having to pay for the privilege.
But now, they are complaining that the city is threatening to take away their parking passes without discussing it with them first.
“It’s as underhanded as it gets,” said Joe Bonjorno, an Ocean View resident who has rented a boat slip at the marina for about 20 years.
“It’s sneaky,” added Kathy Flynn, a Sea Isle resident who also rents a boat slip.
Bonjorno, Flynn and other boat owners appeared during the City Council meeting on April 23 to express their dismay over the possible loss of their parking passes.
They said they learned that the passes might be taken away after they had already signed their contracts to rent their slips for the 2019 boating season.
Bonjorno said all of a sudden, the boat owners got “back-doored.”
“They sent the contracts out and didn’t mention this to us,” he said in an interview Monday.
Bonjorno said the parking passes aren’t actually free because the cost is part of the boat slip rentals.
The marina is located along the bayfront on 42nd Place. It has 87 slips and can accommodate boats ranging in size from 18 to 35 feet long. Depending on the size of the boats, rental fees range from $1,530 to $3,100 per slip from April to November.
Sea Isle officials are looking to crack down on the parking passes because of alleged abuses. There are reports that some boat owners have widely shared the passes with friends, family members and neighbors instead of using them exclusively for their own cars and trucks.
Mayor Leonard Desiderio said he was told by one boat owner that she has saved her parking passes for the past five years. Boat owners are supposed to throw out the old passes when they get new ones each year.
“It appeared she had five parking space permits when she really only had one,” Desiderio said of the boat owner who kept the old passes.
Bonjorno blamed the city for not enforcing the parking regulations. He said it is the city’s fault if any parking abuses have occurred.
“They holler about this stuff, but they don’t enforce the rules,” he said.
During the April 23 meeting, Councilman Frank Edwardi Jr. said there has been an “unwritten rule” for years that boat slip renters are entitled to free parking at the marina. He noted that his father, Frank Edwardi Sr., who oversees the marina as the city’s harbormaster, was the one who gave out the free parking passes.
“It’s worked for years for everyone,” Councilman Edwardi said of the free parking arrangement.
Without the passes, the boat owners would have to do the same thing as the rest of the public – pay for their parking at the meters or kiosks. Another option for them would be to buy a $200 parking sticker that is good for the entire summer.
One possible compromise that is being discussed is to give the boat owners one free parking pass instead of two. City Council will likely have to approve a new ordinance to formalize the arrangement.
“Council will come back with a compromise. They’re probably going to get their one parking spot,” Desiderio said.
The Council members indicated they are interested in a “prompt resolution” of the controversy. Edwardi threw his support behind the idea for a new ordinance to continue free parking for the boat owners.
Flynn, the boat owner who lives in Sea Isle, said she would be “very happy” if she continues to get free parking, even if it is just one pass, not the two passes she has received in the past.
“I don’t know what the outcome will be. I’m hoping for the best,” Flynn said in an interview Monday.
Bonjorno, though, insisted that boat owners should not have their parking privileges curtailed. He believes they should continue to receive two free parking passes.
He indicated there is a possibility that boat owners would consider filing a class-action lawsuit against the city if they don’t get two parking passes as part of their slip rentals.