Smithtown officials won't charge residents a fee to park at...

Smithtown officials won't charge residents a fee to park at local beaches, like Callahans Beach in Fort Salonga, after strong resident opposition to such a proposal. Credit: Rick Kopstein

Smithtown officials have abandoned a plan to charge residents a fee to park at local beaches and parks after strong opposition to the measure.

The town board voted 5-0 at its March 21 meeting to amend portions of code related to parking at recreational spots, but town residents will continue to park for free and Smithtown will keep charging nonresidents a fee.

“I’m happy to hear that. That’s heeding the calls of the residents,” said Commack resident Irwin Izen, 64, who frequently visits Callahans Beach in Fort Salonga.

He was among town residents who were against the proposed parking fee for residents. Nine members of the public spoke out against the measure during a December public hearing.

At that meeting, town board members talked about the possibility of charging residents a $30 fee for one sticker for parking at beaches and parks and $15 for each additional sticker.

The original proposal also called for charging seniors, veterans and Smithtown volunteer firefighters a reduced fee of $15 to obtain one such parking permit.

Nicole Garguilo, a spokeswoman for Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim, said Tuesday that after taking public comments into consideration, and “without ample time” for the town clerk to “properly implement” any changes, “the decision was made to renew all parking permits at no cost to residents.”

Wehrheim told Newsday in a December interview he believes Smithtown is the only Long Island municipality that provides residents with such free parking, and economics were behind the potential change.

The supervisor said then that the increase in minimum wage and an effort to keep the town budget under the 2% state tax cap had forced officials to consider other revenue sources to keep parks and beaches operating.

Wehrheim also said at the time that if the town didn't implement the new fee or find additional revenue, officials might be unable to hire seasonal employees for beaches and parks, which could result in recreation program cutbacks.

Garguilo said Tuesday that since town board members decided not to implement the proposed resident parking fees, Smithtown officials will need to “strictly enforce” overtime budgets.

The town spokeswoman added that public safety staff “will heavily police the use of the parks and beaches to ensure the parking stickers are affixed to the registered Smithtown vehicle which they were assigned to.”

The fines for sticker violations are $50, according to Garguilo.

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