LONG BEACH — For the price of developing a single new parking space in Belmont Shore, a guy could buy a fancy Porsche sports car.
A single rectangular patch of asphalt and a pair of white lines in the trendy shopping and residential district costs as much as a luxury yacht or a trip around the world.
Parking is so scarce during busy times in Belmont Shore that business owners fear it is driving away customers. The area's parking board has offered a solution: create an assessment district to buy land that can be converted to small parking lots. The district would finance the purchases by selling bonds, which would be paid off with a combination of fees on commercial property owners and parking meter revenues.
But at an estimated $55,500 to $64,500 for each parking space, including bond costs, the plan ran afoul of a group of Belmont Shore merchants. Presenting their case to the City Council, they successfully won a delay Tuesday to give them a chance to study cheaper alternatives.
After the merchants presented a petition signed by 143 fellow business owners, the council postponed the issue until June 21.
The assessment district would raise $4 million to buy as many houses as possible near the business district. The houses would be demolished to make way for parking lots of about eight or nine spaces each, said John F. Doyle, chairman of the Belmont Shore Board of Parking Place Commissioners.
The district would have enough money for 64 to 72 new parking spaces. Commissioner Kenneth R. Trossen said the spaces cost about $30,000 each to develop but bonding costs push the prices higher.
To finance the venture, commercial building landlords would be assessed at a rate of about 35 cents per square foot of lot size a year. The assessment would be lower if the district decides to buy fewer lots or if parking meter revenues exceed expectations, Doyle said.
In any case, the assessment would be capped at a maximum of 66 cents a square foot over the 20-year life of the bonds.
Doyle said the assessment would amount to $55 a month for a typical business operating in about 1,900 square feet of lot size. Those figures are tentative, however.
Merchants opposed to the plan said they recognize the need for more parking, but they cannot afford to chip in for the high-priced spaces. Business consultant Penny Field of the Belmont Shore Business Assn. said rents for some storekeepers recently have doubled, tripled or quadrupled.
Ralph Lepre, owner of Don Cisco Authentic Mexican Food restaurant, said most merchants are opposed to the plan. "It doesn't work," he said. Other merchants said there are alternatives to the high-priced spaces that should be fully explored before an assessment district is formed. For instance, one merchant said the possibility of shuttling employees is being explored so those spaces can be cleared for customer use.
Another merchant, Barbara Franks, owner of the Foot Loose store, said 2nd Street is laced with green, yellow, red and white curb sections and unnecessary bus stops that could be turned into 129 new metered parking spaces.
Doyle said that the group's ideas should not be considered as a solution but rather as an addition to the creation of the assessment district.
He warned, however, that the price of waiting could be even higher costs of acquiring parcels that can be developed into small parking lots. The need for more parking is "extremely critical," Doyle said.