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Date of Issue: July 14, 2010

No ‘go’ for parking lot purchases

Options to purchase property for public parking in Bradenton Beach’s downtown district will be allowed to lapse.

The city community redevelopment agency committee did not move forward July 7 with the options for the parking proposal brought to the table by committee member Ed Chiles.

Chiles had recommended purchasing at least two properties in the 100 block of First Street North and adjacent to the city hall and Tingley Memorial Library. And, last week, he said a third property had become available.

“I thought it was a great project,” he said of the plan.

Bradenton Beach Mayor Bob Bartelt listens during a community redevelopment agency meeting. Islander Photos: Lisa Neff

But, toward the end of the meeting at city hall, Chiles acknowledged the lack of support for the project: “We’ll let these contracts lapse.”

In recent months, the CRA committee set a list of priorities that included improving parking opportunities in the CRA district, which was established 18 years ago to revitalize the downtown area by using dedicated property tax dollars for projects that stimulate commercial growth and recreational opportunities and other civic improvements.

Last month, Chiles presented the committee with an opportunity to purchase two properties on First Street North — each measuring about 100 feet deep and 50 feet wide. One property was available for $359,000 and the other for $245,000.

Chiles said the purchase was in keeping with the recommendations of a master parking plan for the CRA district.

Demolition of the structures on the properties would cost about $11,000 and grading and landscaping to create parking for about 30 vehicles would cost about $20,000.

Chiles said the prices were “good” and “I don’t know if you can do any better than that.”

Bradenton Beach business-owner David Teitelbaum, at the meeting last week, endorsed Chiles’ proposal. He said a benefit would be the proximity of the properties to city hall, which must be hardened in the future.

“The city does have a parking problem, but it has a future city hall hardening problem as well,” Teitelbaum said.

But business owners Barbara Rodocker and Jo Ann Meilner said the price for the parking lots was too high.

“I know the need for parking,” said Rodocker. However, she said the city would be paying $42,000 per space and that was too pricey.

Plus, she said, the parking problem would remain because the spaces would quickly fill with day-parkers bound for the beach or work.

Meilner said, “We’re always going to have a parking problem, even if we get 40 more spaces or 50 more spaces.”

The rest of the CRA committee also was not interested in buying the property, at least not now.

CRA member Janet Vosburgh, also a city commissioner, said the properties were “good buys,” but economic hard times remain ahead and “we’ve got to tighten our belts.”

Commissioner and CRA member Gay Breuler suggested a renewed effort to promote trolley ridership and create a park-and-ride tram system that would run from the public beaches to Bridge Street.

“We have parking,” Breuler said. “We just have to utilize it.”

Mayor and CRA chair Bob Bartelt agreed. If the city built a parking garage, it would still have a parking problem, he said.

CRA member/Commissioner Janie Robertson raised concerns about spending money on parking lots when a major replacement project is ahead for the Historic Bridge Street Pier. The cost to replace the fishing portion of the pier is $500,000 to $735,000.

Chiles said with the CRA pot of money — about $250,000 a year for the next eight years — the committee didn’t need to view projects as “either or.”

“We can accomplish all of our objectives,” he said. “The CRA is to lift the boat, be the rising tide.”

But, in the end, there was no action on Chiles’ proposal.

“I’m disappointed,” Chiles said. “I think the city is losing a great opportunity.”

The committee did agree that a plan to improve public parking between Church and Highland avenues by the city-owned Monroe Cottage and public works garage should be pursued.

The city is working with LTA Engineers on the redesign, which could yield about 30 parking spaces.

“That’s huge,” said Chiles.

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