Increasing the cost of parking tickets is just one tool Holmes Beach commissioners will soon discuss to help alleviate what city officials are calling an overwhelming parking problem.
During season and holiday weekends, residents have complained at city meetings that their neighborhoods are being used by visitors for overflow parking for the beach and nearby restaurants.
Currently, a parking ticket in the city will run a violator $25, but some visitors see that as a reasonable expense for all day island parking.
At a June city commission meeting, Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer suggested raising the parking fine to $35, but immediate feedback was to raise the fine to $50.
Tokajer said July 24 that the commission would be addressing a fine increase, and would then need to amend the city’s parking ordinance.
In the meantime, Tokajer has taken another step to ease congestion on Manatee Avenue West leading into the Manatee Public Beach area near the Gulf Drive intersection.
For some time, the city has posted signs that there is no parking allowed on the north side of Manatee Avenue due to limited space between the roadway and the sidewalk.
Tokajer received a consensus from commissioners in June to implement a tow-away zone on the north side, where parking is prohibited.
“The tow-away signs went in either July 19 or July 20,” said Tokajer. “I told my guys not to enforce the tow-away zone until they received an email from me clarifying that it was up and running.”
Tokajer wanted to give the public every opportunity to learn of the tow-away zone before implementing it, but said it would activate sometime in the first week of August.
“I think it’s important to first let people know we are going to start towing from that area,” he said. “Even though it’s a no-parking area, people are still parking there and it’s become a hazard to pedestrians and bicyclists.”
Tokajer said vehicles park in the bike lane and on the sidewalk, forcing bicyclists and pedestrians into Manatee Avenue and potential disaster.
“It forces people into a state road and that’s just unsafe,” he said.
Tokajer said towing companies are used by the city on a rotating basis, so fees for people who have vehicles towed may vary, “but will be significantly more than a parking ticket, potentially running into the hundreds of dollars.”
He said he would be contacting the towing companies before enforcing the tow-away zone to let them know they soon will be needed.
In the meantime, motorists can park on the south side of Manatee Avenue West, where Tokajer says there is substantially more room to park vehicles without endangering pedestrians or bicyclists.
The area often is used during peak times for overflow parking by beachgoers.
“They are allowed to park on the south side because there is enough of a grassy area and no sidewalks,” said Tokajer. “But the vehicle must be parked all the way off the road. It cannot be in the roadway or bike lane or they will be illegally parked and subject to a parking fine.”