Maria commissioners unanimously agreed Aug. 15 that some form of paid parking must be established to control the number of day visitors driving into the city.
What they could not agree on was how to implement a plan that exempts residents and long-term visitors.
Mayor SueLynn, however, said she and city staff have been discussing such a plan. She said she would prepare a draft of her plan and have Commission Chair Chuck Webb schedule a work session when it’s ready.
Commissioners received information on paid parking from city resident Bob Inserra, who is a park ranger at Fort DeSoto Park in Pinellas County. Inserra maintains the park’s five paid parking kiosks.
“Since we established paid parking, we’ve eliminated the joy-riders, the people who just wanted to cruise through the park and throw their garbage anywhere,” Inserra said.
“These machines are used all over the world for paid parking,” Inserra said. “You can buy as much time as you want.”
Inserra said the machines — kiosks — can easily be moved and, because they operate on solar power, can be implemented just about anywhere. Fort DeSoto Park’s machines handle several thousand cars on holidays and weekends.
Commissioner Gene Aubry said parking kiosks also worked well in Galveston, Texas, where he lived before moving to Anna Maria Island.
Commissioner Dale Woodland said the idea had some merit, but he wanted to keep any paid parking plan as simple as possible.
“We never had this parking problem before the influx of day visitors. It’s only been in the last few years that we’ve seen cars parked everywhere,” he said.
Commission Chair Chuck Webb suggested hiring part-time employees to work weekends and holidays to sell parking passes at beach access locations.
Aubry, however, was concerned with limiting parking on rights of way. He suggested a booth at the Gulf Drive entrance to the city from Holmes Beach, where day visitors would be required to purchase a parking pass before entering the city.
Commissioner Doug Copeland said that could create “major congestion” on Gulf Drive, particularly on weekends and holidays. Residents and vacation renters with parking permits in hand would be stuck in line waiting for others to purchase a permit.
“The problem is getting parking passes to the day visitors without causing congestion,” he said.
Mayor SueLynn said she and staff have discussed a plan where “every property owner gets a permit to park on their property and anywhere in the city. A landlord would get one permit per property to give to a rental person,” she said.
Copeland said it was obvious to him from the ensuing discussion that “this is going to be an involved process and take some time. Is there anything we can do now?” he asked.
The mayor said commissioners could pass an ordinance allowing illegally parked vehicles to be towed and increase the parking fine.
“We could do that in a few weeks while we work on a long-term parking plan,” she said.
SueLynn said she and staff would prepare a draft of a paid parking plan and bring it back in a few weeks to commissioners.
“Some of you are not going to like parts of the plan, but at least it’s a start,” the mayor said.