Parking on the south side of Manatee Avenue near the public beach entrance is legal, but safety is an issue for the Committee on Traffic Congestion and Parking. Islander Photo: Mark Young
Creating a permitted parking system in Holmes Beach is one of the top ideas being pursued by a newly formed Committee on Traffic Congestion and Parking.
With only three members in attendance at the Aug. 19 meeting at Holmes Beach City Hall, some previously discussed ideas to alleviate island congestion were not addressed, but the committee moved forward with two key suggestions.
Committee chair Richard Motzer said he followed up on how small cities that draw lots of tourists handle congestion issues.
However, Motzer suggested that, if the city implements a permitted parking system the permitted parking should be concentrated in the 100-300 blocks of access streets from Gulf Drive west to the Gulf of Mexico.
The idea, he said, is to open one side of the street for parking with permits, but “I can’t see where parking should go beyond the 300 block. Normally, there is no one looking to park at Manatee Public Beach beyond the 300 block.”
Police Chief Bill Tokajer said once a mapping system is created for where permitted parking would be allowed, he would be able to mark the remainder of the streets as no-parking areas.
The discussion turned to renters and how many on-street parking permits would be allowed per rental unit. The general consensus was to issue one permit per bedroom.
Motzer said that should cover the number of vehicles that a unit’s driveway would accommodate, assuming the unit has the legal number of bedrooms.
“And if they are having another guest, then the guest can park in the driveway and they can park the permitted vehicle on the street,” he said.
Tokajer added that if a non-permitted vehicle is parked on the street outside a rental home, it will be ticketed.
Manatee Avenue overflow parking to shrink
While the committee is charged with coming up with solutions to congestion and parking problems for later presentation to the city commission, certain action can be taken under Tokajer’s authority.
The committee previously discussed developing angled parking along Manatee Avenue where it intersects with Gulf Drive to enhance safety.
Vehicles are prohibited from parking on the north side of Manatee Avenue, but overflow beach parking is allowed on the south side. The problem, Motzer said, is that vehicles parallel park and people exit their vehicles onto Manatee Avenue. He said, sometimes, parents get busy getting beach gear out of their vehicles and children wander dangerously close to the roadway.
Angled parking would make it safer and provide more parking spaces, but Tokajer said Aug. 19 that the city would have to negotiate regulations with the Florida Department of Transportation.
“State law prohibits angled parking on a state road,” said Tokajer. “We would have to go through DOT and that would be a hard thing to do in the time frame we are looking at. We do have a say on whether to continue to let people park there, or make the whole roadway no parking.”
After some discussion, the committee agreed with Tokajer to limit the parking area to the widest stretch of Manatee Avenue and, in the interest of safety, to close off the narrower sections as no-parking zones.
As of Islander press time, Tokajer was expected to begin placing signs from about Sixth Avenue eastward toward East Bay Drive, as well as the narrow section at the Gulf Drive intersection leading east into the wider area.
Tokajer said it would leave about 30 feet of overflow parking.
In other matters, the committee revisited the proposed parking meter plan for Manatee Public Beach.
The state requires a certain number of free parking spaces to qualify for beach renourishment funding and the committee is trying to determine that quantity.
Tokajer said the committee should have those numbers by its Sept. 2 meeting. In the meantime, committee member Carol Soustek said she was referred to a recent traffic study requested by Commissioner Marvin Grossman from the state.
The numbers provided in the study show discrepancies in the numbers of parking spaces counted by Holmes Beach and other island cities.
Tokajer said he had an officer count the number of spaces at Manatee Public Beach and determined there were 400, but the study shows 293.
Similarly, there have been 1,600 spaces counted at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach, but the 2013-14 study shows 1,200 spaces.
Soustek said there are 2,100 official public parking spaces on Anna Maria Island. The numbers include beach accesses and beach parking.
The lower numbers in the study could work to the city’s advantage, as it moves forward with ideas for paid parking.
If the study shows 293 spaces at Manatee Public Beach, but there are actually 400 vehicles parking there, the city can look take advantage of the discrepancy.
The committee will begin meeting every other Tuesday beginning at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 2, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.
Motzer said he plans to run meetings through November, at which time he hopes to present the committee’s suggestions to the commission.
Ideas are still being discussed, such as a parking garage at Manatee Public Beach, a toll booth at island entry points and opening bank and church parking lots to weekend and holiday parking.