The idea of paid parking, at least for day visitors to the city of Anna Maria, is gaining traction among commissioners, who, after an Aug. 8 meeting, seem ready to drive home a parking plan.
Although the meeting was to be a workshop of ideas for possible new revenue streams, commissioners quickly agreed that some revenue should come from day visitors, as they have a great deal of impact on the city’s infrastructure.
Commission Chair Chuck Webb said his thoughts on how to generate more city revenue concluded with the idea that paid parking could be the easiest to accomplish. Although paid parking has been suggested by previous commissions, it was turned down because parking on holidays and weekends was not a serious issue, he said.
“But it is now,” Webb observed.
Paid parking is easier to implement as a revenue source than a special city tax, he said. A study providing factual evidence is needed for a special assessment, but paid parking is not an assessment, Webb noted.
“And if we passed a tax, we would need approval of the Florida Legislature,” Webb said. “But we own the roads, right of way and many parking spots and can charge what we want.” There is no need for a study to have paid parking, he said.
Commissioner Dale Woodland agreed that paid parking is easily done and does not impact city residents. He opposes any impact or parking fee for residents.
The short-term visitors are using more of the city’s roads, beaches, trash bins and the city pier than the residents, Webb said. Therefore, it’s only fair that those who use something the most should help pay for it. City taxpayers already are paying for those items in their annual tax bill, he said.
Woodland said parking seems to be “the easiest and most agreeable” to commissioners, and “what is charged is a controlling mechanism” on the large number of day visitors.
“Paid parking is our priority,” Woodland.
Mayor SueLynn confirmed that paid parking would count toward the public parking spaces needed to qualify for state and federal beach renourishment funds.
“Just as long as they are public parking locations,” she said.
Commissioner Gene Aubry said Anna Maria may be the only city where he’s worked without paid parking.
“But the last thing I want to do is penalize people who have lived here for years,” Aubry said. “And remember, our biggest industry is tourism, so we have to be careful. We don’t want to penalize the little guy who runs a business,” he added.
The commission will have to hold several more brain-storming sessions to iron out the details of how paid parking is implemented, including who gets charged, Webb said.
Commissioners Doug Copeland and Nancy Yetter were absent.
“Let’s start with parking for now,” Woodland said. “It’s easy and we get 100 percent of the revenue and it won’t impact our residents.”
The subject will be on the agenda for the Aug. 22 meeting and the city attorney is expected to be present.
Webb noted the city gets nothing back from the resort tax for its infrastructure, despite pleas to the Manatee County Tourist Development Council for support for the city.
“They keep saying they’ll look into it, but we hear nothing, despite our pleas that a small city like Anna Maria has a hard time dealing with thousands of people on weekends and they make a big impact on our roads, the pier, our beach accesses and landscaping,” Mayor SueLynn said.
The mayor also noted that if the city is to begin towing vehicles in no-parking zones, or placing a lock on a vehicle to prevent a driver from moving it, ordinances are needed. At present, the city code only allows towing a vehicle that is blocking a private driveway.
Commissioners also discussed a uniform sign ordinance. Building official Bob Welch said he has talked to several real estate agents, who offered ideas for a standard sign.
Any change to the sign ordinance that creates a standard-size sign would take about two years to implement, Webb said.
“But we could have temporary and permanent signs for sales and rentals and charge accordingly for each,” he suggested.
Welch said he would bring a draft sign ordinance to the commission as soon as possible for discussion.
“If we implement the ordinance over a period of time, we could achieve compliance,” he said.
The next commission meeting will be at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 22, at Anna Maria City Hall, 10005 Gulf Drive.