Visitors to the Manatee Public Beach and Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe in Holmes Beach could soon find themselves feeding parking meters as discussion on paid parking continues among city officials. Islander Photo: Mark Young
It’s a matter far from being settled, said Holmes Beach Mayor Carmel Monti, but commissioners unanimously agreed at an Aug. 29 meeting to authorize the mayor to move forward with researching paid parking.
City officials have been putting a lot of focus on how Key West manages parking, which incorporates everything from parking meters to permit parking.
Parking issues and easing congestion has become an islandwide topic of discussion and the matters are continuously up for discussion at each city level, as well as efforts to work together for the benefit of the island.
Each city has its own areas of concern and Manatee Public Beach has been a focal point of discussion for Holmes Beach. Monti presented costs to the commissioners for installing a parking kiosk at the public beach.
He said it was only an example of what different types of parking equipment would cost and estimated the city would recoup the cost in about 90 days if the city implemented a parking fee somewhere around $5-$10.
Commissioner David Zaccagnino maintained paid parking at the beach wouldn’t alleviate the city’s primary concerns over congestion. He said he would not support paid parking unless the city receives a fair share of revenue from Manatee County.
The land at the Manatee Public Beach is in the city but it is county-run and, if supported by the county commissioners, the county would be the primary financial beneficiary of paid parking.
“I don’t think it will prevent parking,” said Zaccagnino. “People will be happy to pay to spend the day at the beach and it won’t solve the parking issue. I think this is more a revenue thing.”
Monti said he believes public support is leaning more and more toward implementing paid parking, but “this is just the information stage.”
Commission Chair Jean Peelen wanted to go on record that she wasn’t comfortable discussing the idea solely as a “money-making venture. The idea was to combine parking fines and paid parking at the beach to enhance the goal of free transportation from the mainland. The goal is reduce the number of vehicles coming to the island, not the number of people.”
Peelen said potential revenue is a plus, but she joined Zaccagnino in saying she would not support the plan unless the city receives a “generous revenue share.”
Commissioner Judy Titsworth also claimed paid parking wouldn’t address congestion and that the potential exists for residents to implement parking on private properties once the city initiates paid parking.
“That’s just human nature,” she said.
Commissioner Marvin Grossman said paid parking makes it easier to sell the concept of free transportation from the mainland. He said the majority of parking is being taken up by day-trippers.
“I don’t think it’s wrong to charge a little bit of money for the services we have to provide for people who use it,” he said.
Monti’s vision includes the possibility of building a parking garage at the beach, but that may be an uphill climb. Grossman said he would not support that idea and he believes it lacks public support.
Zaccagnino reiterated that he isn’t too happy about implementing paid parking, “but I think there is no other way. Revenue from that could be used for other programs like a park-and-ride system.”
Zaccagnino said funds also could be used to install more traffic cameras and provide a live webcam on the city’s website to show the traffic situation to those thinking about heading to the beach.
“If people can see what the traffic is like before they come, they might not want to make the trip,” he said.
Commissioners agreed the discussion should move forward, but the consensus included that the city receive its fair share of any parking revenue from the county.
“I don’t like paid parking, but we have to do something,” said Commissioner Pat Morton. “If we get our fair share, then I have no problem with it.”
If implemented, Monti said it would be one piece of a broader citywide parking plan to ensure people don’t avoid paid parking at the beach. Permitted parking areas and enforcing no-parking zones are part of the solutions being considered.
“Nothing will be decided until it comes back to the city commission,” said Monti.