It’s no secret on Anna Maria Island that an increasing number of visitors seeking beach time can translate to crowded, sometimes illegal parking.
The city of Holmes Beach has taken action to discourage errant parking by raising fines and creating tow-away zones, but it has become the goal of the city’s congestion committee to make off-site beach parking available.
The congestion committee, city center committee, city staff and, most recently, the parks and beautification committee each are reviewing a piece of the parking problem pie. The congestion committee, perhaps, has the largest share.
Committee members are working with city staff and Mayor Carmel Monti, who is working with Manatee County to reconfigure the Manatee Public Beach parking lot to add spaces and a passenger drop and pickup area.
The committee’s primary focus has been the development of a parking agreement with churches and businesses that will allow use of their parking lots for beach overflow parking.
That includes use of the city hall parking lot, which could provide 30 additional spaces on the weekends and the Island Library on Sundays and Mondays, when its closed, with its 40 spaces, although both are five blocks from the beach and the trolley route only travels northbound along Marina Drive.
“The goal is to begin working on overflow parking lots as close to the beach as possible and work out from the beach,” said committee member Bob Johnson.
Committee chair Carol Soustek said the secondary goal for discussions with organizations with property farther from the beach would be to ensure a trolley stop is nearby.
In all, the committee plans initial discussion with six churches and banks that could provide some 235 additional parking spaces on weekends and holidays.
That doesn’t include the addition of several dozen parking spaces at the public beach and dozens more spots at CrossPointe Fellowship, 8605 Gulf Drive, on the border of Holmes Beach and Anna Maria.
CrossPointe — only a block from the beach — already provides beach parking on weekdays, Saturdays and after church on Sundays, but it is underused. However, some nearby residents have complained about the lack of services — restrooms — for beachgoers passing though their neighborhood.
The committee has been progressing through a document to begin presenting to various organizations for consideration, but needs city commission approval.
At a Nov. 26 congestion committee meeting, members finalized the generalized wording of the document with the understanding that each agreement would need to be negotiated and brought back to the committee for a recommendation to the city commission.
“This thing is going to vary from user to user,” said Johnson. “This is just a guideline document, and then we’ll need to look at the parameters of each negotiation. It’s a template, not a final document.”
The committee wants the city commission to take the draft agreement up for discussion and possible vote at the commission’s Dec. 10 meeting. Soustek said she would like committee representatives to begin negotiating with organizations by January.
The committee already has set a a February launch date as its goal for opening beach overflow parking lots.
The next phase for the committee is to launch a public awareness campaign. There has been discussion on how to do that, but committee members were tasked by Soustek to come up with more ideas and bring them to their Dec. 9 meeting.
The public awareness campaign is a key factor in the committee’s success.
“Just because we created it, doesn’t mean they’ll come,” said Johnson. “Now it’s how do we get the word out and how do we keep people engaged.”
The committee will meet only once in December, at 9:30 a.m. Monday, Dec. 9, at Holmes Beach City Hall, 5801 Marina Drive.