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Paid parking: Sticky issue, old concept

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

Several spaces at the Anna Maria City Pier parking lot are designated for customers of the pier’s restaurant. The commission hopes to establish a plan for paid parking to ensure the restaurant, which is leased from the city, has adequate parking. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Anna Maria Commission Chair Chuck Webb told his colleagues at their May 27 work session on paid parking that discussion of the issue “has been going on for months and we’re not getting anywhere.”

But the idea for some form of paid parking in the city has been around for years, if not decades. An article in the June 4, 2004, issue of The Islander notes the commission failed to agree on a paid parking plan.

Today’s commissioners have agreed with the concept, with details to be hashed out later. However, the details often cause division.

Commissioner Dale Woodland said he favored first working up an islandwide system for paid parking, but Commissioner Carol Carter said Anna Maria should press forward.

“We need to take the lead. Otherwise, we’ll talk forever,” she said.

Commissioner Doug Copeland said, “This past weekend, I was at the pier at 9 a.m. and people were unloading beach gear at the city pier lot and it looked like they were staying all day. As long as we have free parking and that beach is there, it’s an attraction and people will come,” he said.

If the pier lot and nearby spaces are full, many people park wherever they want, even if it’s illegal, Copeland said.

Webb asked for commission consensus for city staff to prepare a draft ordinance for fees and permits to park.

“We can add the details as we discuss the ordinance,” he said.

Woodland wanted to keep it simple.

He also said he’s received complaints from residents who say deputies are not doing enough to enforce the existing parking regulations.

Mayor SueLynn disagreed. She said issuing parking tickets is not the primary job of deputies and there aren’t enough deputies to patrol every city street in search of parking violations.

She told Woodland that deputies issued 99 parking tickets May 4-18.

“So, please, don’t say deputies are not doing their job,” SueLynn said.

Woodland said he was happy with law enforcement. He was only repeating some of the complaints he’s heard.

Webb agreed with SueLynn that deputies should not be the primary law enforcement that issues parking tickets if paid parking is instituted. He suggested additional staff to ticket for parking violations.

Woodland disagreed with any suggestion for increasing the cost of a parking ticket or adding staff. He said a $35 ticket is sufficient.

“If you think we can do this without more staff, you’re mistaken,” Webb said.

“Right now, let’s just get the overview. Details can be added later,” he said. City attorney Jim Dye should review the paid parking ordinances at other Florida beach resort cities and report those findings to the commission. Webb said it’s his understanding most Florida beach resorts have some form of paid parking.

Commission consensus was that some type of permit parking is needed. Residents would be exempt from paying for the permit.

Proof of residency can come from the address on a driver’s license, a utility bill, a signed lease for more than six months, a voter registration card or a homestead deed, commissioners agreed.

A discussion on towing and fees ensued, but Woodland said, “That’s still getting too complicated.”

Woodland also said that issuing permits would be an administrative nightmare, especially on weekends, when no one is at city hall.

Webb said the discussion was getting hung up on too many details, and some matters, such as the cost of a permit, could be done by resolution.

“The consensus is that we have a framework for staff to give us a draft ordinance,” in consultation with Dye and his findings, Webb said.

Some residents at the meeting agreed paid parking should be pursued, but several who spoke opposed having deputies as the primary source for issuing tickets.

Resident Marsha Lindsay defended the MCSO deputies, saying they always come when she calls about parking on Oak Avenue.

She wondered if the Manatee County Tourist Development Council “would pay for meter maids.”

“We’re providing all this money for them. If they are going to push island tourism, they can pay for meter maids,” she said.

“But there is no easy fix here. I think we are holding the wrong people responsible,” she said. The over-advertisement of Anna Maria Island for visitors has worked too well, she said.

Lindsay, a longtime city resident, said parking has “never been resolved” in the 40 years she’s been in the city. “But I do agree with your efforts. Keep trying. It’s better than doing nothing.”

Woodland said he thought it was too early to prepare an ordinance, but Webb and the other commissioners said there has already been too much talk.

“Action is needed,” Yetter said.

SueLynn said she would talk with Dye and city planner Alan Garrett and try to have a rough outline of an ordinance ready for the commission meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 12.

“I hope we have something in place by July 4,” the mayor said.

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