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Date of Issue: May 21, 2008

Consensus reached on employee parking solutions

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Business owners, residents and city officials met last week to discuss the parking-space deficit in Bradenton Beach, especially on commercial Bridge Street. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale last week launched an investigation. He is looking into the prospects of establishing an employee park-and-ride at county-owned Coquina Beach with a shuttle to the Bridge Street area.

The chief began the inquiry last week after a group of business leaders, residents and city officials apparently reached a consensus on handling Bradenton Beach’s business district parking-space deficit.

A loosely organized group met May 14 at city hall to discuss employee parking along with a proposal to install meters on Bridge Street and in a city-owned parking lot on First Street North.

Several weeks ago, a city committee endorsed installing meters to limit parking in a public space to two hours, but the group gathered last week placed meters at the bottom of its priority list - needed only if other alternatives failed.

At the top of the priority list is establishing an employee park-and-ride zone at the beach, with parking allowed from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. to accommodate early- and late-shift employees in Bradenton Beach. It would specifically carry workers to the Bridge Street and Gulf Drive area.

Additionally, the group endorsed using electric carts to shuttle employees from the beach to the commercial district.

The group also recommended the city seek grant money or allocate Community Redevelopment Agency funds to buy property for parking lots in the commercial district. Additional discussion on CRA funding was expected to take place at a meeting Monday, May 19, after the newspaper’s deadline.

For the past couple of years, the city has grappled with a lack of parking spaces for a growing commercial district. The issue has created conflicts between business owners, headaches for city officials and left visitors circling the streets in search for a space to stop and visit local establishments.

As he opened last week’s parking meeting, Speciale said he wanted a resolution soon to relieve the pain associated with too few parking spaces and policing of prohibited parking on rights of way.

“We have to do something,” Speciale said. “All the talking is through.… This is up to you guys. You, as a group, have to go to the city and say this is what we want.”

Those gathered, including a number of owners and representatives of businesses on Gulf Drive and Bridge Street, seemed as eager as Speciale to resolve the parking situation before the 2008-09 tourist season begins.

“We can draw up a list right now,” said Ed Chiles, owner of the BeachHouse in Bradenton Beach, as well as restaurants in Anna Maria and on Longboat Key.

And then, the group created its list.

The next day at a city commission meeting, Commissioner Janie Robertson held up the poster-sized sheet of paper that contained the group’s priorities inked in marker.

She praised the group’s work.

“They were all meeting here, working out a solution,” she said. “It’s really good.”