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Date of Issue: January 11, 2007

Public invited to parking meeting Jan. 17 in Bradenton Beach

Parking issues in Bradenton Beach will come to a head Jan. 17 at a "town hall meeting" in which all are invited to offer their thoughts on the matter.

The issue is far from new for the city. Officials have long wrestled with where to put cars, how long those cars should be allowed to park, if there should be a charge for that parking, and how or if more parking areas should be designated and, if so, where and who should or would fund them.

The recent spate of debate began about 10 years ago, when city commissioners approved a "zero-parking" land-use designation for Bridge Street. The measure allowed businesses to decline from offering parking spaces for patrons as an incentive to draw development to what was then something of a wasteland as far as commercial growth goes.

As commerce came to the area, though, parking became a problem. The pier restaurant became a booming business, bringing customers to the area - which some claimed took up all adjoining parking spaces from other businesses.

Parking meters were discussed a few years later, but dropped from consideration.

Timed parking was also discussed, dropped, then instituted in an attempt to keep business employees from taking all-day advantage of the increasingly valuable spots.

The city then purchased a lot between Bridge Street and First Street North for parking, but the issue remained.

The matter resurfaced last November as commissioners held a public hearing on pier restaurant renovation plans. About 60 people packed city hall to laud the commission on the pier renovation plans - new restaurant, rest room facilities, dockmaster-tourism kiosk and other amenities - but blasted the small amount of allowed parking.

Mayor John Chappie vowed to establish a parking committee to address the issue. The upcoming town hall meeting on parking was the result.

Chappie said last week that he had retained the services of profession planner Alan Garrett to facilitate the meeting, or meetings, and prepare a report to the city commission based on the comments from the public. Garrett is a consultant to Anna Maria City on planning matters and is familiar with the Island, Chappie said.

The Jan. 17 meeting will begin at 5 p.m. at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N. For further information, call 778-1005.