Holmes Beach considers owner-resident parking permits

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Holmes Beach is considering revising its parking plan to include resident-only parking in a zone indicated in blue on the map. The yellow zone depicts areas where parking is unrestricted. Islander Courtesy Graphic
A family walks the path to the shoreline June 24 at the White Avenue beach access in Holmes Beach. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Allen

HOLMES BEACH — He said it was a “work in progress.”

Now, progress is proceeding.

When Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer recommended the removal of about 1,100 on-street parking spaces in late April, commissioners agreed to the plan on Tokajer’s assurance it would be tweaked.

At a teleconferenced commission meeting June 23, Tokajer presented a draft ordinance for a “parking-by-permit-only zone.” If approved, residents and owners would obtain decals for parking 9 a.m.-5 p.m. in 619 of the 1,100 prohibited parking spots.

After 5 p.m., parking in the zone would open to the public.

“We do not think that our sunset crowd is our concern,” he said. “Plus, if you have a dinner party at your house, chances are that would be after 5 p.m.”

Tokajer’s effort to inventory and remove on-street parking was made at the behest of Mayor Judy Titsworth in the wake of coronavirus closures.

The move was meant to reduce congestion and trash near neighborhood beach accesses.

However, people from on and off the island were divided over the decision, which limited parking near publicly funded beaches and, some said, pushed traffic into Bradenton Beach and Anna Maria.

In letters to officials and on social media, some people complained the decision was made too quickly, with little input, while others commended the city action.

A similar permit parking ordinance was approved 3-2 by the commission in 2016, but was vetoed by then-Mayor Bob Johnson. Mayor Judy Titsworth said June 23 the new proposal was adapted from the 2016 ordinance.

Tokajer said a two-hour parking limit was removed from the original ordinance. Full-time residents with proof of residency would be provided a vehicle decal. Unlicensed golf carts would not require a permit.

Decals would be renewed annually, at a cost probably less than $20, according to Tokajer.

Vacation rental owners would be allowed two decals, not to be shared with renters, and permits would be nontransferable to other vehicles.

“If we see that some congestion is pushed into a different neighborhood and the remedy for that would be to make the area permit parking, it gives us the opportunity to do that as we move forward,” Tokajer said.

Former Commissioner Rick Hurst, who is running for another term in 2020, and has been opposed to the parking reduction, said he is OK with the plan.

He said, “It is moving in the right direction,” but he would like to see renewals every other year.

Commission Chair Jim Kihm said beach access parking in Anna Maria and Bradenton Beach is limited, so Holmes Beach, as the largest city, carries “most of the burden.”

“This is a good solution toward mitigating the overall problem,” Kihm said of the plan, adding that as population grows and tourism increases, the island must work with the state and county to find solutions.

“When people bought in 20-30 years ago, these were residential neighborhoods,” he said. “We didn’t have the development. We didn’t have the amount of rental housing and we certainly didn’t have the number of people in the county.”

Commissioners reached consensus to move the permit parking plan to first reading and public hearing.

The next regular meeting will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 21, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive, or by teleconference, with instructions on the city website at holmesbeachfl.org.