PAT COPELAND | SUN
Some residents have begun putting up their
own signs in the right of way.
HOLMES BEACH – Some members of the Island Congestion Committee, as well as a couple of residents, put the brakes on a plan to promote permits for residents and paid parking at the public beach.
“Saying no to parking and not inviting people is not how we all got here,” committee member Peggi Davenport stressed at Thursday’s meeting. “Slamming that door on people’s faces is rude.”
“People are beside themselves about meters at the public beach,” added resident Nicole Quigley. “Charging for parking turns us into a gated community.”
Chair Carol Soustek began the dialogue by advocating resident stickers to solve the parking and congestion problem that some feel is adverselyaffecting residents.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that permits (should be given) to residents only,” she explained. “The reasoning is to encourage visitors to use public transportation – bikes, walking. If they don’t have permits that allow them to park, they’ll leave their cars home.”
Identify the problem
Committee member Bob Johnson asked, “What problem are we solving?”
Soustek said to discourage visitors from parking on side streets.
When asked if it is a problem, Police Chief Bill Tokajer said the department has been issuing a considerable number of parking tickets, and he gets complaints from residents who don’t think people should park in front of their houses.
Johnson asked if Tokajer had data to identify how extreme the problem is, and Tokajer said he has daily reports.
Jaynie Christenson, of 49th Street, said when the public beach lot is full, visitors park in their neighborhood, and create a safety issue for children and urinate and leave trash in their yards. She said there also has been an increase in robberies.
Mayor Carmel Monti asked if people park in the right of way, and Christenson said they do. Monti said they have right to do so.
“I don’t think there’s one solution,” Soustek said, “but permits are the easiest to start with. I think we would offer it to the entire Island.”
Monti said he also is advocating a parking garage at the public beach, and resident Lance Spotts said, “People would still park in the street because more will come.”
“Why don’t we find ways to park as opposed to ways you can’t park,” Johnson said.
“Have you ever lived in a zoned parking area?” Quigley asked. “I did in Washington, D.C., and it’s terrible. You can’t have people over for Thanksgiving dinner or Sunday lunch because you don’t have a parking space at your own house to have the most basic family events. It’s a solution that just pushes the problem to other areas.”
She said one solution would be to offer more opportunities and incentives for people to park in town.
Spotts said the city could sponsor golf cart shuttles and pointed to Gulf Boulevard in Anna Maria that has an off loading area where a shuttle could pick up people.
Davenport suggested offering parking at churches, the library and banks that are not open on holidays and weekends and added, “Solving the problem is finding parking spots for them, so they can come and enjoy the beautiful beach that God gave us. Some things should be free.”
Spotts agreed and said, “People have the right to go to the beach. The underpaid laborer should have a place to take his wife and kids and go to the beach.”
“Why should tourists have a problem paying?” Monti responded. “Every single town along this coast is charging for parking and many have tolls.
“Why should we be the exception when we have the best and most beautiful beaches? Why do we not have the ability to try to deal with congestion by charging and/or giving more parking spaces””
“Because you’re putting the burden on the backs of the working families and the poor,” Quigley responded.
“A lot of Manatee County residents are very upset with this Island,” Davenport said.
“I know that,” Monti acknowledged. “I got about 20 hate mails last night.”
Acting on options
Tokajer said St. Bernard Church has closed off its parking lot because of problems, and Davenport suggested that the city provide the church with trash cans. Tokajer said they also could offer port-a-lets.
Monti said it wouldn’t be as convenient for people to use offsite lots without a shuttle to pick them up, but the Manatee County Tourist Development Council might provide money to offer that service.
Tokajer suggested free parking in the offsite lots and paid parking at the public beach because it would help pay for officers to patrol the offsite lots.
Johnson said they should take one step at a time by first “offering the overflow areas and then assessing that.”
Carol Carter, an Anna Maria commission candidate, said she agreed with Tokajer, but would add eliminating parking on one side of narrow streets.
Soustek asked for volunteers to explore options. Davenport and Quigley said they would approach St. Bernard Church, Carter said she would check with the Church of the Annunciation, Monti said he would find out about liability insurance and work with Spotts on golf carts and bicycles, Christenson said she would approach the school and Johnson said he would work with the library and some other locations.
Soustek said she is pleased that people are offering options and asked more residents and visitors to add their input.