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Vol. 14 No. 43 - August 20, 2014

opinion

An idea worth discussing

The issue of parking on Anna Maria Island is one that has vexed city officials and Island residents for more years than anyone cares to remember. A finite amount of land and an increasing number of cars has made for a pesky problem, especially during peak seasons.

Suggestions have been floated by committee after committee assigned to somehow come up with answers that have so far eluded planners and community leaders.

But an interesting proposal recently was brought up by Anna Maria City Commissioner Doug Copeland and we believe it is one that deserves at least a look.

The current makeup of the city commission has been wrestling with the idea of paid parking versus free parking for more than a year. The merits of generating revenue with paid parking have been countered by the longstanding tradition of free parking everywhere on the Island. It's often noted that AMI is one of the few remaining developed barrier islands that doesn't require some form of payment to park at the beaches. But who should have to pay? Should anyone get a free pass? How about locals and county residents being exempted? Is this even legal?

Copeland has seen this debate from the inside out and watched as commissioners and citizen committee members go round and round trying to come up with those devilish details. An avowed opponent of paid parking, Copeland finally suggested they investigate turning the whole process over to a professional company that specializes in community parking solutions. Why reinvent the wheel? Why not use the experience of those who have been through this before?

We agree. And while we share Copeland's opposition to paid parking in general, retaining professional guidance could inject some new thinking and approaches not yet considered. The cost of such a partnership, of course, would need to be determined, then weighed against the potential for real solutions.

But it certainly couldn't hurt to ask and it just might get the ball rolling.

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