After a motion to preserve the scheduled Jan. 6 implementation of paid parking at the Palm Avenue garage failed to receive the support of a majority of commissioners, it seemed the Sarasota City Commission was destined to delay the program until after the season concluded.
By the end of the discussion, however, the commission took no other action. As a result, that Jan. 6 start date was preserved after all.
Steve Seidensticker, the owner of Louies Modern, requested that the city commission consider postponing the implementation of paid parking at the garage until after the season. Downtown merchants — including Louies Modern, which occupies the ground floor of the Palm Avenue garage — would be negatively affected if the change was made in-season, Seidensticker argued.
Vice Mayor Willie Shaw and Commissioner Susan Chapman sided decisively against the request, moving that the current timeline for implementation be maintained. Chapman and Shaw argued the cost of maintaining the garage and a $500,000 parking fund deficit demanded the creation of a new revenue stream.
“I realize what we're looking at both ways, but I know the deficit continues to grow if we don't do something to address it,” Shaw said.
That motion was defeated in a 2-3 vote, which appeared to be a sign the commission was interested in postponing the start date.
Mayor Shannon Snyder and Commissioner Paul Caragiulo both voted against the paid parking program when it was first approved in September. At Monday’s meeting, Snyder argued the city should privatize the parking garage to help offset the debt in the city’s parking fund, and that paid parking would be unpopular with both shoppers and retailers.
“The only person who's going to be happy about it is Randy Benderson,” Snyder said, referring to the president of the development company behind The Mall at University Town Center, among other projects.
Caragiulo also argued against the current timeline, and said the city should be taking a more holistic approach to managing parking rather than approving piecemeal changes.
Commissioner Suzanne Atwell, an advocate for paid parking in the city, agreed with Caragiulo. She said if the parking division came back with a comprehensive plan next year, she could support the short-term delay of paid parking at the garage.
In the end, however, no commissioners made a motion to delay the paid parking start date, which means the program is still on track to begin Jan. 6.
Snyder, who was presiding over the meeting, was flummoxed when nobody responded to his request for another motion.
“When I asked for a motion, nobody said anything,” Snyder said. “Staff can’t make that decision to delay it. I want to get rid of it, but we’ve already approved a start date.”
Also at Monday’s meeting:
• The commission directed staff to look into purchasing the property at 1174 and 1186 Hampton Road. A sizable contingent of residents near the property spoke at the meeting, arguing that the city didn’t properly reclassify the property from multi-family residential to community commercial in the city’s Future Land Use Map in 2008. The current owner of the property, Rejuvenation Media, is seeking to change the land’s zoning classification to North Trail and build a medical spa on the land.
Snyder suggested the city’s purchase of the property could avoid a lawsuit stemming from the dispute, which commissioners said seemed inevitable regardless of which side they came down on.
• Commissioners agreed to fund Chapman’s legal fees in a Government-in-the-Sunshine Law suit through Dec. 2, the date of the next commission meeting. Chapman is the last remaining defendant in a lawsuit that also named Atwell and the city as defendants. The other two defendants have both settled with the plaintiff. The commission will decide at the next meeting whether to continue to pay for Chapman’s defense going forward.
Contact David Conway at [email protected].