Moments before city commissioners voted unanimously Monday, Nov. 5, to move ahead with parking-enforcement changes that would make it easier for St. Armands Circle customers and visitors to park, merchants in the audience exclaimed approval and some even applauded.
Commissioners directed parking staff to work on a plan to remove the “box” parking lines on the Circle and a stretch of John Ringling Boulevard. In addition, commissioners want staff to consider two other possible changes that could do away with Saturday enforcement and enforcement after 6 p.m. on weekdays.
Staff will work on the parking boxes immediately, and report back to the commission in two weeks with a plan that either removes Saturday and evening enforcement or comes up with an alternative that St. Armands stakeholders approve.
The motion, made Monday by Commissioner Terry Turner, cleared the way for three significant changes that would mark a return to a method of parking enforcement that was in place before an increase in enforcement began on the Circle in March. At the time, the City Commission voted to bag downtown parking meters and make parking restrictions uniform throughout the city, including evening and Saturday enforcement.
Bill Carman, the retired owner of the now closed Carman’s Shoes, said the motion passed Monday was a good step forward for the Circle.
“We’re not against enforced parking,” Carman said. “Just keep it the way it was for 45 years.”
St. Armands merchants and business owners say a perception of rampant ticketing has caused them to lose business.
During the meeting, St. Armands Circle Association Executive Director Diana Corrigan showed city commissioners a stack of “love notes” merchants had received from angry and frustrated customers who had received parking citations while on the Circle, one of the most popular shopping and tourist destinations in the city.
Some of the notes came with a vow from customers “that they will never come back to our Circle,” Corrigan told commissioners.
One of the biggest problems has been visitors receiving tickets for parking “over the line” on the Circle, a problem that has only arisen recently after the Florida Department of Transportation added additional “box” white lines in the process of repaving the roadway.
Lynches Pub & Grub co-owner Chris Lynch told commissioners one customer came in to the restaurant crying because she had received a parking ticket from what Lynch described as a “less-than-friendly” parking attendant.
“For a grown lady to be in tears because of way she was treated, that is not the image we should be striving for,” Lynch said.
Lynch, and the handful of merchants and residents who spoke, begged commissioners to help ease the parking standoffs that have been intensifying on the Circle just before the start of peak season.
“We need your help now,” Corrigan said.
After the motion was approved, Corrigan said it was a step forward.
Here is a look at the number of parking tickets issued over the past three months by the city of Sarasota parking enforcement.
St. Armands 1,931
St. Armands 31
St. Armands 230