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Sarasota Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013 3 years ago

Commission fails to act on paid parking request

by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

Steve Seidensticker is opposed to the most recent effort to institute paid parking in the city, and his concerns extend beyond spending a few dollars to leave his car in a garage.

Seidensticker, the owner of Louies Modern, recently requested via email that the City Commission consider postponing the implementation of paid parking at the Palm Avenue garage until after the season. Downtown merchants — including Louies Modern, the restaurant that occupies the ground floor of the garage — would be negatively affected if the change was made in season, Seidensticker argued.

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 at their regular meeting Monday, it seemed the commission was destined to honor Seidensticker’s request.

Vice Mayor Willie Shaw and Commissioner Susan Chapman sided with preserving the scheduled start date, 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 in September when it was first approved. At Monday’s meeting, Snyder argued that 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 our paid parking if we bring it back 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.

Seidensticker called the city’s approach backwards. He said paid parking should be implemented on the streets, and garages should serve as a resource for people who want to avoid those spots. In keeping with Atwell and Caragiulo, he said the city’s parking committee should devise a more thorough plan for parking throughout the city.

“Our request was to allow their committee to review how the entire parking system should be handled, rather than having a knee-jerk reaction to try to charge for parking in the garage,” Seidensticker said.

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 presided over the meeting, was flummoxed when nobody responded to his request for another motion to direct city staff on how to proceed with instituting paid parking at the garage.

Seidensticker, who was out of town and unable to attend Monday’s meeting, said he would continue to try to get commissioners to delay the paid parking program, and Caragiulo said he thinks the issue will come back before the commission. Although he hadn’t had a chance to speak with other merchants in the area, Seidensticker believes he’s not the only person who is opposed to the current timeline.

“It does affect everyone in this stretch of Palm Avenue, after a particularly tough summer — particularly with the Main Street businesses — due to construction,” Seidensticker said.

Contact David Conway at [email protected]


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