As city commissioners were being asked to finalize the city’s union with parking meters, they once again got cold feet.
To allow residents and tourists to get used to paid parking, the commission voted to keep the parking garage free for another six months, as well as reduce the hourly price of meters on one downtown street.
“That will ease people into it,” said Commissioner Dick Clapp.
And although city staff recommended the price of $1 per hour for all 459 metered spaces, commissioners wanted to reduce the price to 50 cents per hour for the spaces on Gulfstream Avenue, because some employees use that area to park.
Commissioners also extended parking-enforcement an extra two hours, to 8 p.m. (See box at right.)
Meters will be placed downtown from Gulfstream Avenue to Orange Avenue and First Street to McAnsh Square.
Commissioner Terry Turner, who has consistently opposed the implementation of parking meters, reiterated his disapproval.
“These parking meters are effectively a tax on businesses,” he said. “(They) will cause some businesses to fail.”
Some business owners agreed.
“We’re talking about implementing paid parking at a time when it’s not hard to find parking — in the summer,” said Forrest Shaw, owner of Pastry Art. “We risk driving customers to other shopping districts.”
But city staff members and a parking consultant maintained that meters are an effective parking-management tool.
And although some business owners said minimum-wage employees will now have no place to park, City Manager Bob Bartolotta reminded them that there will still be 650 free parking spaces downtown.
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City commissioners extended the hours of enforcement for free parking spaces throughout the city.
The new measure allows the city to write tickets from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., although it does not mandate those additional hours.
Currently, enforcement hours run from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Enforcement for metered parking spaces will be 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sarasota’s parking meters will be a combination of multi-space pay stations and traditional single-space meters.
Payment is possible by coins and credit or debit cards. Dollar bills will not be accepted, because they cause too many jams.
Drivers will be able to recharge their meter from any pay station in the city, no matter where their car is parked.