When the city’s own parking manager isn’t exactly sure what the City Commission approved for downtown parking meters, there’s not much hope that Sarasota’s residents and merchants will fully understand.
At their Aug. 17 meeting, commissioners approved a paid-parking plan. A $510,000 contract to install meters was ratified by a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Terry Turner abstaining. That’s the simple explanation.
But what’s not so simple is the formula the commission approved to determine where the meters will be placed. Commissioner Fredd Atkins suggested putting meters around parking garages, so drivers will have option if they don’t want to put money in the meter.
He mentioned putting meters around the county garage at Ringling and School avenues, near the police station, sheriff’s office and courthouse. And, he said once the Palm Avenue parking garage is built, the city could place meters around it as well.
But because commissioners were trying to complete the vote on that suggestion before 5 p.m., a couple of important details were omitted.
Did they intend to put meters around other parking garages, such as those at Whole Foods Market, Plaza at Five Points, Hollywood 20 and Links Avenue?
And how far from the garages did they want the meters to be placed?
Parking Manager Susan Dodd was left to guess the answers to those two questions. And, because
Sunshine Laws may not allow her to approach commissioners outside of a meeting for clarification, she may not know if her interpretation is correct until the next City Commission meeting Sept 8.
For now, Dodd is sketching a plan that includes placing meters around the county’s Ringling Avenue garage and the Whole Foods, Plaza at Five Points and Hollywood 20 garages.
And, because she said the industry-standard walking distance is a quarter-mile, or 1,100 feet, her revised plan will place meters in a 1,100-foot radius around those garages (see map).
The commission’s vote followed a parade of merchants, residents and city advisory board members pleading with them to scuttle its plan to put parking meters downtown. The overriding theme from parking-meter opponents was “now is not the time.”
“You’ve got a lot of businesses hanging by a thread,” said Larry Fineberg, chairman of the Downtown Improvement District (DID). “We don’t see any reasonable way that it doesn’t hurt businesses.”
But Commissioner Fredd Atkins said merchants are their own worst enemies.
“The very people complaining about this are the same people who don’t know where their employees park,” he said. “If we don’t do it now, it will never happen.”
The first meters 410 meters could be installed by December at a cost of $510,000.
HOW THE METERS WILL WORK
Cost: $1 per hour, with $0.25 for 15-minute increments allowed
Payment method: Coins, dollar bills, credit cards, cell phones
Type of meter: Single-space and multi-space pay stations
Hours of enforcement: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday
To see where the parking meters will be placed, please click on the link below.