Previous attempts at instituting paid parking in Sarasota have gone over like a lead balloon, but the city is floating the idea again to help reduce a budget deficit.
The City Commission voted 3-2 Tuesday in favor of approving paid parking at the Palm Avenue parking garage. The garage has been free since March 2012, when the city also removed parking meters from the streets.
According to the preliminary rate schedule, parking at the garage will remain free for the first 90 minutes. Parking will cost $1 for up to 2 hours and gradually increase hourly, until it reaches a maximum of $16 for over 11 hours.
City Parking Operations Manager Mark Lyons said paid parking in the garage would reduce the department’s $500,000 deficit by about half.
“It's an expensive facility, and it's very important to maintain the facility property, so we need to try to recoup some of those expenses and offset our deficit,” Lyons said.
He said the paid system could be in place within 30 to 45 days, and said more solid information about the implementation should be developed within the next two weeks.
To view Palm Avenue garage parking rates, click here.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting:
• Police Chief Bernadette DiPino presented an update regarding the city’s sound ordinance. The Sarasota Police Department’s recommendation was to end a special sound-enforcement detail that was in place for seven weeks and to maintain the current maximum decibel level, with regularly patrolling officers enforcing the ordinance.
Several members of the public spoke at Tuesday’s meeting to say the ordinance wasn’t strict enough — or wasn’t being strictly enforced. Many people objected to a section in the SPD report that stated all downtown business owners showed "a sincere desire to adhere to the provisions in the sound ordinance."
Another section of the report stated employees at Tequila Cantina and Smokin’ Joe’s decreased the sound when uniformed officers were present, but undercover officers witnessed the sound being amplified once the other officers left.
Commissioners expressed a concern that businesses could just shrug off any citations for noise violations. Snyder said the commission would consider cutting off all alcohol sales at an earlier hour, such as midnight, if all downtown businesses could not comply with the ordinance.
• Commissioners added to their state legislative priorities for 2014. Chapman recommended prioritizing funding to help with homelessness issues and legislation to protect neighborhood association from lawsuit, while Commissioner Willie Shaw suggested a reexamination of the state’s Stand Your Ground law.
• To match county funds, commissioners voted to pledge $500,000 to contribute to a homelessness center; $289,000 of that total will come from a Community Development Block Grant, which was to go toward a homelessness facility in the city or county and must be allocated by August 2014.