The clock is ticking on St. Armands Circle’s parking woes.
Complaints about parking tickets mounted throughout the summer, but as peak season looms, merchants are worried that restrictions could cause them to lose business.
“It’s become a tsunami of complaints, and it’s a real problem,” said Eric Seace, owner of Planet and president of the St. Armands Circle Association, at the Tuesday, Oct. 9, St. Armands Business Improvement District (BID) Board of Directors meeting.
At the center of concerns during Tuesday’s meeting were enforcement hours, which increased to 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. six days a week from the previous 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday that was in effect until March, when the Sarasota City Commission voted to bag downtown Sarasota parking meters and make parking enforcement uniform throughout the city. The increase extends the three-hour limit on parking into evening hours, when many Circle patrons are having dinner.
Circle Association officials and BID directors said Tuesday that they’ve seen more tickets issued to vehicles that have been moved to another area to avoid the restrictions.
“We have now limited our shopping and dining to three hours on the Circle,” Seace said.
Sarasota Parking Manager Mark Lyons, who was not present at Tuesday’s BID meeting, told the Longboat Observer that drivers city-wide must move their cars by more than a block to comply with the city’s parking ordinance.
On St. Armands, that means that drivers who parked directly on the Circle must move their cars at least a block away to a street such as Ben Franklin Drive or South Boulevard of the Presidents.
Circle merchants have said that they frequently hear from irate customers who have been ticketed. The merchants have asked for more flexibility in enforcement.
Circle Association Executive Director Diana Corrigan expressed a growing sense of urgency Tuesday.
“People are coming back, then you have Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Corrigan said. “Right after that is season. We’re running out of time.”
Circle officials will discuss their concerns during a city Parking Advisory Committee meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 24.
BID Chairman Marty Rappaport said that one set of rules doesn’t work across the entire city.
Sarasota City Commissioner Terry Turner, who attended the meeting, suggested that those who are concerned make their case to the City Commission.
“You need to make the case that what works downtown doesn’t work for you,” he said.
Those in attendance at the BID meeting also had concerns about additional restrictions put in place around the residential area of Monroe Drive just south of the Circle’s southwest quadrant.
Lyons, along with Mayor Suzanne Atwell, met with the Circle Association Board in August to address parking concerns. Later in August, the city added signage that warns motorists to park within designated spaces.
Lyons said that citations on the Circle decreased following the installation of warning signs.
But during the meeting, Corrigan discussed Lyons’ figures, saying that mid-August “the faucet shuts off” on St. Armands Circle, meaning fewer cars to generate tickets.
But at least one of area of the Circle will soon get a break on time limitations.
The city will soon remove restrictions on the southern part of South Boulevard of the Presidents to increase parking availability for people who work on the Circle in preparation for season.
The city has increased its Parking Citation Amnesty program to encourage payment of parking citations at least 90 days past due. Through the end of the month, motorists who have an overdue citation will save $15 because the city will waive late fees. To pay, visit SarasotaPD.org.