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Longboat Key Wednesday, Mar. 20, 2019 3 years ago

City keeps an eye on Longbeach Village parking

Complaints focus on Mar Vista, potential for more people and cars when The Shore opens.
by: Eric Garwood and Suzanne Elliott

Longboat Key leaders are looking at potential changes to public parking in Longbeach Village after residents complained that Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant & Pub’s street parking has left Broadway Street and some side streets congested and, at times, unsafe.

Residents began with a flurry of emails and calls to Town Hall then showed up at a Town Commission meeting in early March to speak up about safety issues, parking rules and a threat to the ambiance of their largely residential neighborhood.

At their workshop on Tuesday, commissioners again heard from residents who expressed hope something could be done. 

“We have a way of life and we have rights,’’ resident Gene Jaleski said. 

Town staffers and residents have talked over the course of the last week, and new Commissioner Mike Haycock said he’s had conversations with restaurant owner Ed Chiles. 

Town Manager Tom Harmer said one of the previous discussion points with Chiles was asking if valet parking attendants could focus on filling the on-site lot first, to which Harmer said the restaurant management agreed.

There is no prohibition on a private valet service using public parking, though some cities — Sarasota included — ban the practice without prior approval. 

Haycock said the Mar Vista lot is inefficiently designed and could hold more than the current 28-space capacity if redesigned or expanded. Haycock said it’s possible up to 42 spots might be feasible.

“Will that solve all the problems? I have no idea,’’ Haycock said. “But it’s a step in the right direction.’’

Commissioner Ed Zunz also suggested investigating the possibility of off-site parking for employees, such as Whitney Plaza, to open up more room for customers with the idea of keeping street parking to a minimum.

Parking is only allowed on the south side of Broadway Street.

More than a dozen Village residents spoke publicly at the March 4 regular commission meeting about their frustration with Mar Vista’s parking. Adding to residents’ concerns: the potential opening of The Shore restaurant, as early as next month. Though its parking lot is built with more required spaces, it also will offer a larger capacity of diners.

“We have traffic jams, we have speeders with a lot of children, older people, bicyclers,’’ said Dawn Hauser, who lives nearby the restaurant, on March 4. “It’s dangerous, it’s really dangerous. We have seen really horrible near-misses.’’

For his part, Chiles said he is meeting all of the town’s parking requirements. Chiles, who also owns the Beach House in Bradenton Beach and the Sandbar in Anna Maria Island, said this is not the first time Village residents have complained about parking.

“This is not unfamiliar territory,” he said.

Allen Parsons, the town’s director of Planning, Zoning, and Building, said the neighborhood has gone through several iterations of parking regulations through the years.

He said the addition of more one-side-of-the-street parking and the possible elimination of overnight parking for non-residents could improve safety in the neighborhood’s narrower-than-normal streets. 

Commissioners asked the town staff to examine the town’s options in working with Chiles on parking lot redesign, along with some parking rule changes for possible action in the future.

Mar Vista, which can accommodate 169 diners, completed its multiyear, $2 million renovation last month. It was around this time the restaurant — which does not take reservations — began butting heads with Village residents over parking.

The restaurant was required to provide 28 parking spaces, and the town said it provides the equivalent of 35 — 28 on-site, along with credit for six spaces for boats and one for bicycle racks.

One resident explained that those dining don’t necessarily seem to be the root of the parking problems. It’s a multiplier of people who are already seated and those who are waiting for a table.

Patricia McDonald told commissioners she arrived at the restaurant to dine on a recent evening and was told there was a 90-minute wait. She said all the tables were occupied and a number of people were waiting for their turn to be seated, which leads to more parked cars than accounted for in the approved parking plan.

Resident Carla Rowan said Mar Vista is not the only contributor.

 She cited visitors to Jewfish Key who park on Village streets. She also cited a proposal to offer valet parking at The Shore, which has been under construction for years and would have been open by now if it had proceeded on schedule. Progress on The Shore has been slowed by legal entanglements and a fire last fall that damaged the unfinished building.

“Cars park all night for weeks on end,” she said. “Here in the Village, we’ve been patient. But, we don’t live in a private neighborhood and need the town to help us.”

Rowan, however, said the parking problem can be remedied.

“We’d like the restaurant to respect the village and the village life.”


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