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Longboat Key Thursday, Jun. 3, 2021 1 year ago

Holiday brings new calls for stepped-up parking enforcement

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The Longboat Key Police Department initially gave warnings when the Longbeach Village parking permit program started in January. Officers now issue citations when a car is illegally parked.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

Memorial Day weekend provided the Longbeach Village neighborhood’s resident-permit parking program perhaps its sternest test. 

Twenty citations and a warning later,  police say drivers are learning, but school is still in session. 

Longboat Key Interim Police Chief George Turner said from May 28 through June 1 officers engaged with 21 vehicles parked improperly. Ten of the interactions were prompted by officers on patrol, 11 were from residents calling the police.

Several north-end residents emailed town commissioners at the end of May about people violating the Village’s resident permit parking program, which took effect at the start of the year. Memorial Day weekend was the first big beach holiday weekend following the change in rules.

Capt. Robert Bourque explained how it’s taken time for beachgoers visiting Longboat Key to become accustomed to the new rules.

“Since we did the Village parking permit only, it was busier, but it’s getting less and less busy in there as people are educated and understand that they’re not allowed to park there, so that citation portion of it has gone down,” Bourque said. “The beach parking portion of it for holidays normally is full, but we were in really good shape. It was a lot better than previous holidays.”

Hundreds of parking spots at Coquina Beach are closed while crews work on construction.

Plus, drainage improvements and sand dredging at Coquina Beach have limited parking there from its 675 space capacity. AMI Projects’ website states that a  “limited number of parking spaces” are closed during each of the four sub-phases of the project, which is expected to last through the end of the year.

Some residents say the limited parking has prompted beachgoers to come to Longboat Key as a secondary parking choice.

The town’s two northernmost lots don’t offer nearly as much parking as Coquina Beach;
Longboat Key’s website shows North Shore Road has about 30 parking spaces and 100 Broadway Street has about 31 spaces. The town’s dredging projects have also limited parking, specifically at the 100 Broadway Street beach access point.

However, the dredging projects did not cause parking problems at Whitney Beach Plaza, according to owner Ryan Synder.

"Typically, if something goes wrong, like if the sky is gray, I get a phone call from somebody out there," Synder said, adding he has not received any phone calls about parking. 

Synder said none of the tenants expressed concerns about people illegally parking during the Memorial Day holiday weekend. Private property owners are responsible for parking enforcement in their lots.

Turner said the police department continues to issue parking citations as its primary enforcement tool. When the Village’s permit system took effect on New Year’s Day, police officers initially gave written and verbal warnings to allow people to become accustomed to the new resident-permit parking rules.

“Now the focus is citations for anyone that’s parking in plainly marked sections of Broadway that are in violation of the resident-parking ordinance,” Turner said.

Turner said the Longboat Key Police Department will make similar preparations for the Fourth of July as it did for Memorial Day weekend. Independence Day falls on a Sunday this year.

“We have our extra temporary parking signs that we don’t leave out ordinarily that we put up to remind people that they can’t park along the right-of-ways or in areas that no parking is allowed,” Turner said. “We have our billboards up and we increase the patrols, so when the parking is full, it’s full.”

Turner said officers patrol the town’s 12 beach access points to determine when to put up electronic signage on the north and south ends of the island. The electronic signage lets drivers know when beach parking is full.

Also, Town Manager Tom Harmer wrote in an email to commissioners that the police department is working with the Public Works Department on the best approach to the signs that explain the permit-parking program.

“They have made several changes to the signage to address requests from the residents and the police to help with enforcement,” Harmer wrote. “In the past couple of weeks, they installed additional signs on Russell [Street] and are planning on some additional changes to existing signage based on feedback received.”

As of May 26, Harmer said Longboat Key police have issued 284 parking citations since the resident-permit program started, which includes 40 since May 1.

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Mark Bergin is the Longboat Key Town Hall reporter for the Observer. He has previously worked as a senior digital producer at WTSP, the CBS affiliate in St. Petersburg. Mark is a graduate of the University of Missouri and grew up in the Chicagoland area.

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