The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about some changes along with new parking rules implemented at the start of the year.
The town of Longboat Key has sent out a reminder of the current rules in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic ahead of spring break season.
“This last year has been an unusual year for all of us,” Town Manager Tom Harmer said.
Harmer emphasized that while Florida and other states have continued to open up, there are still guidelines and rules for people to follow.
“We’re still in a pandemic, so no matter what, people should be following the CDC guidelines on gatherings and social distance and we have a mask ordinance that’s still in place on the island,” Harmer said. “We think being safe during a pandemic is critical.”
While Longboat Key’s beaches, public beach parking and parks are open to the public, the town reminds people the spaces are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
“We have limited parking on the island,” Harmer said. “We want to make sure people know that and you can’t park in illegal parking areas.”
New this year is the town’s resident permit parking program in the Longbeach Village neighborhood and the islandwide increase of illegal parking fines from $30 to $75.
As of the start of March, the town had sold resident permit parking permits to 67 Village residents with 102 decals and 86 guest passes sold. The Village does still allow for public street parking adjacent to Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant and Shore.
“We don’t want people to, on purpose, illegally park,” Harmer said. “We don’t want them encroaching into our neighborhoods in some illegal, inappropriate way.”
Harmer said Longboat Key has reached out to town stakeholders, its on-island contacts and tourism properties to help remind visitors of the island’s rules. He also mentioned how last year around this time beaches throughout the area reopened at different times.
“We really had opportunities there where people were tied up with the pandemic, they were frustrated about being inside and when they were allowed to go out, they came out in force,” Harmer said. “And so, we want to be ready for that. We know that we have beautiful beaches. We want people to enjoy them.”
Longboat Key does not allow alcohol on its beaches, beach access points or in its parks. Dogs and other pets are also not allowed on the beach. Police will monitor the beach throughout the month.
“We’re going into this first weekend with some plans in place, but we want to be nimble enough so that if we realized that we need to dedicate more resources to a particular area or issue, we can do that,” Harmer said.
Earlier this month, Harmer provided an update to the Town Commission on spring break preparation.
“We have people that come here that are visitors that aren’t normally here, and so the police had to remove some people from Greer Island because of…whether it was dogs or alcohol or other reasons, but that happens this time of year,” Harmer said.
As for progress against the pandemic, so far, Harmer said the town of Longboat Key has vaccinated 4,491 residents who marked the town’s 34228 ZIP code as their residence with the state of Florida. The town has about 7,000 full-time residents.
The Publix in Longboat Key remains the only COVID-19 vaccination site on the island. Town leaders have continued to advocate for additional Longboat Key sites with health department leaders in Manatee and Sarasota counties.
On March 22, the Town Commission is set to hold an emergency meeting to consider extending Longboat Key’s mandatory mask ordinance. While Gov. Ron DeSantis prohibits municipalities from enforcing mask mandates against individual people, the town can enforce its mandate on businesses.
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