New rules for street parking in Longbeach Village take effect on New Year's Day.
Beginning on New Year's Day, only residents of Longbeach Village and their guests will have access to a wide swath of street parking in their neighborhood, bringing to an end years of discussion and a range of previously enacted traffic-calming alternatives.
Town commissioners voted 6-1 on Monday to approve the plan, which will require the purchase of permits. Jack Daly cast the dissenting vote.
“I think this system has a good chance of working, and that everyone should be able to not only survive but thrive,” Mayor Ken Schneier said.
Daly said he was opposed to “privatizing” public parking to Longboat Key taxpayers who may not live in the Village.
“My concern is we’re not continuing the incremental approach, we’re going all full slope approach,” Daly said.
Vice Mayor Mike Haycock explained why he supported the permit program on the second reading after voting against it during the first reading in November.
“Last time, I shared my concerns with basically taking public property that is now being used by all the residents of Longboat and restricting it to only a few,” Haycock said. “And, I hoped we could come up with some compromise to that, but it’s obvious I think the town attorney had some concerns with changing wording, and wouldn’t want to do anything to slow down or stop us fixing the problem.”
The parking area is for residents of the Longbeach Village neighborhood beginning east of Palm Drive with the exception of portions on the south side of Broadway Street and the east side of Lois Avenue immediately adjacent to Mar Vista Dockside and the Shore.
It would cost $30 for either a resident or guest parking permit. Each home can get two of each type of permit. To purchase a guest permit, a resident would have to purchase a resident permit first.
It will cost the town about $5,000 for street signs, decals, placards, informational material and staff work. Permits range from $5-$75 for other municipalities throughout Florida with similar permit parking programs.
Several people attended Monday afternoon’s town commission meeting both in-person and virtually. Most of them spoke in favor of the permit program for the Village.
“It has been a really difficult two years trying to deal with the loss of our quality of life,” said Village resident Robert Lopez. “It’s really about safety, health and the well-being of the residents here in the Village. The issue has been known about for over 20 years and it just seems to keep getting worse.”
Village residents have consistently complained about speeding and bumper to bumper street parking since the renovation of Mar Vista Dockside and the construction of The Shore at the east end of Broadway Street. Beach parking became second focal point during the COVID-19 pandemic when public beach lots were cordoned off.
Chiles Group Chief Operating Officer Robert Baugh, whose company owns Mar Vista Dockside, spoke before town commissioners on Monday.
“We still feel that, as written, they’re going to exacerbate the traffic congestion problem,” Baugh said. “You’re now taking public spaces, 415 spaces, and the vast majority are going to be now given to private residents. We feel that we have no rights as commercial landowners.”
The Chiles Group is moving forward with plans to construct a parking lot at 6920 Gulf of Mexico Drive just north of Whitney Plaza, possibly to be used as employee parking. A historic cottage purchased from the Longboat Key Historical Society is also expected to sit at the site. The Shore has been using parking space in Whitney Plaza for employees.
“We’re going to great expense to help be part of this resolution and not be part of the problem,” Baugh said.
The town has tried to implement several measures to improve parking and traffic conditions for the Longbeach Village neighborhood.
“We tried incremental steps, they haven’t worked…so here we are,” Schneier said. “I’d also like to say to the restaurants, we would have liked to have seen you earlier talking about details with this.”
Among the changes was a new formula for determining parking needs for new or renovated restaurants, with the goal of keeping more customer and staff vehicles on site, though it would not apply to the two Village businesses.
In October, town commissioners voted to increase fines for illegal parking from $30 to $75. The increase took effect Monday after commissioners voted 7-0 to allow the town special magistrate to hear parking-citation matters. The town last increased its parking fine in 2014.
In spring 2019, the commission lowered the speed limit from 25 mph to 20 mph in the Village along with several other parking changes. Parking in alleys was also banned and other changers were made to allow for greater intersection visibility and overnight parking was banned.
In November 2019, the Longboat Key Police Department even conducted a nine-day study to record the average speed of cars on Broadway Street. The device indicated an average speed on Broadway Street of about 18 mph. More than 11,000 cars passed the device, with more than 95% operating under 30 mph.
The town did a similar study in March 2019 when the speed limit was 25 mph.