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Longboat Key Monday, Sep. 14, 2020 2 months ago

Longboat moves forward with proposed parking fine increase

Town commissioners are set to vote on Oct. 5 on whether to increase the town's illegal parking fines from $30 to $75.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

The town of Longboat Key has started the process to increase its fines for illegal parking.

During the first reading at Monday’s town commission meeting, commissioners voted 7-0 to increase parking fines from $30 to $75.

“There’s been some discussion, especially with COVID, and some of the increased parking issues that we’ve had that, that fine may be too low,” Town Manager Tom Harmer said.

The town last increased its parking fine in 2014. Specifically, a $30 citation is issued for parking in time-restricted areas, unlawful parking or parking where it is prohibited.  

The $30 citation is less expensive than many nearby municipalities.

“We’ve looked at what the others were charging around us, and $75 really was the top of the amount that what we were seeing others charge,” Harmer said. “And so, we felt comfortable going to that level.”

Several Longboat Key residents and town staff have told the Observer that beachgoers and restaurant patrons have illegally parked because of the town’s low fine.

“If it’s going to be a serious deterrent, I was ready to say $100,” Commissioner BJ Bishop said. “I don’t what better way to get some of these people’s attention because I did have a conversation with a few people  who had parked in the Village and they had said, ‘Oh, well you know $30 is what we pay for parking anywhere, so it’s no big deal.’ ”

The proposal would maintain the town’s $250 fine for illegally parking in a handicapped spot. It also updates the town’s parking-fine appeal process.

The current town codes refer to a hearing before a Sarasota County or Manatee County judge or magistrate. Those services are not currently available to the town because of COVID-19's effects on the courts, according to Town Attorney Maggie Mooney.

“We’ve inserted a more local hearing officer process into the language,” Harmer said. “It’s based on the city of Bradenton’s current appeal process.”

The proposed appeals process would require anyone wanting to contest a ticket to submit a request to the town manager within 14 days of receiving a parking ticket. The person would be required to submit their name, phone number, email address, a copy of the parking ticket, a copy of their driver's license and a copy of their vehicle registration. A hearing officer would then hear the appeal. The person who elects to contest a ticket may be assessed a penalty of up to $100 if the hearing officer upholds the ticket.

The town is also looking into the possibility of keeping the current county-appeal process.

If the proposal passes in October, payments made between 15-44 days from when the citation is issued would have an additional fine of $75. Payments made between 45 days-74 days would have an additional $150; and payments made 75 days or more would have an additional fine of $225.

Later this month, commissioners will also consider a resident-permit parking system for Longbeach Village. Commissioners are set to discuss that proposal during its Sept. 29 workshop.

The idea behind both proposals is to elevate the town’s parking problems.

A second reading and vote on whether increase the town’s illegal parking fines is set for Oct. 5.

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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