The new permit system took effect on New Year's Day.
It’s going to take time for Longboat Key residents and people visiting the island to get accustomed to the new resident-permit parking in the Longbeach Village neighborhood.
For years, Carla and Pete Rowan advocated on behalf of the parking system, which went into effect New Year’s Day. They were the first ones to receive the new permits for their cars and guests who come to visit: permit number 001.
“We worked two and a half years toward fixing the problems in the Village with the traffic and the parking and the cars and the inability for residents to have the plumber come to visit or any other kind of person like that,” Carla Rowan said. “[It was] impossible for any of them to park.”
Referencing the conversations the Rowans have had with neighbors, they said the Village residents are happy with the permit parking system.
“We think it’s gone surprisingly well,” Carla Rowan said. “We thought it would be much more chaotic and it really has not been.”
For now, two large electronic signs sit on Broadway Street near Longboat Drive North indicating the neighborhood’s permit parking requirement. There is also a small permanent sign mounted above the neighborhood's westernmost 20 mph speed limit sight.
Several neighbors have told the Observer the signage will need to improve, which is something the town is examining.
“It’s not clear where the permit parking is and where it’s not,” Carla Rowan said.
Neighbor Henry Smith agreed with the Rowans.
“I note that the town and the [neighborhood] committee continue to work thoughtfully on the type of additional signage that can be installed to support the program in the best way possible,” Smith said.
Since the implementation of the new system, the only public street parking for regular cars without a permit is directly adjacent to the Village’s restaurants. Public parking is available on Broadway Street between Lois Avenue and Bayside Drive. There is also public parking available on Lois Avenue between Broadway Street and Linley Street.
The new system means the Village’s restaurants: Mar Vista Dockside, the Shore and Whitney’s must utilize their private parking. There is also public beach parking available at 100 Broadway St. across the street from Whitney’s.
Longboat Key police officers have issued 66 written warnings and 33 verbal warnings as of Jan. 13, according to Deputy Police Chief Frank Rubino. Of the three fines issued, Rubino said each were given a prior warning.
Of the warnings and citations issued, Rubino said it’s a combination of police making their usual patrols in the area and residents calling the police department about illegally parked cars.
“The residents do a good job of letting us know when somebody is illegally parked,” Rubino said.
It costs $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. Parking permits range from $5-$75 for other Florida municipalities with similar programs.
Planning, Zoning, and Building director Allen Parsons said the town has sold 74 parking permits and 67 guest permits as of Monday. Some 47 residents have purchased the permits.
The town estimated the program would cost about $5,000 for street signs, decals, placards, informational material and staff work.
Rubino said any homeowner who needs more than two guest spots for a specific date can call the police department’s non-emergency number at 941-316-1201 two full business days ahead of the event. The police department will grant the homeowner a pass for the day up until 11 p.m.
“If it’s a homeowners meeting or so on and so forth, the town manager has the authority to suspend that for a particular event that would benefit the community,” Rubino said.
In addition to the new permit program, the town also increased illegal parking fines from $30 to $75. The parking fine increase took effect in December. The town had last increased its parking fines 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.
The Village’s most recent parking changes are expected to curb traffic woes that have plagued the neighborhood for years.
The town, police department and neighborhood will continue to work together on improving the enforcement of the resident permit parking program.
“[Once there are], a couple of little kinds and some tweaking here and there, it’s going to be just great, and the public will get used to it,” Carla Rowan said.
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