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East County Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019 8 months ago

Parking restrictions tighten in Manatee County school zones

Commissioners add areas around three Lakewood Ranch schools to an existing no stopping or standing ordinance.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

In an effort to improve safety, Manatee County will now prohibit stopping, standing or parking in the public right of way near B.D. Gullett and Robert E. Willis elementary schools and Mona Jain Middle School.

Manatee County commissioners on Nov. 19 added four roadway sections to its existing “no stopping, standing or parking” ordinance, which paves the way for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office to enforce the restrictions.

Manatee County Traffic Operations Division Manager Aaron Burkett said the request originated from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

“They were having issues with parents parking along the right of way,” he said. “It creates concern for the drivers and the pedestrians. It got to the point that some of the parents even abandoned their cars in the right of way and walked up to the school.”

Roadways sections added are ordinance are: The Masters Avenue from Lorraine Road east to Lake Club/Ravelston boulevards, 44th Avenue East from Lakewood Ranch Boulevard to White Eagle Boulevard, Wood Fern Trail from Lakewood Ranch Boulevard to 44th Avenue East and White Eagle Boulevard from Seabrook Avenue to 44th Avenue East.

The changes will result in “no parking” signs along those roadways. It prohibits “stopping, standing or parking” in right of way from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Burkett noted schools have designated on-site parking areas, but lines for picking children up can spill into roadways off the school campus. Vehicles have been stopped in the road’s bicycle lanes, which is against state statute.

Manatee County at-large Commissioner Betsy Benac noted it is important to have a safe way for parents to pick up their children, but she felt like the changes were necessary.

“This is a tough situation,” she said of understanding a parent’s perspective. “Adding to the safety of a thoroughfare road — that is a bigger concern from my standpoint. I’m sure there are alternatives that can be worked out. It’s not safe.”

District 5 Commissioner Vanessa Baugh also noted safety was her No. 1 priority.

“I’m not going to second-guess the Sheriff’s Office on safety,” Baugh said. “The bottom line is if cars are parking on the side of the road like that, … it’s dangerous.”

At-large Commissioner Carol Whitmore cast the lone dissenting vote and said she wanted more feedback from parents and that parents would have to circle the area until pickup to keep from parking.

Burkett said the county does not have a uniform policy regarding “no parking” in school zones because each school and its surroundings are unique. In some cases, prohibiting parking on public roadways would push the problem to other locations and negatively impact private property.

“We want to be sensitive to that, as well,” Burkett said. “Right now, we’re reviewing each school individually.”

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