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Longboat Key Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012 5 years ago

Stakeholders seek parking leniency

by: Robin Hartill Managing Editor

Not all of city government is experiencing shortfalls in revenue.

In September, the city of Sarasota’s parking department generated $45,000 in revenue — a 30% increase from the same month in 2011.

Mark Lyons, the city’s parking manager, cited the data during the Wednesday, Oct. 24 meeting of the newly formed Parking Advisory Committee.

The numbers probably didn’t come as a surprise to the St. Armands merchants and residents who attended the meeting, many of whom have been complaining about a spike in parking citations since March, when the Sarasota City Commission voted to bag downtown parking meters and make parking restrictions uniform throughout the city.

Kingston Arms resident Jim Mauritzen spoke at Wednesday’s meeting about how restrictions have impacted residents of the 49-unit condominium at 500 S. Washington Drive. Each unit has one assigned parking space, meaning that visitors have to park in city streets that have a three-hour limit 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. six days a week.

“Our concern is family and friends,” Mauritzen said. “It really is a burden to have to move cars every three hours.”

St. Armands Circle Association Executive Director Diana Corrigan said that 67% of people who visit St. Armands Circle are tourists.

Corrigan has argued that efforts to educate the public about parking might not be as effective on St. Armands as they are in other parts of the city, because visitors aren’t in town long enough to modify their behavior.

Business owners have reported that they’ve dealt with irate customers, some of whom have returned merchandise they bought from the Circle after getting a ticket.

“This is not exactly the image we want of Sarasota, and it’s not the image we want for St. Armands Circle,” Corrigan said.

Restrictions are also problematic for Circle employees, who park on residential streets to avoid tickets, according to Corrigan.

Tammy Halsted, marketing director for Touch of Africa, said that parking enforcement has gone “from very reasonable to impossible.”

She described her frustrations from the perspective of both a merchant and a resident.

She said that customers frequently have to leave private events at Touch of Africa to avoid a parking ticket. Because she lives in an apartment above the Circle, she has to move her car every three hours, even on Saturday, her day off.

St. Armands merchants and residents weren’t on the agenda for the committee’s meeting but attended to speak during the public comments portion.

Lyons told the committee that the city increased the number of warnings it issued during the summer. Additionally, it installed warning signage throughout the Circle warning motorists to park in designated spaces.

The City Commission voted to form the Parking Advisory Committee to help parking management to develop a strategic parking plan and to provide for more stakeholder input in developing future parking policy.

The committee’s next meeting will take place at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 28, at Sarasota City Hall, 1565 First St., Sarasota, and is open to the public.


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