Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Free parking in Sarasota garages reduced to one hour

The St. Armands Garage, one of four city-owned parking garages, opened in April 2019.
The St. Armands Garage, one of four city-owned parking garages, opened in April 2019.
Courtesy image
  • Sarasota
  • News
  • Share

Among the multiple changes the Sarasota City Commission recently adopted to the city’s paid parking program, three of them required a legislative public hearing to amendment the city code.

On March 4, City Parking Division staff gave a presentation to the City Commission recommending proposed changes to the parking program which received approval for all but the three required amendments to the code. Those changes included:

  • That parking meters accept credit card payments only.
  • To keep the exemption from paid parking and parking time limits on Sundays and holidays, while clarifying that public safety-related parking enforcement may still occur.
  • Reducing the initial free parking period in city-owned parking garages from two hours to one hour.

It was determined by staff that no businesses would be impacted by the amendments, but would result in a potential of $150,246 in additional revenue from individual users. 

That revenue is projected as a result of a reduction of the grace period — or free parking — from two hours to one hour in city-owned parking garages, prompting debate among commissioners divided over that issue.

The grace period reduction coincides with plans to implement a gateless garage system, which is intended to not only result in savings in maintenance and personnel costs, but also to more efficiently move vehicles, particularly as many leave at the same time following an event.

Commissioners were sharply divided on losing that free hour, with the amendment approved by a 3-2 vote with Erik Arroyo and Vice Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch opposed.

Parking Division General Manager Broxton Harvey said enforcement of the new garage policy will be implemented gradually, mostly with warnings for the first three to six months until parkers become accustomed to the change.

“What is the possibility that I could get a ticket even if I stayed less than two hours?” asked City Manager Marlon Brown of the gap between old policy and new.

“If you stayed less than two hours, we’ll more than likely give you a warning.”

Harvey added that habitual offenders will likely not be so fortunate.

Previously, the City Commission approved the adoption of other parking changes including:

  • Convert 80 free parking spaces on Benjamin Franklin Boulevard along Lido Beach from free parking to metered parking.
  • Eliminate parking citation waivers for first-time offenders.
  • Initiate Centennial Park boat ramp parking fees at $5 for single vehicles and $10 for vehicles with boat trailers.
  • Initiate a fee of $1 per hour for use of electric vehicle charging stations in city-owned garages. 
  • Increase appeals fee from $7.50 to $25 to cover the cost of the magistrate. Customers who win the appeal do not pay the citation or appeals fee.



Andrew Warfield

Andrew Warfield is the Sarasota Observer city reporter. He is a four-decade veteran of print media. A Florida native, he has spent most of his career in the Carolinas as a writer and editor, nearly a decade as co-founder and editor of a community newspaper in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.

Latest News