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Lido Beach to convert 80 free spaces to metered parking

The Sarasota City Commission approved several initiatives that will result in nearly $1.3 million in additional parking and fine revenues.

Lido Beach has a public parking lot with 368 spaces along with 80 parking spaces along Benjamin Franklin Drive.
Lido Beach has a public parking lot with 368 spaces along with 80 parking spaces along Benjamin Franklin Drive.
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Laid out before the Sarasota City Commission on Monday was a “buffet,” as Commissioner Erik Arroyo described it, of items included in a proposed overhaul of the city’s parking program. But rather than one vote for the entire spread, commissioners addressed multiple items in a la carte fashion.

Opposing many of the proposals for fee increases and enforcement changes brought by Parking Division General Manager Broxton Harvey, Arroyo contended the city was gorging on revenue creation rather than nibbling on ways to improve parking services in downtown, St. Armands and on Lido Key.

City Manager Marlon Brown said the parking changes aren’t about making money but rather ensuring the parking division is self-sustaining and that any surplus revenues generated would be allocated toward other transportation costs and improvements.

Had all of Harvey’s recommendations been approved by commissioners, it would have resulted in an additional $2.22 million in revenues in combined fees and fines. With commissioners leaving a few morsels on the serving line, the city has helped itself to approximately $1.29 million in new parking revenue.

“When this was presented to us at our workshop, one of my first questions was, ‘Are you saying that we should adopt all of these, or is this more of a buffet-type of situation?'” Arroyo said after several measures were approved on Monday. "The answer from staff I recall was no, not all of these. It's a buffet. And here we are trying to gobble up the entire buffet, so can we please just be a little more reasonable?”

Commissioners didn’t gobble up all of it, leaving $900,000 in revenue on their plates, voting not to adopt a two-hour metered parking enforcement extension and by not increasing fines across the board by $10.

Among the most difficult items to digest was the addition of metered parking at the currently 80 free parking spaces along Benjamin Franklin Drive at Lido Beach, a $1 charge per hour approved by a 3-2 vote. The 368 spaces in the Lido Pavilion parking lot will remain free of charge. 

Consistent with their position during a Jan. 8 commission workshop, Vice Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch and Arroyo were vehemently opposed to charging for beach parking.

“Decreasing the general public's access to one of our greatest parks and open spaces, which is the beach, is just absolutely something I cannot support,” Ahearn-Koch said.

While both objected to restricting free access to the beach, Ahearn-Koch was further concerned about overflow parking spilling into nearby neighborhoods while Arroyo took the position that the city shouldn’t increase fees and remove free parking there simply because it can.

Among the proposed changes to the city's parking program is metered spaces on Ben Franklin Drive along Lido Beach. Those spaces are currently free of charge.
Photo by Andrew Warfield

When asked, Harvey said he received minimal pushback from the coastal neighborhoods.

“I really haven't gotten too much negative feedback,” he said of St. Armands and Lido Key neighborhood groups. “I think a lot of people feel that it would actually assist with some of the people parking and ‘camping’ in those spaces, which we get a lot of phone calls regarding that. This would eliminate that issue as well. People actually — quote unquote — spend the night on the beach and park in those spaces.”

The intent of the updated parking plan is two-fold: to ensure the city’s parking program pays for itself and to improve efficiencies. 

In addition to Lido Beach parking, commissioners had several more items on their plates. They included:

  • Gateless garage program, which will eliminate gates in city-owned parking structures in order to increase ingress and egress speeds. That was approved 5-0.
  • Waiver program removal, which eliminates parking waivers for first-time offenders. Waivers were offered as a temporary program, which was implemented in 2019 when the parking program began. That was approved 4-1 with Arroyo opposed.
  • Extending parking enforcement by two hours until 10 p.m., excluding Sundays and holidays. The intent is to assist with parking turnover of vehicles and increase the available spaces for customers of downtown businesses. Ahearn-Koch motioned to deny the measure, which died without a second. However, that was followed by a motion to approve, which failed 4-1 with Trice in favor, effectively denying approval as Ahearn-Koch motioned.
  • Sunday safety parking enforcement to issue citations for violations such as double parking, blocking drive lanes, blocking fire hydrants, ADA violations, illegal ADA parking, etc. That was approved 4-1 with Arroyo opposed.
  • Initiate Centennial Park boat ramp parking fees at $5 for single vehicles and $10 for vehicles with boat trailers. Currently, parking at the boat ramp is free, although 70% of users are for commercial purposes. A 3-2 vote to not approve was later rescinded by Battie, who said he changed his mind after it was explained to him that a significant number of users of the boat ramps are not city residents. A revote to approve passed 3-2, with Ahearn-Koch and Arroyo opposed.
  • Initiate a fee of $1 per hour for use of electric vehicle charging stations in city-owned garages. That was approved 4-1 with Arroyo opposed.
  • Limit metered parking spaces to credit card payment only. That was approved 5-0.
  • 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. That was approved 4-1 with Arroyo opposed.
  • Increase parking citation fee schedule by $10 above the current fines of $25, $30 and $35. Fines paid within 24 hours of the violation date and time shall be reduced by $5. A motion to deny approval passed 5-0.
  • Reduce the free parking period in parking garages from two hours to one hour. That was approved 3-2 with Ahearn-Koch and Arroyo opposed.



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.

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