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Date of Issue: May 14, 2008

Committee wants meters on Bridge Street

/5-14-08/bb-parking.jpg
Bradenton Beach Commissioner Janie Robertson charts a discussion on parking enforcement and employee parking for a May 5 meeting at city hall. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

A Bradenton Beach committee wants the city to plant meters on Bridge Street and at a nearby public lot to promote turnover in parking spaces.

The ScenicWAVES parking subcommittee also endorsed reserving Bridge Street spaces for public use - eliminating employee parking - a vote that raised a series of questions from people attending the May 5 meeting. A proposal to apply similar restrictions to the city-owned lot on First Street failed on a 2-2 vote.

Voting members of the subcommittee included Barbara Rodocker, Dawn Betts, John Burns and Ed Chiles, but about two dozen others attended the discussion on parking.

The first topic explored - but not for the first time by citizens and city officials - was whether to install meters at parking spaces on Bridge Street, including at the city pier, and in the public lot on First Street. The meters would limit parking to two hours.

The subcommittee endorsed that proposal with a 2-1 vote - Burns expressed concerns about cost and enforcement and Chiles was not yet present.

Police Chief Sam Speciale endorsed the meters as a cheaper, more effective alternative to policing the zone to enforce a two-hour limit. Instead of dedicating personnel to chalking cars and monitoring motorists’ arrivals, an attendant can periodically check for expired meters, he said.

Speciale added that the city can obtain parking meters for free from St. Pete Beach, which recently replaced about 200 meters at its beaches. He could not estimate the installation cost, and emphasized that the purpose of the estimated 90 meters would not be to generate revenue.

“The city is never going to make any money on meters,” the chief said.

Robertson noted that the city’sCommunity Redevelopment Authority funds could be used to pay for the meter installation. The special taxing district generates revenue from Cortez Road to Fifth Street.

“What is the purpose of meters?” Burns asked. “Is it to expedite turnover use of parking spaces?”

“Yes,” answered Commissioner Janie Robertson, who moderated the discussion.

Burns next asked whether the installation of meters was simply to benefit businesses in the Bridge Street area.

Rodocker, of the Bridgewalk Resort and Sun House restaurant, said, of course, but also “for people who want to visit the merchants.”

Rodocker added that the meters should deter people, specifically beachgoers and people working in the area, from occupying public spaces all day.

After recommending meters on Bridge Street and at the First Street lot, the subcommittee then turned to a more contentious discussion on employee parking.

Subcommittee members explored prohibiting employee parking at metered spots on Bridge Street and First Street. The proposed Bridge Street ban passed 4-0, the proposed First Street ban failed in a tie, with Rodocker and Betts of Teitelbaum Developers voting “yes” and Chiles, owner of the BeachHouse Restaurant, and Burns, also a member of the city’s board of adjustment, voting “no.” Chiles and Burns also had reservations about the Bridge Street restriction.

“It comes down to enforcement,” said Burns. “How do you know who to ticket? I have a problem on enforcement.… We’ve established who the underclass is here.”

Chiles said, “Are you going to tell someone he’s a second-class citizen because he’s an employee? If you go to court on that ticket, I don’t see how you are going to tell someone he’s different from the public.… I think you are going to have a problem.”

Robertson replied, “You’re always going to have a lot of what ifs.… We need more public parking and many employees are parking there all day long.”

Speciale said perhaps the city could issue employee stickers for parking in reserved locations and he reminded meeting attendees of the proposal to establish an employee shuttle to transport people to and from Coquina Beach’s parking lots.

“The issue we have right now is we have employees parking everywhere,” Speciale said. “So, where can we put all of our employees that’s in a safe, secure area.”

Burns emphasized that the city initially purchased the First Street lot for area workers.

“But things have changed,” said Rodocker, who has raised concerns about public parking spilling over from the First Street lot into her resort/restaurant lot.

Still, others attending the meeting questioned ticketing employees for using public spaces, noting that the fine on a ticket might cost a worker a day’s pay or that a permit fee might be too much.

“Our employees are minimum wage,” said Kathleen Pretty of the Get the Scoop ice cream shop on Gulf Drive.

On the other side of the meeting room, another two dozen people gathered for a discussion on a campaign to promote ridership of the Island Trolley and to explore ways to keep the trolley fare-free.

Several weeks ago in a meeting in Holmes Beach, Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash put Islanders on notice - a county budget crunch might again mean trouble for the trolley. Last year, when the county commission proposed a fare, the Island cities and the Manatee County Tourist Development Council came up with some funding to keep ridership free.

Another meeting on parking will take place at 2 p.m. Wednesday, May 14, at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive.

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