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Treasure Island delays parking vote
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Photo by BOB McCLURE
The 10 spaces in this parking lot south of Caddy’s are needed as public spaces for the city of Treasure Island to retain eligibility for state beach renourishment funds.
TREASURE ISLAND – Due to a lack of available information, the Treasure Island City Commission voted to wait another two weeks to make a decision on a plan for beach parking permits.

The commission decided unanimously Feb. 19 to hold off on consideration of a resolution that would amend the city’s parking pass program to include both the general public and residents for $75 a year.

The issue came up recently when the Florida Department of Environmental Protection sent the city a letter stating that since the parking passes are not available to the general public, the city may not be counted any more for eligibility for state beach renourishment funds.

By opening the lots to the general public, the city stands to lose a large chunk of its estimated $250,000 annual revenue from parking meters, which is critical to the city’s general fund.

To offset the loss, City Manager Reid Silverboard proposed opening all lots to everyone at an annual cost of $75.

From 1999 to 2012, city residents have paid $5 per year for the annual pass.

City resident Roger Evans says the proposed changes aren’t necessary.

“The state does not say you cannot have resident-only beach passes, because they’re all over the place,” Evans said recently. “What the state says is if you have resident-only passes, the spaces those passes are good for are not counted in the mix as far as sharing funds for beach replenishment.”

Evans said he checked with Catherine Florko, an environmental specialist with the state’s Beach Erosion Control Program, and discovered the biggest count for renourishment purposes is the parking lot owned by the city of St. Petersburg.

He said, according to his count, there are 260 other spaces that could be reserved for residents-only and the proposed new program would not be necessary.

Commissioner Carol Coward suggested getting a clarification from Pinellas County Coastal Manager Andy Squires, who works closely with Florida DEP officials on local renourishment funding.

In a Jan. 28 email from Squires to Silverboard, Squires said the county does not need all of Treasure Island’s parking spaces on Sunset Beach to achieve funding eligibility for Sunset Beach, the city’s primary area of concern for beach renourishment.

“The city, if so desired, could make those spaces used for eligibility as “metered” only spaces,” Squires wrote. “The other spaces in those lots not needed for eligibility could be parking by permit only, or each space could be parking by permit and metered. Only three lots have parking spaces used for eligibility.”

Squires said 12 of 16 spaces in Lot A and 13 of 38 spaces in Lot 3 are not needed for eligibility. All the 10 spaces in Lot 4, immediately south of Caddy’s, are needed for eligibility.

Commissioners were to hear Squire’s report Feb. 19, but Silverboard was absent due to illness.

Evans, who attended the Feb. 19 meeting, suggested commissioners go ahead and revise the program according to his plan but city leaders balked with the absence of a report from Squires and the panel’s fifth vote, Commissioner Alan Bildz, was absent.

“I don’t know why you have to wait another two weeks to deal with this issue,” Evans said. “I don’t think you need to wait for the city manager to muddle through this. You need to do it now.”

Coward said she was not comfortable moving ahead until she heard the advice of Squires.

“Unless we hear it from Andy Squires or his supervisor, we would be ill-advised,” Coward said.

Reluctantly, Evans agreed, pushing the issue back to the next meeting on March 5.

Under terms of the proposed resolution, city residents would be able to purchase an annual pass during a two-week period in March for $40. Beginning in 2014, city residents would be able to buy the passes at the reduced rate during the first weeks of the year only.

Under Evans’ plan, the city’s parking spaces would be split between “metered” for public use and “permit only” for city residents. Evans’ plan would rescind the proposed $75 permit fee and drop the annual amount back to $5 per year.

Since public funding is used toward renourishment, state guidelines require public beaches to have 100 public parking spaces per mile to be eligible for state renourishment funding.

State funding accounts for 40 percent of the cost of renourishment projects. Federal money accounts for another 40 percent and county funding for another 20 percent.

In other action, commissioners:

• Rescinded a previous resolution creating the city’s domestic partnership registry. City Attorney Maura Kiefer said the city ordinance was redundant with a recently passed county ordinance, which gives domestic partners legal rights. “(The city ordinance) is confusing and wouldn’t provide any more benefits than the county measure,” she said.

• Passed a resolution approving a supplemental budget appropriation of about $3,400 to allow the city’s Department of Public Works to purchase a used 4-wheel-drive pickup truck for no more than $10,000.
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