ST. PETE BEACH – Motorists who get hit with parking tickets in St. Pete Beach now have a way to get the slate wiped clean.
St. Pete Beach city commissioners voted unanimously Aug. 12 to approve a new parking ticket amnesty program for motorists who can produce a receipt showing they spent $30 or more at a local business or restaurant on the day of the infraction.
The new program, which is modeled after a similar program in the city of St. Petersburg, applies to metered parking and pay station violations. Only first-time violators are eligible.
Administrative Services Supervisor Dan O’Connor said the fine for parking tickets in St. Pete Beach is $30, which expands to $45 if not paid within 15 days. Under the new program, motorists receiving parking tickets also will receive a voucher explaining the amnesty program.
“The way it works is if somebody lets their meter run out and they get a meter violation, if they can produce receipts that they made a retail purchase or restaurant patronage (of $30 or more), then we waive the first ticket for that vehicle or the first ticket for that offender,” said O’Connor. “For St. Petersburg, it’s been a very successful program.”
Commissioner Terri Finnerty agreed.
“I called St. Petersburg about this today and they said the residents are happy with it, the people that got tickets are happy with it and it’s kind of a goodwill gesture for visitors,” she said.
O’Connor said the cost would be small vs. the return in goodwill.
He said the majority of the city’s parking violations involve motorists without a city parking permit who park in designated city parking areas.
He said from Oct. 1 to July 31, parking citations in St. Pete Beach generated gross fines of $76,540. Of the 2,201 citations written, he said, 687, or 31 percent, were issued for expired meter/pay station violations, generating $20,610 (27 percent) of the total gross revenue.
“The lion’s share of our violations are on the permits,” O’Connor said. “People are feeding the meters. The majority of violations are in residential sites. People just give up looking for a space. We certainly don’t want to do it in those types of violations because you’re inviting people to violate the permit.”
O’Connor said the amount spent by the parking violators is about three times larger than the fines in St. Petersburg.
“The reception is positive to everyone involved,” O’Connor said. “It’s an easy program to implement and it’s easy to refine.”
Commissioner Greg Premer pushed the idea after his sister-in-law received a parking citation on Beach Drive in St. Petersburg. She produced a receipt for an $80 purse and had the ticket voided.
O’Connor said the deadline to get a ticket voided would be about seven days at city hall.
“If somebody’s got to catch a plane and get back to Minnesota, and they want to do it by fax or something, we’re not too big that we can’t accommodate them,” O’Connor said.
John Michael, proprietor of the Baywaters Inn on Bay Street, thought the amnesty program should be expanded.
“I think boxing this just toward the meters is half way,” Michael said. “We’re constantly trying to get the locals to come out here and they’re constantly complaining that there’s no place to park. I think (the amnesty) should include all parking violations.”
Michael suggested instead of one amnesty, give violators up to three amnesties a year, provided the violators can produce receipts showing they spent $60 or more. He also suggested changing the late fee period from 15 days to 20 days.
“Once this is established, it doesn’t mean it can’t be modified after seeing how well it works,” said Mayor Maria Lowe. “One of our concerns was how much staff time is it going to take. Really, having an opportunity to see it in place first, then let us know if we need to increase or expand it.”