TREASURE ISLAND – City leaders have begun the process of drafting a new set of codes regarding vehicle parking.
During a workshop Oct. 14, City Planner Lee Rosetti presented a history of the parking issue and recommendations for possible solutions.
One of the primary problems city planners face is the array of past parking ordinances and various grandfathered standards for certain properties that are still in effect today.
Among the major questions the city is considering:
• Should parking be limited to street level only or should it also include the construction of parking garages?
• Should existing commercial parking lots for beach and/or valet parking be allowed to park vehicles there for a fee when the business is closed?
• Should owners of residential properties be allowed to charge a fee for parking?
• How will enforcement of the code be handled?
Rosetti suggests any code enforcement action not be selective but rather a systematic review, fair and equal in application of the code citywide.
“This will ensure that grandfathered situations not be overlooked,” Rosetti said in her report. “It is important to remember that research on such lots may entail a lot of research, including full title searches and public records searches. Some in-house records are sketchy at best.”
One of the major problems to tackle will be the inclusion of parking lots located on property not on the same lot as a business. For example, Caddy’s on Sunset Beach uses a number of remote parking lots for valet parking, for which the business charges a fee.
In a report to City Manager Reid Silverboard, City Attorney Maura Kiefer said no current zoning district in the city allows a parking lot as a permitted or special exception use. However, three zoning designations (RM-15, RFM-30 and RFH-50) allow parking lots as an accessory use, which means the lots must be located on the same lot as the principal use.
A Caddy’s lot at 8701 West Gulf Blvd., is zoned RM-15. However, some of Caddy’s other lots would be affected under current zoning.
“The more parking you take away from Caddy’s, the more problems you’re going to have on other city streets (with parking),” said Caddy’s owner Tony D’Amico. “I don’t understand why taking away parking is going to solve the problem. I just ask you to work with me.”
Commissioner Carol Coward said she supports keeping as many parking spaces as possible.
“We have to keep in mind we are a beach community,” she said. “I don’t think we should have a policy that doesn’t allow enough parking.”
Coward suggested the planning and zoning board come up with measures that “are good for the whole city, not just one neighborhood.”
“Do we have the need for that many spaces?” asked Commissioner Alan Bildz. “This is so 20th century. People use other means now to get to the beach.”
Silverboard explained that changes in the code are necessary, something more in tune with the times.
“You have to remember our zoning codes were written at a time 40 or 50 years ago,” Silverboard said. “Times were different. The planning board needs to come up with a set of regulations that meet our times and carry us into the next decade.”
Heidi Horak, chairwoman of the city’s planning and zoning board, said it is important the city not take an approach aimed strictly in one direction, while ignoring other key land development regulation areas that need to be addressed.
Silverboard suggested the board find some outside assistance and come back to the commission with an estimate on the cost for a consultant.
“We owe it to the people to move forward,” said Mayor Bob Minning.
On the issue of using residential areas for fee parking, Ed Gayton said it was not a good idea.
“I know residents of Sunshine Beach are not in favor of any residential parking,” Gayton said. “I wouldn’t want to see it.”
Bildz agreed, saying it “just doesn’t make any sense.”
Silverboard directed city staff to formulate a draft of the proposals, which will be presented to the planning board in four to six weeks.
He said the new codes could be in effect by some time in the spring.