REDINGTON SHORES – Following complaints from town residents that parking spaces near the beach are increasingly hard to find, the Town Commission decided at their Aug. 29 workshop to charge nonresidents a $2 an hour parking fee at the Old Town Hall lot.

Residents can park free with a sticker, which costs $3, available at Town Hall. A parking pay station will be installed at the lot. Commercial businesses will be given a few parking passes for their employees.

The decision to have metered parking for visitors and free parking for residents is a change from last month, when the commission decided to limit parking at the Old Town Hall lot to residents only, by permit. Charging visitors a fee was discussed, but turned down because of the high cost of parking pay stations. The lot is currently free to all.

This time, commission members were open to a parking fee charge. Mayor Mary Beth Henderson reported the added revenue gained by raising the parking charge from $1 to $2 an hour at County Park, the town’s only paid lot, was “unbelievable.” Not charging for parking at the Old Town Hall lot is “a missed opportunity for the town,” Henderson told the commission.

The lack of beach parking spaces for residents has been a familiar complaint.

“People that don’t live here, beachgoers that bring absolutely nothing to the town, come in and take all the parking spaces, every bit of it,” said Mayor Henderson.

Commissioner Pat Drumm said, “These groups come in, park, and go right across the street to the beach, and residents don’t have a place to park.”

“We need to have a (parking) meter out there,” Drumm said.

Former Mayor Bert Adams said finding a parking space near the beach during busy times is nearly impossible.

“If you go down there during season, or on a weekend, there’s no parking in that lot,” he said.

“After 8:30 in the morning, it’s gone,” Henderson added.

“Residents can go to Town Hall and get a parking sticker that lets them park free,” said Commissioner Michael Robinson.

He recommended a sticker rather than a tag, which he said could be “passed around.”

The commission agreed by consensus to look at companies that can supply a parking pay station for the Old Town Hall lot, to set a parking fee, which likely will be $2 an hour, the rate charged at County Park. They also agreed to provide commercial businesses a few parking passes and let residents park free.

Commissioners will vote on the parking changes at next month’s commission meeting.

The town also has free parking areas on 180th Avenue, 182nd and 183rd, and spaces on Gulf Boulevard that will remain.

“We have lots of parking in the town,” Henderson said.

No wake or not

The commission backed off a decision made last month to ask the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to declare the town’s large cove, located along Gulf Boulevard by the Seabreeze restaurant, a no-wake zone. That came after a number of residents, led by Denise and Don Vought of 180th Avenue East, showed up at the July commission workshop to request that change.

At the August workshop, residents favoring the no-wake designation were outnumbered by those opposed to it. Asked for a show of hands vote, five residents wanted the no-wake, requiring boat traffic to slow down, which they said would protect the manatees and dolphins living in the cove. Nine wanted the cove left as is, open to boaters travelling “a normal speed.”

Denise Vought began the discussion, saying she and others are requesting the no-wake zone “due to the manatees, dolphins and wildlife in the cove.”

Vought said she has “witnessed baby manatees and baby dolphins being born in the cove.”

“We’ve got babies out there,” she said. “It’s a breeding ground.”

She said people in boats “fly through the cove,” endangering the wildlife.

Vought said she had a petition signed by 32 residents of 180th Avenue requesting a no-wake zone for the cove.

Mayor Henderson said the town has not heard anything about injuries to animals.

Resident John Kaleel said, “I don’t see where this is a big issue. I haven’t seen that many manatees.”

He said the no-wake zone advocates are “trying to fabricate” a problem.

Matt Bettencourt said the Conservation Commission has established “Manatee Protection Zones and concluded this was not going be one of them.”

John Stoppel said he sees hardly any boat traffic at all in the cove.

“It’s empty, absolutely empty, most of the time,” he said.

But Dorothy Rizzo said she had seen manatees and dolphins “giving birth right outside my window.”

“There’s life out there, and I think it should be protected,” said Rizzo.

Sandra Palmer said she sees “a quality of life issue,” in supporting a no-wake zone.

“There’s seagrass in there, and the boat props are tearing it up,” she said.

Michael Osborne said the biggest threat to the manatees is paddle boarders, who interact with them.

“We need to keep people away from the manatees,” he said.

After hearing the residents’ comments, Henderson said the Conservation Commission did studies when they established the no-wake zones, “and put them in places they think need it.”

“Personally, I have a hard time changing it right now,” she said.

The commission decided, on Commissioner Robinson’s recommendation, to look at the state agency’s Fish previous study “and workshop this one more time.”

Code enforcement to be toughened

The commission discussed several alternatives to pursue a more active code enforcement policy in the town, which Commissioner Neal said is badly needed.

Three options were discussed.

The Sheriff’s Office has offered to provide an officer dedicated to code enforcement, who would work for the town 5 or 6 hours a week, said Neal. The charge would be about $45 an hour. This is being done locally in Madeira Beach, North Redington Beach, and Belleair Bluffs among other communities.

Indian Shores Police Chief Terry Hughes said his officers, who already provide police protection to Redington Shores, can do more code enforcement, at no charge to the town. The involved policemen would need to be certified, which means some schooling, and Hughes said that cost would be shared by the Police Department and the town. The certification process could be completed by year-end, Hughes said.

Having town staff do code enforcement was another alternative discussed.

Neal said code enforcement needs to be a priority.

“We are going to have to start taking care of this,” he said. “I want to do this. I want to do something, because lately we have done nothing,”

The commission decided to go with the Sheriff’s Office for now, and reevaluate the situation in the future.