DUNEDIN — A residential parking permit program has been adopted on three streets adjacent to The Fenway, and now the hotelier has 90 days to come up with a parking solution that addresses their needs and the issues of neighborhood residents.
During the hearing on the parking problem at the Jan. 24 City Commission meeting, City Commissioner Heather Gracy summed up the multi-faceted issue by stating “we don’t do parking very well.”
The idea to implement a resident parking program was set into gear during a neighborhood town meeting with Fenway and city officials in November. At that time, residents complained about Fenway rooftop restaurant visitors parking on the street next to the hotel.
Under the plan neighborhood residents on Lyndhurst and Locklie from Edgewater Drive to Broadway, and Broadway from Aberdeen to Beltrees Street, can apply for a free resident parking pass that is placed on their rear-view mirror.
Each vehicle must be registered to the address on the affected streets; they can also receive two visitor passes and additional consideration for a party.
Anyone parking on those streets next to the hotel, without a permit, can receive a ticket.
City Planner Greg Rice said since door hangers publicizing the program were distributed throughout the neighborhood, two weeks ago, only one pass was requested.
Rice speculated since most people in the area park in their driveways, they do not need a permit to park on the side of the hotel.
According to city officials the property’s site plan, which included all parking for the hotel, was approved when the Taoist Tai Chi Society owned the Fenway and all its surrounding property. The problem began when the Fenway was then sold to a separate venture, with Taoist Tai Chi retaining minority owner rights to the hotel and most all on-site parking spaces. The society has since retained most of the on-site parking for its own use.
Hotel owners now have limited on-site parking, especially for its popular rooftop restaurant, leaving some patrons to park on the street rather than use valet parking. It’s been noted most restaurant visitors rather park their own vehicles than use valet parking.
Two weeks ago, city commissioners gave Fenway officials two weeks to submit their own plan that addressed the on-street parking.
At the most recent hearing, City Manager Jennifer Bramley told commissioners “while there has been some good movement,” the hotelier needs more time to come up with a plan.
Fenway officials told the city they need the on-street parking for their restaurant to be viable, because it is an economic driver for the hotel.
Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski said, while she likes the Fenway and patronizes its restaurant, she wants them to find an alternative to on-street parking.
Under the parking permit plan, staff recommended the hotel receive 15 on-street parking permits, since they are a large property owner in the neighborhood. The mayor asked commissioners if they would be willing not to give the hotel 15 on-street parking permits.
Commissioner Maureen Freaney noted the hotel is in the tough spot, and city staff recommended the Fenway receive 15 spaces as a fair compromise. She said she doesn’t want to be so heavy handed that it affects the hotel viability. Commissioners agreed the residential parking permit program would be a temporary fix.
The mayor agreed to the hotel being granted 15 parking permits, but only until it can come up with a solution and not park on the street. She added even though only one city parking permit was applied for, this is what residents requested at the November meeting.
Meanwhile commissioners decided to reconvene on the issue in 90 days, at which time Fenway officials will be required to come up with their own parking plan.
Dunedin Commissioner Jeff Gow noted he hopes the problem is not kicked down the street, once again, in 90 days.
During an earlier community redevelopment meeting, commissioners approved CRA staff’s plan to install two raised crosswalks on Douglas Avenue, at the parking garage, to slow traffic to 15 mph.