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Manatee and Holmes Beach County leaders remain at odds over beach parking lot and garage

HOLMES BEACH, Fla. (WFLA) — Manatee County and City of Holmes Beach leaders have been at odds over beach parking for two years.

That was in 2020, when city officials reduced on-street parking on residential streets by around 1,100 spaces, police said. City officials said they have received complaints from residents saying their front yards are turning into parking lots.

Manatee County Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge urged the city to bring the spaces back, arguing that ratepayers who live off the island are losing access to the beach. However, the city has not moved and on-street parking remains as it was in 2020.

In a meeting with state and local officials, Commissioner Van Ostenbridge said the city’s mayor had signaled support for the possibility of parking.

“During the meeting, the mayor said she thought building a parking lot was something she could support and was ready to bring it to council for a vote. She asked me to talk to the commission, make a proposal and bring it to Holmes Beach Before we can start planning for parking, Holmes Beach proactively decided to ban parking lots in town, eliminating the possibility to build a garage,” Van Ostenbridge said. “It looks like Holmes Beach basically doesn’t want any visitors. It’s concerning because a lot of those visitors, most of them, are from Manatee County. residents and taxpayers of the county who own these beaches and they have the right to go to the beaches,” he continued.

The first reading of the ordinance took place last week. The proposed local law, which would prohibit multi-level parking structures, states that the commission wishes to “maintain the residential character of the Town of Holmes Beach” and “finds that multi-level parking facilities are not supported by the vision” throughout the city. to plan.

“It will not solve the parking problem. We have a traffic problem and until the county recognizes the traffic, the horrible traffic that has been created by the promotion over the years, we will never be able to fix these problems. Whatever a three storey car park would have created would not solve the problem as there is just a lack of infrastructure on the island to support the traffic we are now receiving,” said the Commissioner of Holmes Beach , Terry Schaefer. “I think it’s pretty well established that people come here because they feel like they’re in a very welcoming community. Without residential integrity to sustain the residents who stay here, this is where we see a long-term problem that continues to exist. We are trying to shape our ordinances to find a balance to accommodate everyone we can who wishes to be here, but we have not had the cooperation of Manatee County, acknowledging that the problem has always been the over-promotion of this island “, he continued.

The parking battle reached new heights in 2021, when Manatee County leaders denied Holmes Beach nearly $300,000 in tourist dollars. Commissioner Van Ostenbridge told 8 On Your Side that he plans to propose that less money go to Holmes Beach due to the ongoing parking dispute.

“I am not comfortable allocating tax dollars from outside Holmes Beach to enter Holmes Beach when they are so unwelcoming to visitors,” said the Commissioner of the county.

“I think a lot of us really didn’t appreciate the threat, that’s what home rule is. Thank goodness we have a domestic regime in the State of Florida and we intend to handle our issues and do so in accordance with the statutes, but also to protect both our residents and visitors who come to our city” , said Commissioner Schaefer.

The second reading of the order is scheduled for next month.

Deena S. Hawkins

The author Deena S. Hawkins