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Parking is a problem for commissioners

HOLMES BEACH — Parking always creates problems for city commissioners.

Commissioners reignited a conversation about banning parking garages in the city during a June 28 business session. Unfortunately for them, that conversation got a little murky when they started looking at offsite and business parking regulations that force drivers to back up on busy roads.

At the urging of Mayor Judy Titsworth, commissioners agreed to move the ordinance to first reading for further discussion and review due to a shortened meeting schedule for the summer.

The discussion began with a discussion about banning multi-level parking structures, or garages, in the city. Multi-level parking garages are not currently an approved use in any Holmes Beach zoning district, but may be approved through a special exception. If the proposed settlement is enacted, the special exceptions approval pathway would be lost. While the commissioners are not opposed to covered parking, the draft ordinance states that parking can only take place on the ground floor. It does not prohibit housing or business on the second floor.

If it passes two public hearings and votes by commissioners, the proposed ban on parking garages would derail Manatee County Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge’s plans to sue a parking garage.

When the subject was previously raised at a Holmes Beach commission working session, Van Ostenbridge took to the podium during public comments to warn city commissioners of the proposed ban, saying he planned to submit a proposal for parking in the county. -owned public beach. He left before the discussion started but told Titsworth he was listening to the meeting on Zoom.

While the commissioners were able to agree on the issue of parking, the discussion got a bit derailed when they ventured into other points, including how and where to allow off-site parking for businesses. City Attorney Erica Augello warned commissioners that any changes to current offsite parking regulations will affect existing businesses and commercial properties if those properties undergo major renovations or need to be rebuilt.

Augello noted that paid parking is already banned in all areas of the city.

In an additional discussion about parking, Police Chief Bill Tokajer said city leaders have spoken with representatives from Hancock Whitney Bank. During this conversation, he said that while bank officials were willing to pursue the beach parking deal with the city, they were unhappy with the arrangement, causing problems for bank customers.

He said the tow zone signs placed on the grounds by the bank were causing confusion for bathers and the parking lot was not well used by visitors. Tokajer recommended against attempting to re-establish a beach parking arrangement with the bank.

“I can’t find a compelling reason to reopen it,” commissioner Terry Schaefer said of the lot. He added that the city does not benefit Manatee County by opening the lot to after-hours beachgoers and that insurance for parking costs the city money.

“I think the bank has done a very good public service to our island and our visitors,” Commissioner Jayne Christenson said. “I congratulate them.”

The Stewards elected not to proceed with the attempt to renew the parking contract.

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Deena S. Hawkins

The author Deena S. Hawkins