Village parking request prompts strong reaction in Town Hall

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The Longboat Key Town Commission may make parking in the village more restrictive if it passes an ordinance that will prevent parking on both sides of several streets in the north Longboat Key neighborhood.

The commission, without much debate, passed on first reading at last Monday’s regular meeting, new rules that will prevent parking on the north side of Broadway from Palm to Bayside Drive, and no parking on the south side of the same road between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. The new rules also will prevent parking on the east side of Lois Ave. and Poinsettia Drive between Broadway and Russell Street.

However, the conversation grew tense after Village Association President Michael Drake said there are many other streets that are just as narrow and they need to be addressed because it constitutes a “life/safety issue.”

Drake said there were several issues that had to be addressed including Linley Street where the town dock is located, and Russell Street as well.

“People are parked for hours when they use the town dock and we have cars parked on both sides which is a life/safety issue. In fact, if you take the entire village, there is not one street that could take parking on both sides without becoming a life/safety issue,” said Drake.

Drake said he preferred that the town add language that would only allow parking on one side of every street.

But Mayor Jim Brown said that if too many things were changed in the proposed ordinance, staff would have to vet the requests and make a recommendation. Brown suggested the commission pass the ordinance and look at the other streets and issues in the future.

Commissioner Pat Zunz made a motion to add Linley Street—the street where the town dock is located—to the ordinance if the town attorney says it is acceptable.

Town Attorney Maggie Mooney-Portale said that change was minor enough that it could be made from the dais without violating the public noticing requirements.

Then Vice Mayor Jack Duncan raised the issue of the life/safety allegations and said he wanted to see “a completely accurate report on that issue to make sure there are not other areas that present a danger. If it is life/safety, I want to know about it,” said Duncan.

Duncan said it was his recollection that there was not an issue of life/safety and that no emergency vehicle has ever been impeded by parking in the village.

Drake responded by saying that he drives a golf cart around in the village, “and I know if I cannot turn a golf cart around in the village, it is not a question of if it happened, but when it will happen.”

Drake added that it would be more effective from the point of view of law enforcement to have consistent rules so officers did not have to try to determine if cars were on the correct side of the street or if two sided parking is allowed on any given road.

Fire Chief Paul Dezzi said there have not been any issues in emergency responses to the village and he added that staff has gone out over the past two years and drove the roadways during the busy season.

Then Commissioner Lynn Larson said “it sounded reasonable” to make all the streets one-sided parking in the village.

“We are making Broadway one of the largest streets, one-sided, so why not make them all one-sided?” said Larson.

Mooney-Portale said it would be too large an amendment to the ordinance to incorporate that evening and would not meet the noticing requirements. She said if the town is going to do a blanket change, it would have to re-set the process.

Larson reiterated that if it is an issue of life/safety then the commission should impose parking restrictions on all the streets.

In the end, the seven commissioners voted to add Linley Street to the ordinance regarding one-sided parking, and to look into the other village streets in the future.

But before the discussion item was over, Mayor Jim Brown chastised Drake for the timing of his request.

“It is very frustrating Michael, when every time we start to vote on something, you want to change it. This has been going on for two years. It is your village, and whatever you want I tend to support, but please try to get people together on this or get another spokesman,” said Mayor Brown.

Town Manager Dave Bullock then spoke about the use of the words life/safety, which had been invoked frequently in the meeting.

“When someone says life/safety issue, you get our laser focus. I have sent police and fire out over and over and asked if you could get an ambulance and fire truck out there and I have to rely on (Fire Chief Paul) Dezzi and his staff and Police Chief Pete Cumming and Deputy Chief Frank Rubino.

“We look at it and staff looked at it very carefully we need people to feel safe and they are safe here,” said Bullock. “All of the data and evidence supports that. Michael, this one deserves attention but please do not say this one is not safe and an ambulance cannot get there.”

Mayor Brown added in closing, “Ambulances have been known to run over cars to get to someone.”


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1 Response for “Village parking request prompts strong reaction in Town Hall”

  1. Georgie McFarland says:

    Perhaps sir Michael Drake would like the Town Commission to legalize his driving a golf cart on city streets in the Village without state registration and vehicle compliance.

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