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Town to entertain resident-only parking program in LBK Village

MELISSA REID
Associate Publisher
mreid@lbknews.com

After months of working on a parking ordinance for the Village, the Longboat Key Commission at its workshop this week heard again from dozens of residents over the persistent parking problems still occurring at the north end. 

With two new restaurants and the Mar Vista Restaurant, the amount of cars parking in the Village has been a problem for the residents.

Planning and Zoning Director Allen Parsons told the Commission that the Mar Vista has purchased the property along Gulf of Mexico Drive next to the Whitney Beach Plaza and is clearing the land to make a parking lot for its employees and customers. Also, said Parsons, The Shore Restaurant has an agreement with Whitney Beach Plaza to use its parking lot for its employees and customers. Parsons told the commission and the audience of Village residents that this would help alleviate the side street parking problem.

Vice Mayor Ed Zunz said, “The Mar Vista has purchased land in front of GMD for an additional 98 spaces. The Shore has made arrangements with Whitney Beach Plaza to provide additional parking. That means when this is done, I think the Village should be resident-only parking.  Additionally, if you don’t make it exclusive to Village only, it doesn’t matter how many parking spots you put along GMD, people will try to park in the Village to go to the restaurants because it’s closer. I think as soon as we get the cars off the streets, the restaurants can go back to being a positive part of the Village community. They should be an asset to the community, so there’s no reason we should destroy it by having this parking problem.”

The Commission heard about requests from Village residents and recommendations from staff to restrict Village street parking to resident-only parking, as well as adding speed tables to Broadway, and a stop sign along Broadway to slow down traffic.

The Planning, Zoning and Building Director Allen Parsons gave staff evaluations about using stop signs on Broadway.

“The evaluation from staff is that stop signs should not be used for speed control because there could be unintended consequences such as drivers speeding up between stop signs, ignoring or rolling through stop signs. There is also the potential for drivers to avoid the stop signs by using another street to avoid them, which adds traffic to side streets,” noted Parsons.

He said that if the Commission decides to put in stop signs, the staff recommends placing flags or flashing lights on top to draw attention to them.

Parsons next addressed the issue of resident-only parking. He said the concerns about resident-only parking are that limiting parking will restrict the public boat ramp into a private boat ramp for Longbeach Village residents only. Also, some feedback from people saying it’s limiting the usage of publicly funded roads for private use only.

Parsons also noted staff recommends the commission use a petition by a minimum percent of residents before proceeding with requests instead of a complaint-driven basis for problem solving issues such as the Village parking.

Dozens of Village residents were in the audience at the meeting to speak to the commission about the parking problem.

One resident said, “I feel like my neighborhood has been ruined. It’s a vast parking lot.”

Another resident said, “Now with the restaurants being built beer trucks and food trucks come roaring down Broadway. I implore you to do permit parking.”

Commissioner Mike Haycock said he liked the idea of the stop sign.

“I’m a big proponent of the stop signs; I like the lighted ones. I like the idea of having at least one four-way stop.  I’ve heard almost in every meeting we can’t get emergency vehicles around the Village. I can’t decide today on whether to have permit parking or not,” said Haycock.

Commissioner Ken Schneier agreed with Haycock about the safety that is needed in the Village.

“I think everything possible should be done to improve safety right now. Stop signs; yes. Setbacks from driveways; yes. Enforcement; yes. And also, I think the Village would be a good spot for speed tables, but I’m not a fan. They work, you can’t not slow down at the speed table. As for the lots on GMD, I think it’s going to be difficult to get patrons to park in those lots. However, you can get employees to show up. I share some of the concerns about permit parking. Everyone has a right to use the public streets, however, I am not opposed to resident-only permit parking in this situation because I think it’s a critical situation. I would like to have our counsel look at this and find out whether it is allowed, what the preconditions would be, and then explore other municipalities and what they did. This is not going to happen overnight. But we shouldn’t wait to do this, the safety element should be done. The off-site lots should be done and the research should be done,” said Schneier.

Commissioner Jack Daly said he was still hearing resident concerns about people speeding down Broadway and wanted to consider speed tables.

“I think its incumbent upon us to seriously consider speed bumps, their location and to implement that. I would like to see the experience that occurs with the new parking facilities. The 98 additional parking spaces are a lot. My concern is that it will be a last resort if there is parking available on the streets. So whatever the ultimate outcome is here, the season should be evaluated and determined. I would like to see what the difference is in terms of seasonal traffic and parking in terms of summer and the winter,” said Daly.

The commission reached consensus on looking into the legality of resident-only parking on public streets, speed tables, if emergency vehicles can safety get through and how to write a resident-only parking ordinance.

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