Longboat one vote closer to resident-only parking

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After much debate and some dissent, Longboat Key Town Commission voted 6-1 to pass a resident-only parking program for the north-island Village area.

The new regulations—the first of their kind on Longboat Key—will convert more than 400 parking spaces that are currently available to all of the public to the use of Village residents and their guests only.

The proposal is a reaction to what residents say has been decades of intrusion throughout the Village primarily by diners at the Mar Vista and The Shore. The measure also follows a series of efforts by the town to curtail parking primarily by eliminating spaces along sections of Broadway and increasing setbacks as well as other traffic control measures.

Commissioner Ed Zunz sought to make it clear that the rights of the general public to access the boat launching area and to park next to the boat launching area would not be impeded. Zunz suggested adding language stating that in the ordinance, but was told signs already exist stating that the public can use the boat launch area.

Resident Robert Lopez was glad to see the measure go forward.

“There is a serious issue in parking in the Village. The traffic has been intolerable. There is an ever-present danger to being struck by a vehicle,” said Lopez.

Villagers Carla Rowan, Michael Drake and others, questioned why Broadway should remain open for public parking and excluded from the ordinance. They felt it is one of the busiest locations and parking can impede the approach to intersections.

The proposal if it passes a second reading in December will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021. The plan is to sell decals that residents would place in their cars. Village residents would be allowed to purchase two decals per dwelling unit and an additional two placards for guests.

For Longboat Key Vice Mayor Mike Haycock, taking hundreds of spots from taxpayers was not acceptable.

“We have done a lot. We have taken over 100 parking spots away from the public, reduced parking on Broadway and eliminated overnight parking and reduced the speed limit in the Village. I’m supportive of the resident-only parking as written with one exception: taxpayers pay for these. Taking 500 spots from taxpayers is not right. We should have some provision to allow all of our residents to park in the Village,” said Haycock.

Commissioner Jack Daly supported the idea of some provisional use of Village parking for Longboat Key residents, but other commissioners felt the issue had been fully vetted and that the ordinance should proceed as written.

Town Attorney Maggie Mooney, said allowing Longboat Key residents outside of the Village a special parking provision is legally problematic.

“Preferential treatment could be problematic relative to equal protection under the law,” opined Mooney.

Mayor Ken Schneier spoke to the gravity of the undertaking prior to the vote.

“This is an extraordinary undertaking. This is public property we are restricting,” said Schneier.

Schneier pointed out that the town had tried many other remedies and they have failed to solve the overarching issue. That is why, he said, the town is undertaking the “extraordinary remedy.”

The commission passed the ordinance on first reading 6-1 with Haycock voting against the measure.

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