City Watchdogs

New Parking Meter In Sarasota is an online magazine dedicated to the people and business community in the City of Sarasota. Our online magazine was conceived by concerned citizens and business leaders. Our mission is to address different forums, to inform the public, publish public input, and to keep our city officials informed of public opinion. Our first forum will be parking meters in Sarasota.

The Results Of A Bad Gamble

Please review comments and statements below regarding the implementation of parking meters in the City. We feel that this issue is very important not only to business owners, but also to the public at large.

After reading these commentaries, you may express your own opinion in detail, or vote in our on-line survey by: CLICKING HERE

No Comprehensive Plan

There is no comprehensive parking plan or strategy that would lead one to believe that parking meters on some streets would help downtown businesses. Quite the opposite would occur. The City does not have sufficient public parking to accommodate both employees and patrons downtown during "The Season." The studies quoted to justify putting parking meters in should be identified and I suspect will show a different context: those Cities where metered parking were installed either have off street parking in the form of municipal parking structures with the option of long term parking, or high fees exist for parking in private lots. In fact, to add insult to injury, not only has the City failed to provide municipal parking structures, but to exacerbate things, the City charges for permit parking for downtown employees, (many of whom are retail employees with a lower wage scale) and then have them compete for those parking spaces on a first come first serve basis, when in fact, they arrive after the local non retail businesses have opened. That forces them to seek on street free parking and thereby reduces the amount of convenient parking spaces for patrons downtown. There is one glaring exception: the city reserves free parking exclusively for IT'S employees, Charter Officials and Commissioners to the exclusion of the public. If this truly being done for the welfare of downtown, and not just a short sighted attempt at gaining more revenue, I would suggest that the Commission and administration also live by the same rules as they are forcing downtown employees and patrons to abide by. I recommend the following:

1) Open all currently owned or leased City employee parking lots to the public on a first come, first serve basis.

2) Enforce the two hour max parking rule in those lots to be consistent with all other city parking, on or off street.

3) Consider placing meters in those lots first to see how they work.

4) Eliminate all free or assigned parking spaces for all City employees including Charter officials and Commissioners.

5) Have them receive no preferential treatment on location, priority of permit issuance, or price, to obtain a parking permit. Why should anyone employed by the City have conveniently located, free parking exclusive to the tax payers funding their salaries? Why is someone "doing business" with the City any different than a patron "doing business" with users downtown? The difference might just be that the patron fuels revenue for the City.

John Simon Member, Institute of Transportation Engineers

Commissioner Comment: Richard Clapp

As you know the city is going through an extensive process to evaluate the use of parking meters. Recent meetings with merchants have been positive concerning the installation of meters. We are soliciting input from all community members. There is a wealth of information that speaks to the positive effects of parking meters in downtown areas because it is proven that parking spots are turned over more rapidly and merchants see significant increases in businesses. It also addresses the issue of merchant employees using parking spaces meant for customers. Malls do not have meters and the parking is "free". However, the mall property owners pay taxes on the land they reserve for parking - taxes that are eventually paid by the mall shoppers (or the mall goes out of business). In downtown’s with free street parking, the parking spaces are subsidized by all the residents, whether they visit downtown or not. Paying for parking levels the playing field. Finally, there will always be parking that is either free or very low cost only a couple blocks off Main St. Paying for parking allows the city to increase the amount of parking available without forcing those who will never use the parking to subsidize it.

We will always need parking - indeed our Downtown Master Plan calls for increased parking structures located around downtown. These structures would relieve the pressure to build higher and higher buildings so the required parking can be included in the building, as we proceed with our redevelopment plans, because parking would be available outside the new buildings. This makes downtown a more livable and lively place, what our citizens have consistently asked for. This will bring people downtown. The rub is how to pay for parking structures - asking those that use the parking spaces to help pay the cost is not unreasonable. In any event thanks for your input and I would ask that you consider publishing this comment on your "watchdog" web site.

Richard Clapp

City Watch Dogs Editor Response To Commissioner Clapp:

1. You must be referring to the meetings that Susan Dodd is holding which very few merchants attended because they have to work or do not know about the meetings. If you want an honest poll you would draft a poll, visit each business affected, interview the proprietor and get a signed response, then tally the results. I'm sure the out come would refute your statements City Watch Dogs is going to conduct such a poll and deliver the results. To our knowledge there have been no meetings with merchants. City Watch Dogs will be posting meeting times to let the Public

2. There is also a wealth of information refuting the benefits of parking meters. Forcing turnover would cripple restaurant business, the most viable businesses downtown. Look at Ybor City, they just took their meters out. Call the Tampa Mayor. What about business meetings, legal meetings etc? Why does St Armands Circle have three hour parking and no meters? - because it works.

3. The business owners downtown already pay huge taxes on their properties, are you forgetting that fact. The city does not tax streets or parking places so this is very flawed thinking. It actually is a money grab by the city because the meter money and parking enforcement go into the general fund. If this money stayed in a parking fund then there is your start to pay for municipal parking. The local residents are not subsidizing this parking, it is already paid for by downtown property owners. The local residents are subsidizing the Van Wezle, and Baseball but that seems to meet with your approval. If a subsidy were required for downtown, why would we not subsidize the heart and economic driving force for the entire community? People choose to live in our community for all that it offers. Shut down downtown Sarasota and see how many people would choose to live here. The entire community needs to support downtown Sarasota. It looks to me that you are trying to create “an us against them atmosphere.” I get a sense that you are representing special interests when you talk about level playing fields and as an elected official that is wrong, but then again you were not elected by the city at large. Part of downtown is in your district and those voters expect and deserve your support.

4. Where is the free or low cost parking off Main Street. The city has not lived up to it's moral obligation to provide parking and it has failed miserably in it's partnerships to provide parking. That parking needs to be in place before parking meters are considered. Consider the state of our Economy. The city is going to kill the Goose that lays any eggs!

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