An artist’s rendering of what a parking garage
might look like at the Manatee County Public Beach.
HOLMES BEACH – While speakers were divided on parking fees, they said they were not in favor of a parking garage or a gondola system at a public presentation by Mayor Carmel Monti last week.
“These are ideas,” Monti told the group. “I’m looking for public comment to address congestion, parking and revenue.”
He said the city has a congestion committee studying alternatives, has a city center project to make the city more pedestrian and bicycle friendly and has added crosswalk signs. He said a bike path committee is in the works.
He then presented slides of drawings depicting a three-story parking garage, an events pavilion and changing cabanas at the beach and a gondola to transport people between the beach and the mainland. He also presented drawings of bike racks depicting spirals with decorative fishes, a large fish and a whale.
“My main concern is parking,” said one resident. “I feel there should be no free parking on the Island to generate revenue for infrastructure.”
Another agreed and said, “If they don’t want to pay, they’ll go somewhere else.”
A Key Royale resident said he has “trouble with the concept of devices that bring more people to the Island,” such as a gondola.
He suggested using amphibious vehicles, nicknamed ducks, that provide tours of cities by boat and by land and said, “We could use the Privateers to organize it and fill the people up with rum and take them to Longboat Key,” cracking up the audience.
Monti said there are on-going discussions regarding a ferry, and the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Agency is looking at park and ride locations at the intersections of 75th Street and Manatee Avenue and Cortez Road.
One resident suggested having the trolleys pull over to load and unload so they wouldn’t back up traffic. Monti said there aren’t many places they can pull off, and they also have trouble getting back into traffic.
“I don’t understand why we want a multi-story parking garage at the beach,” another said. “We advertise old Florida. I don’t see that in those slides.
“I totally want the Island to be open. I don’t know why we have to go out of our way to provide parking. It will be filled if you build a six-story parking garage.”
“We all agree with you,” someone called from the audience, followed by applause.
“A gondola makes me think of Coney Island,” a resident said and several others agreed they do not like the concept.
One resident warned, “Be careful what you wish for. Don’t make the Island one more tourist trap. You’ll kill the goose that laid the golden egg.”
Monti said an alternative to the parking garage is paid parking and another alternative could be a “blend of some of the ideas. Together we can come up with solutions.”
Commissioner Pat Morton said he is not in favor of a parking garage or paid parking, but thanked the mayor for “thinking out of the box.”
“How many think we should spend more money for advertising?” Commissioner Marvin Grossman asked. “Half the problem would be solved if the county would give us more money. They’re using Anna Maria to draw tourists, and we’re being forced to bear the brunt.”
Commissioner David Zaccagnino said, “I have to think what paid parking would do” and gave an example of Tybee Island, Ga., that has a parking fee of $24 per day and a parking department that costs the city $600,000 per year.
Commissioner Judy Titsworth said she is not in favor of the gondola or parking garage and that if there’s paid parking, people will park in residential areas and business parking lots.
“This is old Florida,” Titsworth stressed. “That’s why we’re here. There’s too much advertising. We have to put and end to it. We’re selling our soul. We can’t handle any more.”
Monti said he plans to survey more residents and said, “We want to try and make the Island a better place to live.”