22 Aug 2014
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Commission Votes To End Paid Parking

Sarasota City Commission has voted 3-2 to end the city's paid parking program and to make the Palm Avenue Parking Garage free.

Commission Votes To End Paid Parking

Sarasota City Commission has voted 3-2 to end the city's and to make the Palm Avenue Parking Garage free.

"There is a parking funk," Commissioner Paul Caragiulo said. 

Mayor Suzanne Atwell and Commissioner Willie Shaw voted against the measure during Monday's afternoon session.

The meters will be gone, the electronic pay stations no more and won't ask you for money either.

"I believe the Palm Avenue Parking garage is grossly underutilized," Vice Mayor Terry Turner said. "I believe with free parking many of the merchants would be able to get their employees to park in the parking garage."

owner James Derheim told Patch that he's happy but "sorry it took them so darn long." Derheim led merchants' opposition to the meters that included a

"We've basically sacrificed three quarters of a season that should ahve been a season of recovery from the beginning," he said. "We sacrified that for an experiment that obviously has been proven to be a total failure.

"This should teach future city governments not to experiment with people's livelihoods," Derheim added.

Snyder, who once opposed ending the meter program, said though the paid parking problem resolved downtown employees parking on the street, the electronic pay stations simply don't work.

"While I say here and tried to make this thing work, it's clearly not going to," Snyder said.

Mayor Suzanne Atwell could not support the motion as she hoped Sarasota would "emerge as a wonderful downtown core, an urban setting that should fit in with this system."

"I hope there are no unintended consequences on this," Atwell also said.

Parking enforcement will return to a two-hour free parking with incidental one-hour parking spots, essentially the previous system, and will be enforced.

The city no longer has those signs and will have to order more, and could take a week or two before the signs could be installed, according to city staff.

Caragiulo said he hopes a critical mass will return to downtown later when a paid parking program will be needed again to force turnover of cars.

Palm Avenue Garage Events

One possibility to help make up for revenue for the Palm Avenue Parking Garage is by renting it out for events and not just for its parking use.

The Sarasota Young Professionals Group are requesting to rent the space for the Sarasota Film Festival for a rooftop garage party. 

Mark Lyons, parking manager for the city, brought the request to the commissioners during the commission's evening session to establish guidelines and rental fees. 

The commissioners were concerned about how noise would reverberate off of surrounding buildings, especially if a movie is shown, as well as crowd control and other issues, but agreed to let the Film Festival do the event as long as they provide a debriefing report of successes and mistakes to better guide the city for doing such an event.

The rental fees will be set up similar to existing fees, Lyons said, where non-profits and for-profits are charged different rates and use of alcohol on the premises also will increase the rate.

This story has been updated.

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