TREASURE ISLAND — In six weeks, Sunset Beach residents and visitors should see a partial resolution to their years of parking woes.
Site plan approval and a building permit have been given to Unified Parking Partners, a Maine-based parking management company, which expects within the next week to begin construction on a Gulf Boulevard commercial parking lot.
Sunset Beach residents and tourists have battled for years over limited parking on the narrow residential streets that surround popular tourist hangouts like Caddy's on the Beach.
The city has tried to limit parking in the past but dropped the plans when it became apparent it would jeopardize beach renourishment funds.
John Richardson, with Unified Parking Partners, thinks the new 89-space lot at the northeast corner of Gulf Boulevard and First Street across from Sunset Vista Park, will go a long way in relieving congestion.
"There is a desperate need for parking by residents and tourists in that area," he said. "It think the economic development there has been cut off because of the lack of parking."
The parking lot should be open for business around May 15, Richardson said.
It will have parking pay stations similar to those used on Treasure Island's beachfront and there will be a shuttle service from the parking lot to area businesses, he said.
The company, which operates parking facilities in Vermont, Rhode Island, Maine and New Hampshire, has created controversy in the past by booting cars to enforce parking fees.
But Florida law prohibits booting by private companies, and the site plan approval given by the city has reiterated that to the company, said Paula Cohen, city community improvement director.
Richardson said the company has curtailed its booting enforcement in New England and will follow the state and city laws here.
"We will have staff on site to ensure payment," he said.
City Commissioner Ken Keys, who represents the Sunset Beach area, thinks the parking lot will make a significant difference in solving traffic problems.
"We are always going to have some kind of problem there given the type of community it is but this will relieve some of the issue," he said.