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Parking compromise will upset some Sunset Beach residents

TREASURE ISLAND — Some Sunset Beach residents will have permanent public parking spaces in front of their homes.

Which homes are still to be determined, but Commissioner Alan Bildz says the "sacrifice" will be worth the benefit of barring beach visitors from parking in front of the rest of Sunset Beach homes.

Tuesday, the City Commission will consider an ordinance that, if passed, would allow city staff to pick the location of those public spaces and set up permit-only parking for the rest of Sunset Beach streets.

For months, the commission debated how to react to complaints from residents who live on the narrow streets west of Gulf Boulevard.

Those streets are often filled with beach visitors who sometimes block private driveways and make it difficult, if not impossible, for cars, garbage trucks and emergency vehicles to travel the streets.

Last month, the commission had to abandon plans to ban all public parking on the streets and issue special parking permits to residents when it discovered it could lose $1-million in beach renourishment funds.

Nicole Elko, Pinellas County's coastal coordinator, told the city it must provide 100 public spaces per mile of beach, evenly distributed up and down the beach, to qualify for the periodic sand renourishment.

The city does not have enough public parking available directly on the beach to meet the requirements.

A proposal to restrict parking to just one side of the residential streets, possibly on alternate days, was unpopular among residents.

A consensus reached at the commission's Nov. 18 workshop session favored a combination of permit-only residential parking and designated public parking spots.

"We could put in a parking lot for 200 cars at Trailhead Park and it would not put us in compliance," Police Chief Tim Casey told the commission. "The most efficient method is to put two (marked, public) spaces on each street."

The side streets affected extend from 95th Avenue to 85th Avenue (Blind Pass Drive) on the east side of Gulf Boulevard.

Casey cautioned that this solution would "not address" the issue of cars parking on both sides of the streets, but should reduce the total number of cars parked on any given day.

"Clearly there will be concerns from residents abutting where the parking spaces will be," Casey said.

City Manager Reid Silverboard said city staff will recommend the "best" placement of the public parking spaces.

According to state rules, there must be at least one parking space for each 59-foot section of beach front.

Currently, there are 23 on-street public parking spaces on Gulf Boulevard between 99th and Harrell avenues. The city needs to designate 24 additional public parking spaces to meet the total requirement of 47 spaces, Casey said.

"There may be some instances where we put them together and others where we separate them," Silverboard said.

Each marked space would be 22 feet long and identified by a painted white pavement marker and a pole sign reading "Public Parking Between Lines".

"Two public spaces would be a small sacrifice to clear up the other problems. I would favor this," said Bildz.

Several commissioners asked for "input" from the Sunset Beach Civic Association, but were told the association's board of directors were "split" on the idea of permanent public spaces.

"We were hoping for input from the community. It's important," said Commissioner Ed Gayton Jr.

One resident asked how the city would decide where to put the public spaces to be "fair" to all residents.

Chief Casey said any public parking space must be 30 feet from a stop sign and cannot block driveways or fire hydrants.

"We would endeavor to find spots that would provide the least amount of impact," Casey said.

"I don't think the commission wants to be in the position of deciding where the spaces will be," added Silverboard.

Parking compromise will upset some Sunset Beach residents 11/25/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 26, 2008 2:13pm]
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