PALM HARBOR — Restaurants and office buildings opening in Palm Harbor's historic downtown will have to supply fewer parking spaces under new requirements approved by the Pinellas County Commission.
Following advice from a private consultant brought in last year to study the area's parking habits, the commission this week reduced the number of off-street parking spaces that restaurants have to provide from five to 2.1 spaces per 1,000 square feet of restaurant space. The same standard is now being applied to retail businesses, which previously had to have 1.8 parking spaces per 1,000 square feet.
Office buildings will have to provide four parking spaces per 1,000 square feet, but they can get a break if there is public parking within 500 feet.
The changes came in response to an analysis by King Engineering, which found that, at its peak, only 49 percent of the downtown area's 642 public and private parking spaces were being used.
Even if the rest of the downtown area were developed and filled with office buildings whose workers parked for the day, the area would still have more spaces than it needs, according to the consultant.
In a historic district that prides itself on being walkable, the idea is to avoid "giant parking lots and seas of parking," Sandra Gorman of King Engineering told the commission in December.