TARPON SPRINGS — Officials are sending refunds to motorists who were wrongly ticketed for parking near fake "no parking" signs outside the Tarpon Turtle Grill and Marina.
The city sent notices last week to registered owners of vehicles cited for parking violations from 2006 to 2008 because of the unauthorized sign, which fooled Tarpon Springs police. Over the two-year span, police issued 233 tickets.
A local developer planted the "no parking" signs in 2006 near the restaurant on Lake Tarpon Drive and nearby streets, including Burton Place, without city approval, officials said.
Tarpon Springs police Chief Robert Kochen wrote in a May report that developer Mike Bronson admitted installing 22 signs along the city right-of-way after initially denying it.
The signs did not have a city sticker on the back and were mounted on a different pole than the city uses.
The parking tickets were for $20. Of that, $15 went to the city and $5 went to a fund that supports school crossing guards.
Tarpon Springs police Lt. Barb Templeton said Bronson paid the city $20 for each ticket issued. His payment went toward an account that will cover refunds.
Templeton said several owners have already responded to the notice and are seeking refunds.
"I'm seeing stacks coming in every day," she said.
Police ask people who did not receive a letter, but believe they deserve a refund, to contact Templeton at (727) 938-2849 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
She added that legitimate violations at the site, such as blocking a fire hydrant or parking on the sidewalk, will not be refunded.