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PARKING PLAN AT DEAD END

Plans to restrict public parking on Sunset Beach could cost the city $1-million in beach renourishment funds.

As a result, city officials on Tuesday abandoned a plan to require resident-only permits on any cars parked along residential streets east of the beach.

In addition, City Manager Reid Silverboard said the city may have to end an existing program that allows all city residents to purchase $5 parking passes that can be used at metered parking spaces.

"We cannot sell reduced-cost permits to residents unless we sell them at the same cost to everybody," Silverboard said, citing Nicole Elko, Pinellas County's coastal coordinator.

Last spring, city officials began looking at parking problems in the Sunset Beach area. At issue are visitors who block driveways on the narrow streets and dump trash.

"After an extensive survey, we determined the best method to address the problems was to implement a parking-by-permit-only program," police Chief Tim Casey told the commission Tuesday. "But if it is implemented as proposed, it would disqualify Treasure Island for approximately $1-million in beach renourishment money for that segment of Sunset Beach."

One hundred parking spaces per mile of beach must be provided for the city to be eligible for state money to maintain public beaches.

He said the area has "too many problems" to walk away from the parking issue.

Casey proposed, instead, that the city implement a program that would restrict on-street parking to one side of the street. The side would change on alternating days.

Alternate-side parking would provide more than double the public spaces needed to meet Elko's requirement, he said, and provide enough room for cars to safely travel the narrow residential streets.

However, several residents objected to the plan.

"I am not going to want a public parking space in front of my house," said one resident.

Another called for "more creative thinking" to resolve the issue.

The commission will again discuss the Sunset Beach parking issue at its Nov. 18 workshop.

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