By Estella R. Fullmer
For Hometown News
NEW SMYRNA BEACH -- Some beachside residents expressed their concerns to the city's Parking Task Force Committee at its meeting March 21.
"It appears the resident's needs have taken a back seat to the business's needs," said Deborah Dugas in reference to the Task Force's plans to improve parking along Flagler Avenue and near the beach.
Ms. Dugas pointed out that only one of the 16 initiatives the Task Force has come up with had any mention of the residents along Flagler and adjoining streets. That item, number 7 on the list, asks the City Commission to appoint another task force in September to review the current plans and discuss new plans which could include Residential Parking Permits.
"It appears that most think nothing of the encroachment into our neighborhoods," said Ms. Dugas. "What about the safety along our narrow streets that are going to become more congested?"
She asked the Task Force to consider the impact in the neighborhood, including how making Esther and Buenos Aires one-way streets would increase the amount of traffic through the neighborhood. She also pointed out there already is a problem with non-residents parking in front of people's homes blocking driveway access and leaving no place for residents to park.
Other residents argued against the Task Force's suggestion to move the shuffleboard courts off beachside and back to the mainland. One gentleman stated that many people come specifically to the shuffleboard courts and those same people also shop along Flagler.
Ms. Dugas said, "They are unique and part of New Smyrna's charm. Putting a parking lot there would be an eyesore."
Ernest Yarborough, Parking Task Force member, said, "Let me clarify; the reason for moving the shuffleboard courts back to the mainland is to alleviate some of the issues of congestion from people that come down Flagler to use the courts."
He pointed out the shuffleboard courts were on the mainland and then moved to the beach. "It has been eliminated as a potential site for a parking garage because it is too small," he said.
The Task Force voted to recommend several items to the City Commission for review. First on that list is to establish a parking fund derived from various sources, such as selling the Columbus Street lot and collecting on leased parking space fees. Kiosk or paid parking along the oceanfront and meters along Flagler are also options for obtaining money for the parking fund.
The recommendation stated specifically how the money in that fund would be used. The main function would be to pay for enforcement of the parking, purchasing new equipment and maintenance of the parking lots.
Another immediate action the Task Force suggested is to set time limits for parking along Flagler Avenue to keep owners of businesses and their employees from filling the parking spaces in front of their buildings. After some deliberation among the members, they decided that a four-hour time limit would allow enough time for shoppers and still deter employees from parking along the street all day.
They suggested the city to do a cost analysis to compare hiring an outside firm to enforce the parking regulations to an in-house enforcement by "parking ambassadors." They also decided to recommend reinstatement and collection of the fees of $125 per leased parking space to local businesses along Flagler. The fees were suspended more than a year ago to stimulate business growth and make it easier to start new businesses.
Longer term plans could include metered parking along Flagler, beachside public parking lots becoming kiosk paid lots, no overnight parking or no parking on Flagler from 5 to 7 a.m. to make it easier for the street sweepers and discourage overnight parking by residents, business owners and their employees. They have also asked the city to look into the feasibility of a trolley fee paid service throughout the Loop area, and look for ways to fund this service.
The Task Force also requested a report from the city that reviews all existing parking regulations that pertain to new businesses on Flagler and asked the city to take a look at locations along Flagler and nearby areas for opportunities, either public or private, to place bike racks. Although some trees are already in the process of being relocated, the Parking Task Force asked the city to see if any more trees along Flagler could be moved to provide more parking spaces.
The Parking Task Force also is suggesting the city secure a public or private partnership to construct a parking garage in an area that has yet to be determined. Some members felt a parking garage near Bert Fish Medical Center would be beneficial.
Ernest Yarborough made a motion to accept all of the items as amended and the team members voted unanimously in favor. All of the recommendations will be sent to the City Commission for review and the Task Force is planning to give a report to the commission on April 9. The Task Force hopes to have more information on bike rack locations, the tree island locations and the existing parking regulations before that meeting.