By Estella Fullmer Brown
For Hometown News
NEW SMYRNA BEACH -- People who illegally park along the North Causeway and Florida Avenue can expect to get fined in the future.
A handful of interested residents attended a City Commission special meeting March 11 to hear the progress the city has made on parking initiatives suggested by a Parking Task Force committee.
The task force was established to study the parking problem along Flagler Avenue and Canal Street, and provide some solutions to the lack of available parking spaces, particularly during peak hours and special events. During the investigation, the task force determined alleviating traffic could also help improve the parking situation. It submitted a list of suggestions to the City Commission last fall at the end of the one-year term.
The meeting March 11 was to inform the public of the status of those suggestions and field questions and comments from the public. It started out with a brief explanation of what progress has been made on each initiative.
One big change will begin with the Easter weekend festivities and when there will be enforcement of no parking along the North Causeway and Florida Avenue. Signs are going up now and there will be a 30 to 60 day warning period before the police department will begin issuing $20 citations for violations. All the signs will be up prior to April 19 when the citations will first start to be issued. "No parking in the (right-of-way) restrictions have been agreed to with (the state Department of Transportation), which will be installing the signage. Landscaping, sidewalks, irrigation and pedestrian path lights are frequently damaged from weekend boaters parking in the ROW along the Causeway," according to city staff.
Citizens on Patrol Parking Ambassador volunteers will be used for enforcement during the Easter weekend.
"With regard to Florida Avenue, there appears to be specific addresses that could be negatively impacted by a blanket no-parking in the ROW, where the ROW is the main parking available for the homeowner. It is our intent to install signs from Pine to Cooper first, working towards North Atlantic and Peninsula, working with the affected property owners," staff documents show.
City staff explained some challenges in acquiring locations for additional small parking lots.
"It is difficult to develop a small lot for surface parking due to the need for drive aisles, stormwater retention, and the placement of access points," cites city documents, along with the need to assemble adjacent properties, which further limits the available possibilities.
The same for a parking garage, which requires a minimum size lot of 124 by 286 square feet just for the structure's footprint. Additional area would be needed for stormwater and setback and other requirements.
Other problems faced by the task force include: the land value is higher in those areas where parking is needed most and would ideally be located behind the businesses lining Flagler Avenue and Canal Street rather than along the street's frontage. Funding for buying properties that meet the criteria needed for parking lots or parking garages is also a hurdle that needs to be overcome, according to city documents.
At least two of the Parking Tasks Force's recommendations have been adopted and implemented: Use of shuttles on Flagler during special events and parking kiosks.
Boat-ramp parking kiosks have been delayed. "We would not recommend that discussion occur again, until after construction is completed on the paving of the north causeway boat ramp area; as there will be major site disruption in 2015," according to city staff.
So far, some items in the five-year plan have been completed, such as establishing a parking fund in the city's budget to handle revenue and expenses from the other parking initiatives. The fund was approved in a December meeting and implemented with the approval of the 2014-15 fiscal-year budget. Revenue will be generated from the parking kiosks, budget items and other sources, such as parking citations. Projected expenses are for equipment, maintenance and enforcement, which include upkeep of the parking kiosks, personnel to collect the fees and costs associated with the new Citizens On Patrol program.
Another suggestion was to begin collecting the fees for the city leased parking spaces. Many businesses along Flagler and Canal have designated parking spaces on city-owned property for employees parking. Fees were waived to entice more growth in those areas. Now that there is such a parking problem, the task force suggested reinstatement of those fees immediately. It is hoped business owners will encourage their employees to use the parking spaces since they now have to pay for them.
Other items that were suggested and have been put into motion are signs for Flagler and cross streets to limit parking to four hours, formation of a beachside advisory group to determine residents' concerns over stormwater construction issues, traffic calming and residential parking issues, evaluation of Coronado Civic Center in lieu of moving the Shuffleboard Courts along Flagler, selling of Columbus Street lots, turning Esther and Buenos Aires into one-way streets in attempt to alleviate traffic congestion, and the strategic placement of bike racks to encourage more bike traffic and less vehicle traffic.