People to pay for parking by phone in downtown area
By Meagan McGone
COCOA BEACH - Heading to Cocoa Beach this weekend?
Don't forget your cell phone.
At an Aug. 2 meeting, the Cocoa Beach City Commission said it would enforce pay-by-phone parking for 214 spaces from North First Street to South First Street along State Road A1A, during weekends and holidays from Feb. 1 to Sept. 30.
Cocoa Beach City Manager Chuck Billias said a unified parking strategy could help the city clean up after its visitors.
"We're spending all this money cleaning the beach because the tourists are coming here trashing our beach," he said. "We have to maximize the revenue off these parking meters."
Pay-by-phone parking, which costs $2.50 per hour from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends and holidays, will be marked by instructional signage. Motorists may pay with their debit or credit card, via phone through the service ParkNow!, by following the prompts posted on the signs.
Those who fail to comply could face a $30 parking ticket.
A pay-by-phone parking fee will also be implemented in the Cocoa Beach City Hall parking lot. This $10 fee covers parking for the entire day and will be enforced year-round.
Mayor Skip Beeler said the pay-by-phone process may seem complicated, but it will become less so with time.
"Once people get used to using this, the system will become pretty easy," he said. "It does save the city a lot of money because parking meters are expensive - they are time-limited items. We live in a corrosive environment. And they are also not the prettiest thing to look at. I think (the pay-by-phone plan) will make the streets look better."
Additional for-pay parking includes metered beach parking, which costs $1.50 to $2 per hour. Eventually, cell-phone payment may be an option for these spaces, too.
As an alternative, Cocoa Beach annual parking permit holders may park for free in the metered and pay-by-phone parking spots. Cocoa Beach residents and property owners can purchase an annual parking permit for $10 per vehicle, and non-residents can purchase the permit for $60 at City Hall.
Commissioner Kevin Pruett named other Florida cities using pay-by-phone parking enforcement, such as St. Petersburg, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, West Palm Beach, Coral Gables, Sarasota and Wilton Manors.
Mr. Pruett said one of the benefits of the new parking plan is that cars are less likely to occupy spots near businesses for extended hours, which will increase the flow of traffic into these businesses. He said that in 60 days, the Commission will review the effects of the plan.
Still, some residents expressed concern during the commission meeting for the city's new parking fee enforcement strategy.
Mary Jane Nail, a 46-year resident of Cocoa Beach, called the plan "discriminatory" and asked the Commission to explain its financial implications.
"You're trying it out?" she said at the meeting. "How much is it costing to try it out?"
"It seems discriminatory toward a high concentration of our population," she added. "I worry about the citizens of Cocoa Beach. It seems to me that you're always looking for ways to get money - that's nice - but when it impacts the citizens, it's not nice."
For more information, call (321) 868-3219 or visit www.cityofcocoabeach.com.