By Suzy Kridner
NEW SMYRNA BEACH - Driving up and down Flagler Avenue looking for a place to park doesn't make for happy shoppers.
Just ask Adele Aletti, owner of Gone Bonkers on Flagler Avenue, who also lives nearby on Peninsula Drive.
As the vice chairwoman of the newly appointed Parking Systems Task Force, she's experienced in the city's parking problems.
"I'm lucky I have parking behind my store. I made it that way," said Ms. Aletti.
She said she feels the city has allowed businesses to operate with insufficient parking. That's just one of the many issues the new task force will undertake.
She and other members of the task force received plenty of homework at their first meeting last week and will study the reports before they meet again at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18.
Then they will meet on the third Thursday of each month at the Coronado Civic Center, 150 S. Pine St., on the beachside, "if we can find parking," Ms. Aletti said.
John Vazquez was elected chairman of the task force.
City Manager Pam Brangaccio said she is a task force fan as a means of studying city problems. The budget task force reduced the city's budget by 25 percent, and the sports complex task force resulted in the city recently approving $500,000 for improvements.
"The parking task force will get in and out and make recommendations to the City Commission," she said.
The meetings are open to the public and a Town Hall meeting is planned after the group studies the city's parking, as well as other cities.
"So many cities are similar to us with the same problems," Ms. Brangaccio said.
Among them are Gainesville, St. Augustine, Cocoa Beach and cities in South Florida.
"We'll also get parking experts here and vendors such as Duncan parking systems," she said.
Members of the task force will identify the issues and make recommendations, she said. They'll also look at land development regulations and funding sources for parking.
Volusia County recently paid $1.15 million for a beachfront lot on A1A south of Flagler Avenue. The former Kosmas property is now known as the South Atlantic Beach Park.
Ms. Brangaccio said the county won't buy property for parking west of A1A.
City Attorney Frank Gummey talked to the group about Florida's Sunshine Law concerning open meetings and reports.
He cautioned them about discussing task force business with other members outside of meetings.
"Some of you are friends so it may be hard to comply, but you have to comply," Mr. Gummey said.
Vice Mayor Judy Reiker welcomed the task force to municipal government and said she would be attending meetings as the beachfront area is in her zone.
For now the task force will be busy identifying the problems, exploring beachside parking options, considering remote special event parking and shuttle service, and establishing paid visitor parking lots.
For the next meeting, the volunteer task force members, including two ad hoc members, received the Flagler Avenue Parking Inventory and Initiative, and will review the long-term and short-term recommendations.
They also will review the Parking Management Options for New Smyrna Beach prepared earlier this year by graduate students at the University of Central Florida.