City of Sarasota to install downtown parking meters in 2017

City of Sarasota to install downtown parking meters in 2017

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – This week Sarasota city commissioners voted to install parking meters downtown sometime in the next year.

Commissioners decided to move forward with plans, and soon, a subcommittee will be formed to determine what type of meters will be suitable to install. But, some business owners are not happy with the plan.

“It deters people to actually park and shop all day long,” said Ron Soto with the Downtown Merchants Association.

The idea isn’t new. Back in 2011, the city invested $500,000 in parking meters. But they weren’t user friendly. After many complaints, officials removed the meters.

Sarasota city officials recently revisited the issue because of the influx of new condos and residents. Officials estimate around 3000 new units will be built within a mile of the downtown area. That brings more people to downtown to eat and shop, and that puts a strain on the parking spaces.

“You go out at lunch and at dinner, late afternoon as well, you’ll find that all the prime spaces are filled up 100 percent capacity. When those spaces are not available it makes it difficult and inconvenient for the elderly,” said Sarasota Parking division manager Mark Lyons.

RELATED: Paid parking, parking garage proposed on St. Armands Circle

“The concept behind paid parking is to ensure that there’s some number of spaces turning over within any given block,” Lyons emphasized.

He said officials are still working the details, but he expects the fees will be about $1 an hour. Lyons expects the meters to be able to accept coins, credit cards, or payments by phone.

Lyons admits it’s not a popular idea.

“It’s not easy for the community but we’re going to try to make it as simple and low cost as possible,” said Lyons.

But he emphasizes that this will only impact about 11 percent of the parking in the downtown area. He says spaces off of Main Street will be free, and the parking garages will be free as well. So, shoppers will still have options.

Christopher Jevins is visiting from the UK with his family. Back home in Britain, parking meters are common. He thinks it’s a bad idea to bring them here.

“It does detract from people staying in a certain area. People will drive for distances to find somewhere that’s free parking, which causes problems in the immediate area of downtown,” said Jevins.

Soto says many business owners are worried that customers will stop strolling downtown to shop.

“The people that are putting down these policies have never owned a small business, they’ve never had to write a 941 form, they’ve never had to pay employees or pay the rent or anything like that, so it’s easy for them to say, ‘Oh its ok, this will all work out.’ They’ve never had to do it,” said Soto.

Soto is also angry that paid parking meters will arrive in downtown Sarasota before they’re installed in St. Armands Circle.

“Very unfair, it’s telling people don’t shop downtown,” said Soto.

Soto said he and his fellow business owners are considering their legal options.

The meters will be installed sometime in 2017.

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