What began as a proposal to create a new parking ordinance that would allow potential developers to purchase excess parking spaces off site of a new project has blossomed into so much more.
The Palmetto Community Redevelop Agency was tasked by the city commission during those discussions to conduct a parking study to assess the city’s current parking status and determine its future needs based on future redevelopment goals.
The study determines the city’s existing 1,527 parking spaces are well short of the 2,990 spaces needed to meet future redevelopment goals. Recommendations to resolve the shortfall include the possibility of a parking garage with ground-floor retail, emulating the Palm Avenue parking garage in Sarasota as an initial concept.
Such a suggestion is more food for thought than actual recommendation, but “it does open our eyes as to what’s out there,” said Vice Mayor Brian Williams.
The study delved into the city’s parking ordinances, comparing them to other cities, determining existing and future parking problems are “self-inflicted,” said CRA Director Jeff Burton. “What this tells you is that we have a couple of legitimate parking problems, but it also tells us we have an inflated number of deficits. And the reason is by our own actions.”
If you don’t know what your future is, this document is pretty much useless.
Mark O’Leary, CRA intern
Palmetto’s parking space requirements for commercial businesses are up to 188 percent higher than other cities. Mark O’Leary, a University of South Florida graduate student and CRA intern, performed the study. O’Leary said the city should overhaul its ordinances and certainly not attempt to pave it’s way out of a future problem.
“Too much surface parking kills downtowns,’ O’Leary said. “It takes up too much space and kills tax revenue.”
The study suggests that the city needs to move forward with its off-site parking proposal, rewrite its ordinances and develop more specific goals to what city leaders want Palmetto to look like in the years to come.
“If you don’t know what your future is, this document is pretty much useless,” O’Leary said. “To bring development to downtown, you need a reason to bring people downtown. The problem is that retail doesn’t want to come without residential and residential doesn’t want to come without retail. We have to find a way to beat that Catch-22 and if we just get a little creative the CRA can do some interesting stuff.”
Palmetto does have significant projects on the horizon that will help increase its walkability and bicycle-friendly goals. Those projects are likely to spur redevelopment opportunities. If the city is ultimately successful, then the city will, “Need to plan for radically different parking needs within the subsequent decade,” according to the study.
That includes a parking garage, which the study states would be a “necessity,” to avoid too much surface parking, “which makes a vibrant and healthy downtown infeasible.”