Palmetto looks to future in creating parking trust fund ordinance

PALMETTO -- The city of Palmetto has a unique boast in Manatee County: There is always plenty of parking.

City officials want to make sure it stays that way as just one part of a plan to enact a new parking trust fund ordinance.

According to city attorney Mark Barnebey, there may be plenty of parking citywide, but when it comes to development in certain parts of downtown, the opportunity for potential businesses to meet city code requirements for parking is not so simple.

In an area between 10th Street West to the north, the Manatee River to the south, 11th Avenue to the west and the CSX railroad tracks to the east, Barnebey said there are several properties ripe for development, but they are too small to place a good-sized building and meet the parking requirements at the same time.

Staff is proposing the creation of the new ordinance that allows development to go forward without meeting the parking-space codes.

Instead, the developer would purchase the remaining number of parking spaces that can't fit into a reasonable site plan. The funds would go into a trust fund, and the city would have a certain amount of time to acquire parking spaces elsewhere.

Barnebey said in the short term, the city is in good shape for overall parking, but he pointed to existing businesses in downtown as an example of those in restricted space.

"Providing parking in a stretch like that may be impossible when we are wanting to see more storefronts in similar settings on 10th Street West," he said. "To make that work, we have to put parking off of 10th Street. It's not a huge problem in the immediate future, but it's good to be ready when we are ready."

Barnebey said he researched other cities that are using similar ordinances like Miami and Winter Park. In Winter Park, he said, the off-site parking lots have increased downtown walking traffic, a goal of many cities.

Community Redevelopment Agency Director Jeff Burton said the future of the city's parking is "all numeric assumptions. The whole idea of this is to increase the square footage of commercial space and residential space downtown. Every extra foot you can't give a property owner, you don't get the tax base for it. This is an efficient way to increase square footage and by doing so, increases the tax base on that property."

Burton pointed to a local business that squeezed two parking spaces between its two buildings in order to meet code. He said the spaces are virtually unusable and the proposed ordinance would have allowed the business to expand its buildings or create landscaping as an alternative.

As for citywide parking, Burton said he expects the city to gain anywhere from 10 to 15 percent more parking spaces when the Florida Department of Transportation constructs a multi-modal trail off of the Green Bridge in conjunction with the CRA and Southwest Florida Water Management. The project could begin anytime next year and the trail will eventually connect every city park. Burton said the project would create more parking by the river.

Barnebey only had tentative numbers to present as examples of how the ordinance would work. He said more evaluation needs to be done on what the city would charge for a parking space, but he estimated between $6,000-$10,000 a space and a time line for the funds to sit in a trust account to be anywhere from 7 to 10 years.

Burton said the ordinance is strictly "conceptual" at this point. The city commission is expected to take up the ordinance for discussion in upcoming workshops.

Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.