Our town has a parking problem. One of the biggest indicators would be the huge NO PARKING signs placed at the entrances to our town. Posted adjacent to our official Welcome signs, the combination is often referred to as our unofficial town message, “Welcome to Fort Myers Beach, Now Leave.” Those signs are a reflection of our heavy-handed get-this-town-under-control town administration. That approach may have pleased a previous council, but it’s apparent from this week’s council meeting, it’s not gonna fly with our current council and for that we are thankful.
Our town has regulations for commercial parking, a convoluted commercial subscription parking ordinance and, last year, our town jacked up parking meter prices from $2/hour to $3/hour, 50% more than Lee County charges in their county park lots on our island.
We have a combination of parking rules that are difficult to find and even harder to understand. The 2016 Parking Ordinance runs 18 pages, but somehow doesn’t seem to spell out clearly where you can and cannot park in residential areas.
There is a Parking page on the Town’s website, primarily devoted to instructions on how to pay your parking ticket. The page includes a Prohibited Parking section with five obvious no-no’s that seem to be business area focused: sidewalks, wrong direction, fire lane, handicapped space without a permit and marked No Parking zones. The list is rounded out with two items that are not at all clear: “In any space not designated as a parking space” and “On any street or road not designated as a parking space.”
This week, Town Manager Roger Hernstadt defended the issuance of $50 parking tickets to multiple residents attending a neighborhood party. (Disclosure: The neighborhood party was in the Sand Paper owners’ neighborhood, though we did not attend.) Hernstadt told Town Council this week that if only the party-goers or hosts had called Town Hall, they would have been told to park on one side of the street. So, now residents must notify Town Hall if they want to have a party? Can a permit be far behind?
There are plenty of parking violations that deserve a ticket – block a driveway, park in a marked No Parking Zone, block a fire hydrant – all are obvious violations wherever you are. But park in front of a house? After the fact, we’re told it was all about emergency access, which sure sounds like an attempt to justify a bad decision.
And where does this one side of the street parking idea come from? Is it in our parking ordinance? Which side? Who picks the side?
To add to the ridiculousness of our parking rules, residents can be ticketed for parking in front of their own homes, no matter how briefly they’re parked there.
Our Town needs a residential parking ordinance that clearly states where and when parking is allowed on residential streets. It also should address the issue of service or contractor parking on residential streets as that problem is not going away anytime soon.
We urge Town Council to bring some common sense back to residential parking; address this issue fairly and communicate the rules clearly to residents and visitors.