“The news tomorrow needs to be no paid parking in Flagler Beach,” City Commissioner Rick Belhumeur told his colleagues on the commission during Thursday evening’s meeting.
So it is: the Flagler Beach City Commission killed any further attempt at a paid-parking scheme in the city, shelving a study that cost the city $20,000 and that was proposing to create a cumbersome system of meter-maids, paid and monitored parking in the city’s core, and that would potentially generate $300,000 in revenue over three years. But the city would have seen hardly any of that money. Rather, the money would have paid whatever management company the city would have had to engage to run its parking system and its various complications. (See a fuller analysis of the study here.)
Three times Commissioner Eric Cooley Thursday evening asked for a clear consensus from his colleagues to put the study and any further discussion of paid parking to rest. “I just wanted to clear the air of the parking thing and just say we all looked at the findings, we saw it’s not fiscally feasible, the juice isn’t worth the squeeze,” Cooley said.
Commissioners agreed. “For now,” said Commissioner Marshall Shupe, a veteran of those discussions, which have a cicada-like regularity to them. “It’ll come back in five years.”
“That’s five years of not hearing about it,” Cooley said.
The city will pay more attention to signage, however, and to more clearly advertising its existing free parking lots (it has five of them). The parking report, however, seemed to commissioners out of sync with the city’s needs and realities.
“I don’t think we have a parking problem, and certainly this isn’t going to repair any parking problem if we did. It’s going to create more,” Belhumeur said.
“I don’t think that report that we got shows that we ought to do anything,” Mealy said of the Walker Consultants report, which was presented to commissioners in January. “I don’t see putting more money into more studies to make it work like some people want it to work. I think we’ll just say finally we don’t have a parking issue and we don’t do this.”
“My take on that is similar but I wasn’t really looking at it as money-making,” Shupe said, “because I didn’t think we were going to get rich over it, that’s for sure. My take is, do we have a parking problem, and if we do, where can we adapt our resources to improve that, if there is indeed a problem.” But he was opposed to following any of the report’s recommendations. “I’m not even 49 percent agreeable with that,” he said. “I think it was a shot in the dark to get as far as I’m concerned an authentic–if you will–study done by somebody with reputable background and that type of thing. I think it was a good report, but I don’t think it works for this city or the residents. A couple of times a year it’s a problem, but people have put up with that for 40 or 50 years and they’ll probably put up for that for another 40 or 50 if they have to wait an hour and a half to leave after a parade.”
Commissioner Kim Carney said this isn’t the year to be experimenting with paid parking anyway, given the yearlong construction on A1A. She was critical of the report’s “snapshot in time” approach, which she said was not grounded in local realities, “and I surely didn’t expect somebody to come back and tell me I needed to hire an outside person to do this,” she said. She doesn’t think the city has a parking problem, either, “but I can tell you there were some recommendations from that parking committee like signage and GPS and getting our parking on the internet so people know where to go, that we do have to deal with, whether it’s going to be metered parking to raise money or not, that’s fine. But we still need to get into the next century so that when people come here they know there are other lots to go to.”
Mayor Linda Provencher was proposing to incorporate such proposals in a coming goal-setting session. But City Manager Larry Newsom said as soon as he took the job in the city he added the addresses of the city’s parking lots on the city’s website, along with a map. He concedes that Flagler Beach isn’t Sign City, but recalled that “when I first got here signage was a taboo world, because I walked into a city that basically said that we don’t like signs. We want to limit signs.”
Earlier in the afternoon the commission held a separate meeting to swear-in Belhumeur and Mealy, who were both re-elected last week. The commission then selected its next chair, replacing Belhumeur. Belhumeur nominated Carney. Cooley nominated Shupe. Carney seconded her own nomination, Mealy seconded the nomination for Shupe. The city attorney then said each proposal would have to be voted on in turn, starting with Carney’s.
Cooley was first up in the roll call. He paused a very long time, trying to decide whether he was for Carney or not. “Heck, I like either of them,” he said. As for Carney’s nomination: “I’m not opposed to it.” But he had nominated Shupe. He ended up saying yes to the Carney nomination, likely unaware that that would seal it for her: Belhumeur and Carney voted yes, too, while Shupe and Mealy voted no. There was another awkward moment when commissioners thought they’d get to vote again on the Shupe nomination.
No, Drew Smith said, since Carney got the majority, that was the end of it. She was the new chair.
Nominations for the largely ceremonial post are not usually that contentious, or weird. They are in this case because Shupe and Mealy have memories of Carney’s previous chairmanship, which unsettled the commission enough that one of its members attempted to boot her off the chair. The attempt failed at the end of a contentious meeting featuring a wave of public support for Carney.
Shupe won the vice-chairmanship unanimously, lining him up for next year’s chairmanship.