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Public Denounces Flagler Beach Paid-Parking Option, Splitting Commission on What’s Next

| April 30, 2015

Flagler Beach City Commissioners, seen here moments before the start of this evening's meeting, eventually faced about 60 residents and busines owners, almost all of whom opposed a proposal to impose paid parking in the city. (c FlaglerLive)

Flagler Beach City Commissioners, seen here moments before the start of this evening’s meeting, eventually faced about 60 residents and busines owners, almost all of whom opposed a proposal to impose paid parking in the city. (c FlaglerLive)

A proposal to impose paid parking on vast new swaths of Flagler Beach is likely dead shortly after its arrival at the Flagler Beach City Commission Thursday. What happens next is unclear. But some commissioners warned residents and businesses that, absent the projected revenue from paid parking, the city may be looking at raising taxes or fees to cover what some of its members see as the city’s increasing burdens from visitors enjoying its beaches. Others proposed continuing the discussion–a discussion that, in essence, stretches back to the 1980s–and involving more residents and business owners.

“We’re done, we’re finished,” Mayor Linda Provencher said, referring to the six-member committee that spent two years to come up with the recommendation it presented tonight. “Do whatever you want, we’re never meeting again. You can only go around and around so long.”

That was not just a reaction to the commission’s uncertainty about what to do next, but to the public’s clear rejection of the committee’s central proposal.

Don’t borrow a page from South Florida. Don’t risk alienating Flagler Beach’s tourism. Don’t risk hurting businesses that depend on the precarious economic recovery to keep going. Don’t double-tax residents. Don’t ratify a proposal that lacks expert analysis and harder data.

In short, don’t impose a paid parking regime on Flagler Beach, the commission heard–with near unanimity–from members of the public, business owners and representatives of the county chamber and tourism office during a special meeting Thursday evening.

The commission had just heard a summary of the two years of work by a six-member parking committee the commission appointed in 2013, along with the committee’s recommendation: instituting a broad-ranging paid-parking system that would make every parking spot on State Road A1A, from 5th Street North to 7th Street South, paid parking, along with paid-only lots and other paid-only segments of the core area of the city. Paid parking would be suspended between Oct. 15 and February 15.

“Bottom line we were undiscovered and we have been found and more are coming,” Roseanne Stocker, who chaired the committee, said before commissioners and an audience that grew to about 60 people, with almost every seat in the chamber filled. “How do we manage it?”

That plan would convert close to 700 parking spaces into metered spaces. It would cost the city $1.2 million in up-front costs and create a parking infrastructure—physical and bureaucratic—that the committee claims would generate between $400,000 and $800,000 a year for the city, once the system is in place. Those figures are based on committee members’ estimates rather than independent analysis or any sort of studies: the committee had no budget to conduct such studies or involve expert analysis.

One after the other, members of the public, including the head of the Chamber of Commerce, a county commissioner, a representative of the county’s tourism office, several business owners and several residents rejected the recommendation on numerous grounds. Little by little, what had been presented as a thorough analysis of the city’s parking needs and revenue potential was perceived by critics as lacking substance, reliable evidence or justification. Even the assumption that parking is a problem, outside of certain, limited days, was questioned.

It also became clearer that the committee’s option was not necessarily going to resolve what parking problem may—or may not—exist, as the plan does not presume the addition of a vast new inventory of parking spaces. Rather, the plan would merely convert existing parking spaces to paid options, and presume that because the meter is running, parking spots would experience greater turn-over.

In all, 18 people spoke, nearly half of them business owners or representatives of business concerns. All but one were opposed to the proposed option. (The lone dissenter suggested expanding the paid-parking boundary from 10th Street North to 10th Street South.)

“I hope we can work toward other methods” of generating revenue, Barbara Revels, the county commissioner and a business owner in Flagler Beach, said.

“I’m a South Florida refugee,” Dennis Bayer, an attorney whose practice falls in the proposal’s paid-only zone. “I came here from South Florida because I didn’t want to pay for parking.” He noted that two out of three votes on the committee for the contested proposal were from city employees who would get to build a bigger bureaucracy, and who are not directly impacted by the consequences of paid parking. The financial assumptions are also shaky, he said, speaking of the “very precarious recovery.” Paid parking could affect business just enough to make the difference between success and failure. He proposes a two-hour limit on parking, but not a paid system. He was applauded.

Frank Gromling, who owns Ocean Art Gallery on A1A, spoke of the cars that park for hours in front of his business, knowing that their owners are off to the beach or to other businesses for hours on end. It may seem like a problem, but, he said, “I worship those cars because they’re here,” he said. In the greater scheme of things, that’s what matters, Gromling said.

“People need to help share the cost of what it takes to maintain a playground,” Commissioner Joy McGrew said. “We do need to do something. I’m tired of having my taxes as a resident taxpayer continue to go up because a family drives in from Ocala.” McGrew’s tax bill has not gone up. It has, in fact, gone significantly down over the years: it was $5,600 in 2004, including $943 for her Flagler Beach portion. It was $3,620 last year, including $820 for her Flagler Beach portion, according to property appraiser and tax collector records.

But she was not necessarily recommending Option 4. Rather, she was hewing toward some sort of paying system, but with a blend of options. “There’s a mix and match that could be done,” she said.

“There’s as many unanswered questions in the report as there are answers,” Commissioner Steve Settle said. He open the door to a referendum on the issue, leaning though he did, he said, toward McGrew’s position.

Commissioner Jane Mealy was not with that position. “I don’t believe these numbers,” Mealy said of the projections of big revenue down the line. “I just can’t see where a town this side is going to bring in the kind of numbers that were shown.” She added, in reference to New Smyrna Beach’s shift to paid parking: “I don’t see New Smyrna Beach being Flagler Beach at all.” She’s not opposed to improving the parking situation, but, she said, “I am opposed to paid parking probably from the get-go.”

Commissioner Kim Carney said that if public opposition to paid parking persists, she would vote for a tax increase come budget time. “I do not believe it is a sin to pay for parking,” she said, noting that she’s never made a decision on whether to visit one city or another based on whether there’s paid parking there or not. But she also proposed requesting that county government buy parking lots in Flagler Beach. “It’s their responsibility,” she said.

Commission Chairman Marshall Shupe seemed closest to where the commission might go in the future when he described himself between Option 2 and Option 3: a very limited amount of paid parking in certain areas, namely city-owned lots, and more enforced time limits on free parking along A1A and elsewhere. “I really think we need to have more business people and more residents sit on this committee,” he said, signaling public dissatisfaction with the committee’s make-up, half its membership having been city officials.

In the end, the commission voted to accept the committee’s recommendation, but to punt the committee report to the city administration for further point-by-point analysis. That motion passed 4-1, with Mealy in dissent. The committee itself was disbanded by unanimous vote.

One audience member who’d addressed the commission earlier described the outcome of the meeting as “clear as mud.”

20 Responses for “Public Denounces Flagler Beach Paid-Parking Option, Splitting Commission on What’s Next”

  1. Good. Now let’s talk cutting spending in Government.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Good for Linda P

  3. Al says:

    Linda You Rock! Keep up the Great work you do.

  4. Rick Belhumeur says:

    Isn’t it funny how things keep coming around. It is not fair that the taxpayers of Flagler Beach(less than 5% of the county population) bears the burden of providing services for people that Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches and the County are promoting. The residents of Flagler Beach have to tolerate this influx of people and the problems they cause. Visitors come into town, crowd the streets, use up the parking spaces, leave trash on the beach and break the laws. The taxpayers of Flagler Beach are the losers because more and more of the city resources are being used for visitors and less and less for the residents. The majority of those who come to use the beach don’t necessarily spend money while they are in town. They find a place to park along the ocean, carry their cooler with sandwiches and beverages to the beach and leave town when they are exhausted. The people who come to town to shop at the stores, eat at restaurants and party at the bars do spend money. But the sales tax revenue they generate doesn’t stay in town. Taxes collected go to the state and the county. Some of this money does come back to town but not in proportion to the rate in which it’s generated. It is given back in proportion to the population of the city, which means Flagler Beach only gets about 5 percent of the revenues given back to the municipalities by the County.

    Flagler County certainly knows the significance of using Flagler Beach to promote the county and attract visitors nationwide. The Tourist Development Council (funded with a county-wide sales surtax on motels, hotels and other short-term rentals) is using Flagler Beach in a promotional video, brochures and advertising in national publications to encourage people to visit Flagler County. Combine that with the city’s own encouragement of day trippers through special events, and it’s easy to see why the services of this tiny city are overwhelmed.

    The recession only made things worse. The city’s main source of revenue–property taxes–took a huge hit. The county, which was in the same predicament, chose to modify the formula by which revenue from a local half-penny sales surtax was distributed to the municipalities, keeping more for itself. Flagler Beach had to find ways to support its budget with less money. If you factor in the rapidly escalating costs of providing health care and pension benefits to its own employees, the city had no choice but to make cuts and raise the property tax rate.

    Flagler County should absorb at least some of the additional cost of providing extra police protection, rescue services and trash collection required to accommodate the flood of visitors to Flagler Beach.

    Sound familiar?… maybe you read my article I wrote for Flagler Live nearly two years ago.

  5. April says:

    None of the Options presented(past or present) mention anything about Flagler Beach residents! Would we be required to pay also or get a parking pass? Why nothing ever mentioned about us except, we will raise Flagler Beach residents taxes? Kinda crazy, ya think?

  6. Diana L says:

    I understand Flagler Beach’s need for funds to support their beach, collect trash, take care of roads, beach repair, etc. but I think that parking meters would be a nightmare and timed parking even worse. I hope they can come up with something to make it equitable for all.

  7. tom dooley says:

    Funny fb never had a problem with parking BEFORE pc became so big (before the 90’s) and wants to “swallow” the entire county. They are trying to take everything.Wanna play then you gotta pay. Ask bunnell about what pc will do. Can’t stay a small town forever with pc in the background just “waiting” like a shark.Oh that’s right; that’s where everyone will go with all those beaches/developments going up soon?? Hurray!!! fb can then stay a “small town” like everyone seems to want? Can’t have your cake and eat it too (unless it’s your b’day? and that’s only good for 1 day).Enjoy! Watch for them pc’er’s ridin around looking for a place to park.

  8. PJ says:

    Sorry Flaglerlive but I’m using part of your quote from above, ” the city may be looking at raising taxes or fees to cover what some of its members see as the city’s increasing burdens from visitors enjoying its beaches.”

    “Holy Cow Batman” Flagler Beach does not want us to enjoy the beach. I can’t believe what I just read!

    Really makes me sick that politicians can’t own up to the truth. If you must raise taxes for services then you must raise taxes to cover the cost of doing business.

    Instead YOU polticians use it as a threat. Grow up Flagler Beach act with some dignitity. This parking plan was too big. Scale it back for the right reason like actually providing ADDITIONAL parking at a price to help the over-crowding which is the real reason for additional parking not a REVENUE producer that you are so proud of showing off.

    Here is a idea, find some empty lots that are near the beach work out a deal with the owners level the lots put a Pay Here meter box share the revenue the owner. How much can this cost. It may not bring 600 + spots but 50- 250 could easily be found within walking distance to the beach.

    Change or add an Ordinance that allows an empty lot to be beach parking with a temporary Certificate of Occupancy until the owner wants out with a 30 day opt out. Remember if you are about the parking issue this is a temporary plan that has mobility to move around as lots become available.

    Oh that’s right there is some kind of Flagler Beach City Ordinance that says you can’t do that. If not you likely invent one just to have another thing to bicker about.
    That’s right I said it! You bicker and create more issues but have the collossal gall stones to threaten higher taxes. Again you all make me sick.

    The best part is these are empty lots that are overgrown and privately owned in a partnership with the City. This suggestion get rid of two issues empty nasty lots and opens up additional parking for beach goers without impeding the businesses. Adding a third brings in outside non tax revenue to spend as needed.

    You folks really can implode without any help, WOW!!!!!

  9. Kendall says:

    When I park in the heart of Flagler Beach- in the 5-6 block vicinity of the pier- for a day at the beach, I am certain to spend money at a local business, regardless of what I brought along for the day. Whether I grab a sandwich or a cold drink or even a sit down meal, a business owner benefits from my visit to the beach.

    When I park farther north or south, away from the heart of the business district I tend not to spend that extra money because I don’t want to move my car or walk several blocks to make a purchase so I make due with what I brought along with me.

    If paid parking becomes a reality, I will make it a point to spend my beach days away from the downtown area of Flagler Beach- why would I pay to park or have to move my car every two hours when I can go a mile or so north or south and park for free and without hassle? And as a result of following the free parking, I will be farther away from businesses I might otherwise visit.

    Additionally, there are entirely too many dining options outside of downtown Flagler Beach that offer free parking. The food and service at the majority of the beach restaurants is substandard- it would not break my heart to not visit any of them during the summer months.

    I’m sure outlying places like Java Joint, Turtle Shack, and Beach Belly Bobs will benefit greatly from this idiotic decision.

  10. Citizen says:

    I dont understand why Flagler Beach, on one hand wants to encourage people to come to our city by hosting First Fridays, Festivals, 4th of July, then as soon as people do come, they want to nickle and dime them with this paid parking thing. Be creative and find ways the people that do come will enjoy spending money. Its not rocket science!

  11. confidential says:

    To Commissioner McGrew and Mr. Campbell in which way the family coming from Ocala to enjoy the beach makes you pay higher taxes in FB? Do you forget that for the family from Ocala FB is also “their land”. That threat to raise the taxes by Carney on the FB locals is a really unnecessary bully dictatorship manipulation in any commissioner mouths and bad enough not to re-elect them.

  12. Jenn K says:

    Yay LP! Keep up the good work! <3

  13. confidential says:

    Mr. Bellumer has a good point and Yes I agree that the county’s shared of the tax revenue whether for our homes county takes half for themselves when they give us between 20 to 30% of our services to our city residents and has to stop. If your words are true “The county, which was in the same predicament, chose to modify the formula by which revenue from a local half-penny sales surtax was distributed to the municipalities, keeping more for itself” then this is what needs to be resolved between FB and the County. Right now Palm Coast is dueling with the county regarding the unfair and unjustified county monopoly of the EMS services and its miss management of the ambulance revenues against the best interest of the services provided to the Palm Coast taxpayers. I said it and remind all FB taxpayers to look at your yearly tax bill and you also can see how the county gouge us all. My PC home tax bill pays the county a year 1,076 while the city that provides 70 to 80 % of my services only gets $541…what is up with that? FB and PC need to unite and also the other county cities and demand that the county distributes a realistic fare share of at least what we pay for our homes. Looking at your FB home tax bill distribution I see that FB taxpayers are gouged worse by the county as I see a comparable home to mine in PC, in FB pays the county $1,588 and to the City $940 because you have your own police Dept. while your FB city supplies its residents with 70 to 80% of your services. Do you imagine how good some of that overpaid to the county will do to FB taxpayers services? Same as will benefit PC. Get together with your sister cities in FC and march to the county Taj Mahal to demand the overdue fair tax revenue distribution to comfortably provide the services we all pay for.

  14. wow says:

    How about leave street parking free and charge a parking fee for all of the city parking lots. Most of those parking lots are only being used by the business’ anyway. When enough revenue is raised, the city can purchase additional land for parking.


    I find it interesting that the proposed “pay zone” stretched to 7th street on the south, but only to 5th street on the north.

    Can anybody tell me what business occupies the northwest corner of 5th and A1A, just OUTSIDE the pay zone? Can anybody tell me who runs that business?


    • Dusty Compton says:

      Voice of Reason, we all know you’re talking about The Golden Lion. Tony & Carolyn Marlow run that business, so what is your point???????? If the Commission is going to consider this dumb idea they should have paid parking within the entire Business District which is, correct me if I’m wrong, 10th St. South to 10th St. North. Personally I think paid parking is stupid and I can’t believe Commissioner McGrew would be in any way shape or form in favor of this. She has lived here forever and somehow FB seems to manage. The Sheriff’s Dept. sends Deputies here on the 4th of July but I agree that the County could do more. Our Sanitation Dept. is overloaded when there are Special Events, maybe the County could help with trash pick-up. I know there are people constantly changing trash bags during the high peak times. Commissioner Carney is a bully, saying she would vote for higher taxes, really? I’ve been here a long time and Special Events are a pain to us locals, but in the big scheme of things we’re still a laid back beach town. Yes, people from Ocala and Palm Coast come here, it’s the beach already. Kendall’s comment is spot on, people will go out of the paid parking area, where there are a few business’ and will frequent those instead of those downtown. Good for those business’. Us locals may be inconvenienced for a few hours, a few days or even a week, but we are the lucky ones that have what those people want, we get to live here.

    • Rick Belhumeur says:

      The Mayor was the only member on the parking committee that did not vote to impose any sort of paid parking. I believe you owe the Mayor an apology.

  16. Diana L says:

    How about just telling us?

  17. Kendall says:

    Dusty I believe the implication was that a city commissioner works in a management capacity for the Golden Lion and shaped the proposed parking proposal to avoid affecting that particular establishment. Favoritism toward that business has been accused/assumed with other commission actions in the past.

    I don’t have an opinion on that yet but it’s an interesting observation and one that should be considered.

  18. Alan Tisdale says:

    [Selected as the Comment of the Day in the Daily Briefing.–FL]

    I plan on visiting Flagler Beach soon all the way from New Hampshire. Now I would have no problem at all in giving a donation to whoever takes care of the beach and don’t expect a free ride on someone else’s horse. Maybe someone can come up with a nice artsy window sticker that I can put on my van to let people know I been there and done that. Have some town worker stroll the beach or in the parking lots offering them to people like me . A pretty girl will always get my attention and I would be a little more generous so she won’t think I’m a miser. Live Free or Die is my state motto and stealing aint part of the deal so go back to the chambers and come up with something everyone can live with especially the town folk.

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