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Flagler Beach Doesn’t Have a Parking Problem. It Has a Big Government Problem.

| May 29, 2015

flagler beach paid parking

City Manager Bruce Campbell and the Flagler Beach Commission: they’re all for small government, except when it comes to their government. Roseanne Stocker, a member of the now-defunct parking committee, is at the podium. (© FlaglerLive)

My wife and I live in Palm Coast’s languid P Section. It’s suburbia, without a town to be a suburb of. So for the past 15 years we’ve gone to Flagler Beach whenever we’ve needed to feel in a real town where shops, streets, atmosphere and at least a little bit of history older than yesterday’s grass clippings combine to give cities their unique character. But in those 15 years, and aside from July 4, we’ve not once—and I mean not once—had trouble parking. That’s been true when we’ve wanted to walk the beach, have brunch or dinner, stop for ice cream or, in my case, attend a number of city meetings. We may on occasion have had to walk two blocks. But that should be a rule, not a complaint.

pierre tristam column flaglerlive I don’t think we’re unusual. You never hear of people freaking out about parking in Flagler Beach the way they do in St. Augustine or Manhattan. Which makes the Flagler Beach City Commission’s recent delirium for paid parking of one sort or another almost baffling. (Almost, because nothing is really baffling in our government version of Ripley’s.) Never being one to take the bull by the horns on anything meaningful, the commission punted to a committee to study the matter for two years. Half the committee was stacked with government voices, counting the city manager and the mayor, who are brilliant at talking about getting government out of your business, except when it comes to their own government.

Naturally the half of the committee that spoke for the government recommended an elaborate scheme of paid parking blanketing the city’s core and junking it with gaudy parking kiosks, gaudier parking attendants and what would have to be a new regime of parking enforcement that would likely borrow a few boots and pointers from Palm Coast’s code enforcement brigades. There were more modest recommendations, too. But the only thing missing from those was a drawing of a parking spot in a slippery slope. If Flagler Beach is doing its best to unbecome Flagler Beach and take on the pretensions of every other crass, touristy Florida town, it’s on its way.

The problem at the root of the city’s creep toward paid parking is its motive. It has nothing to do with solving a parking problem, since there isn’t one. The city wants more money. It wants a new revenue source. That’s all. Cashing in on parking seems easy, even though the plan now appears to be so top heavy and so full of impossibly rosy assumptions about how often people will be willing to park and pay that it’ll probably end up costing the city more than it’ll profit it, and not just in dollars. The city will pay a price in reputation and business friendliness, too.

Put simply, Flagler Beach doesn’t have a parking problem. It has a big government problem. The very same commissioners who have no trouble parroting the old anti-government lines to their Republican choirs seem to have no trouble embracing an obtrusive, unneeded bureaucracy and infrastructure for a few dollars more, assuming they’ll make a few dollars, and assuming they even need them. Ironically, the only commissioner to be opposing the scheme outright is Jane Mealy, who happens to be the commission’s closet thing to a pinko liberal. And the strongest voice for paid parking is none other than my excellent friend Kim Carney, whose paranoid anti-government credentials could melt the bark off a John Bircher. Not in this case, of course. The alleged voices of small government are concocting a government intrusion on their residents’ and business owners’ lives that only a big brother missing a few marbles could think up.

And this is as pro-government a voice speaking as you’ll hear: we’re under-taxed, under-regulated and under-served in most ways. But back-door swindles like Flagler Beach is contriving aren’t the way to go. If Flagler Beach is hard up for money, it hasn’t made a clear enough case to its taxpayers, nor presented clear enough options to meet that need. The reality is that the city isn’t hard up for dollars, and appears to be manufacturing a solution for a non-existent problem. That may be an unfair sum-up of the city’s finances. If so, the city has only itself to blame: it hasn’t communicated its bottom line’s troubles beyond vague sloganeering at commission meetings.

I can hear some of the commissioners now. You don’t live here. It’s not your town. They’re right. But Flagler Beach wouldn’t be much without us, its visitors. The beach doesn’t keep you in business. We do. Sand, crabs and little fishies aren’t the patrons in your shops. We are. And your most loyal visitors are your closest neighbors. If we want aggravation from our town, we can always seek out a red-light camera.

There’s a cautionary tale there for Flagler Beach. Its paid parking will very quickly have the same effect as Palm Coast’s cameras once had. It’ll do more damage to the city’s reputation than it’s worth. And it’ll lose a lot of loyal visitors like me. Palm Coast learned its lesson the hard way. Let’s not let Flagler Beach be such a boneheaded copycat.

Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor. Reach him by email here or follow him on Twitter @PierreTristam. A version of this piece aired on WNZF. 

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45 Responses for “Flagler Beach Doesn’t Have a Parking Problem. It Has a Big Government Problem.”

  1. Jon Hardison says:

    Here here! I’d love to see their “plan”. Just for the fun of poking holes in it. People will find free parking and probably at the expense of, and great annoyance to residents already burdened with the realities of being a regional hot spot. There’s no way this won’t make matters worse for them, local business or anyone visiting. So what’s to gain, really?

    I’m not sure why this is even still being talked about. Honestly.

  2. Harrison H. McDonald says:

    I would say that anything the city could do to make Flagler Beach look more wholesome and less appealing to the biker crowd would be a vast improvement. It is so scuzzy now I am reluctant to take visitors there. razing everything 100 yards West of A!A 300 yards North and south of the pier would be a good start; It’s called urban renewal. I suppose Pierre thinks it is “quaint,” I prefer new and clean. Flagler Beach need to be at least as nice as the new HW 100 bridge. JMHO

    • Omer Smith says:

      I can’t agree with you. I have been here over 31 years and Flagler Beach has basically remained the same and I appreciate that fact. It is like taking a ride to Micanopy — old Florida. No glitter, limited high rises and friendly shop keepers, ice cones and good food. And the motorcycles — a way of life in the Sunshine State and many bring dollars to the economy. I love it here. When it becomes excessively crowded, I will find something more laid back. PS I’m against “Paid Parking” in this old Florida town with tons of history. Get the moneys from another source. Don’t take from those that keep the place alive.

  3. Outsider says:

    So you are saying that parking meters will make Flagler Beach the quaint, sleepy little town of yesteryear where you could have a generous slice of beach all to yourself on a summer weekend day? Let me dig the holes and pour the Sakrete for the meter poles. I’ll start tomorrow!

  4. Steve Robinson says:

    Agree with everything in this column, with one difference: Even on July 4th we didn’t have much trouble finding a space!

  5. Ron R. says:

    Your comments are spot on, Pierre. This whole parking debate has nothing to do with a lack of parking, and everything to do with adding another income stream for the City of Flagler Beach.

    I’d have more respect for the Flagler Beach City Commission if they would just be up-front about what their true motives are.

  6. Anonymous says:

    What will the Flagler Beach cops do all day, if they can’t cruise around looking for cars to ticket for illegal parking?

  7. Heather Beaven says:

    We pay for our infrastructure, including parking, through our taxes. This is simply a way to raise taxes without actually looking like a tax increase.

  8. ScotchRox says:

    Any plan that will keep that libtard Pierre Tristam out of Flagler Beach is a very good plan!

    • Omer Smith says:

      This is not about liberals or conservatives. It is about taking money from those that frequent this old Florida town to increase their treasure chest. That is wrong. Keep parking free in Flagler Beach!! Got the picture.

    • Schottey says:

      So, you’re cool with big government intrusion as long as it discriminates against people because of their political beliefs?

  9. Chris Vaniotis says:

    I couldn’t agree more. Two years ago my wife and I happened upon Flagler Beach, quite by accident. We fell I love with the place. Within a month we had bought a house in the city and intend to make it our permanent home.

    We were amazed that this kind of beach town still exists in Florida. The feel is free and easy and spontaneous and welcoming. The beach and the restaurants and the shops are all readily accessible, on foot, by golf cart, by bicycle or by car—to residents and non-residents alike–and we too have never had a problem parking. Flagler Beach is a hassle-free beach community.

    Parking meters, payment kiosks, parking booths, parking enforcement officers–all the bureaucratic trappings of a paid parking regime–would be a scary first step toward changing the character of Flagler Beach. They scream “urban” as surely as do high-rise buildings and parking garages (do they come next?). Let’s not imitate Ormond Beach and Daytona Beach.

    City Commissioners, let’s leave well enough alone.

  10. rick stevens says:

    I, for one, will be disappointed if those myriad parking meters are not installed. I always wanted to get crocked and cut ’em down with a chainsaw, like Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke.

  11. pelican says:

    Well, Well…………we finally agree on something……….your article was spot on this time… a near by neighbor of you, we also ride 10 minutes to a different world for ice cream, meals and tranquility.
    Paid parking would ruin the small beach town vibe that is Flagler Beach, not the $2.00 they would charge……..just the whole feeling of the ocean, the beach and the freedom of getting out of Palm Coast for a few hours.

    PS………John Birch …..where did that come from ?……….lol

  12. downinthelab says:

    I don’t often agree with Pierre, but when I do, it’s because he’s right!!

  13. Edman says:

    Politicians should not drink the Norquist “no tax” cool aid. If governments need more money to address the needs of its citizens they should just prove they are not being wasteful and educate the public as to the need for additional funds and then fairly raise taxes. Hiding behind fees/fines and whatever term they can cook up without using the word “tax” is not a good management plan. We get nothing for nothing in this world.

  14. Just a thought says:

    Why do people feel the need to qualify their response with the phrase “I don’t always agree with Pierre, but….”

    If you like the idea just say so. Who cares?

  15. Flagler Citizen says:

    Pierre, I suspect that you and I would disagree on a lot of issues, but I am with you all the way on this one.

    I remember the meeting a few years ago when paid parking was first raised. The stated justification that night for it was that it was costing the city money to run the garbage trucks on the weekends to pick up the trash at the entrances to the beach along A1A.

    If this is true (and I am sure that there is at least some expense involved with making extra trash runs) then personally, I would rather they simply increase the monthly trash bills that we pay along with our water bills. From where I am standing, it is simply the price you pay for living at the beach.

  16. Derrick R. says:

    It’s Not often I can agree with this Reporter but this time I do. Never saw a parking problem solved by charging a fee. Hell what’s next a toll booth on the bridge & beach access fees like up north.? I wonder if A1A is a State Road do they (town of FB) have the right to do such a thing ?

  17. Katrina says:

    35 years in Flagler and I can tell you TIME is running out on this quiet little seaside town. Its been around 120 years since a major hurricane had a direct hit here. The odds of this continuing are not good. When it does happen, A1A will NO LONGER exist nor any businesses or houses from ocean to intra-coastal waterway…….Instead of worrying about parking space, perhaps building more protection along A1A beach side would be a better idea .

  18. Ruth says:

    Never mind thinking of just the parking. You should stop all the alcohol drinking on the beach. There is going to be something bad happening if it continues. Now that July 4th is coming up, we watched family’s with small children drinking. You worry about parking and other minor things why not stop the drinking on the beach and having the police look the other way. I am not against a drink, but not on the bach.


      Ruth: You watched small children drinking? Really? And did nothing?

    • Schottey says:

      There’s nothing illegal about drinking and there’s nothing illegal about drinking in front of children. Enjoying a beer (or two) as part of a day at the beach is both wholesome and entirely legal as long as it’s in a non-glass container and everyone picks up after themselves.

  19. David B. says:

    I never seen a small town like Flagler Beach always turn issues from mole hills into mountains. Way to much government.


    When I retired early (2009), I made a bee-line for Flagler Beach. I’d been the editor of the News-Tribune back in the 80s and 90s and it had been a dream since then to return to “my” sleepy little beach town.

    My retirement lump sum hit my bank account in St. Louis on Sept. 29 and I pulled up in front of the FB Pier Oct. 2. But I left Flagler Beach two years ago because of this type of governance. I saw my sleepy little beach town going the way of St. Augustine and Daytona Beach and wanted no part of it. I still keep up through this website because I’ll always have cinnamon sand in my veins.

    But the killing blow for me was the beach fires. When they banned the beach fires for half the year, I saw the writing on the wall. Paid parking would have become the last straw if I was still there.

  21. Storm says:

    Most of you folks that don’t like visitors in Flagler Beach don’t actually own a business or have any vested interest in the city.

    Paid parking will undoubtedly ruin this city but that’s not what the commission or Bruce Cambell are concerned with. They want their pretty little budget to look like they saved the city money at the end of the year and didn’t raise taxes a bit. What they haven’t really discussed is the nearly $900000 they plan on using to put this parking plan into place. The numbers don’t add up, but they sure want you to think they do.

    And Katrina, the city has only just celebrated its 90th anniversary… The city has a hurricane plan in place. Installing more infrastructures and protection along the beach quite frankly isn’t going to do a damn thing if a category 5 hurricane comes through. And by the way. If a CAT5 hurricane does make landfall on Flagler Beach the storm surges will actually flood inland at least to 95.

    In addition to that, Ruth, there is nothing illegal about drinking on the beach in Flagler Beach (other than you can’t do it within 500′ of an establishment that sells alcohol). Now how exactly are the cops looking the other way if they are allowing you your rights as the city provides?

  22. PeachesMcGee says:

    Simple Solution…

    Erect tool booths on A1A and SR 100.

    Charge an entrance fee to all non-residents.

    • LIKE! LOL! Now that would be the most honest thing they could do.
      Why not charge residents? It’s their city. Charge’m double! LOL! Why toss out perfectly good money?

  23. Knightwatch says:

    If FB imposes parking fees, they lose me. I will not pay a “tax” to dine in one of their restaurants or to shop at their stores… period! There’s too many other places I can go.

  24. Wishful thinking says:

    Kudos Pierre and Kudos to Jane Mealy !
    If I want to live with meters I woulda stayed in So Fla!

  25. Diana L. says:

    ScotchRox, Deliberate name calling is nothing short of trolling. Using the “tard” term is pretty shameful. You could have gotten your point across without using the the derogatory word.

  26. Mary B. says:

    Love Flagler Beach ever since I moved here 20+ years ago. The beach is one the “free” things that our residents and visitors can enjoy. Don’t add parking meters, please!!!!

  27. Snake Oil Salemans says:

    Once upon a time a City was having a very serious problem with the high frequency of accidents at its intersections. The public was outrage, how could this go on, how many more resident must die or get seriously injured before someone takes some actions?

    The Commission step up, they conducted a throughout investigation and an intensive study; it was determined that red-light violations was the cause. They solicited for help and ATS proposed a solution, not only would it solve the City’s problem, it would be at no cost and better yet, the City would gain another source of revenue.

    But we all know that is a fairytale, the truth is, a slick salesman convince the Commission that they had a problem. The salesman was peddling nice new shinny red-light cameras.

    I suspect a slick salesman visited Flagler Beach and this time he is peddling nice new parking kiosks…….but wait there is more……he can provide them and installed them at no cost to the City……….but that’s not all…….he can provide the City with another source of revenue.

  28. Outsider says:

    Is it just me, or does the picture conjure up an image or Robert Shaw, aka Captain Quint, scratching his nails across a chalkboard in the back of the room grumbling “Ya got a giant paakin’ problem heya….I’ll fix it….fa ten thousand dollas….. He’d have drawn a picture of a giant shark devouring a parking meter. Sorry for the digression.

  29. Dave says:

    Parking meters, what’s next pay toilets at recreation areas or charging a fee to go on the beach. There are more issues in this town that worrying about parking meters. Like someone noted, alcohol on the beach, way too many bars and some of these restaurants need to be inspected by the darn health department, hard to enjoy food when you have bugs crawling around your legs but no doubt these restaurants charge extra for critters.

    If this city took a direct hit from a Hurricane , there would be NO MORE Flagler Beach much less these wood built restaurants and “bars” and AIA would be a dream. Central would be the new AIA…

    This city needs to fix what needs fixing and forget about parking. Clean up what you got.

  30. Bob Croce says:

    Simple solution VOTE them all out

  31. Diane J Cline says:

    If we need more money to help with beach expenses I have been told that all we have to do is ask, several folks in power have acknowledged that requiring payment for parking wouldn’t pay for itself…this is just a ruse to keep people out.

  32. Pat says:

    I am totally against parking meters in Flagler Beach!
    I was told they need the money to pick up the garbage and trash from beach goers.
    My husband and I and many other “snowbirds” are not there for the months which get the most beach usage. We are still required to pay for our trash pickup while putting out no trash.
    This windfall from people who pay for the service but do not use it should offset the funds needed to pickup beach trash.

  33. Beach clean-up says:

    I think you should have to pay to trash our beach.if you people would clean up after you leave and not clean your car out on the side of the road or leave the beach cans overflowing on the dune walks . take you trash home with you dont leave our beaches with glass bottles and trash all over it .its sad the way some folks leave their trash on the ground just sad! ! ! if you think i am full of it just look around.

  34. Swizz says:

    I often agree with Pierre, but in this case I believe he’s being a little narrow-minded. While never experiencing trouble finding parking in the past 15 years is a great story, it’s a bit of a stretch. I guess it boils down to Pierre’s definition of “trouble”. Maybe driving through neighborhood streets, around the block several times, up and down A1A until you land a spot may not be deemed “trouble” in his eyes, it certainly is bothersome on several levels, at least for me. Not only does the determined “parking spot hunter” oftentimes end up in spots that are problematic (countless times my driveway was blocked and I couldn’t get out of my own home), but they also severely slow the flow of travel on A1A. Until recently I lived in the core area of Flagler Beach and the problems with people parking in and around my property were enumerable. I once had someone pull my mailbox up and throw it onto the neighbors property to make a spot to park. While I’m not sure that parking meters are the answer, I do think that something needs to be done. Making a decision based on one person’s previous 15 year experience is not smart. Looking forward to the15 years ahead makes more sense. What will Flagler Beach be like in the year’s to come as the surrounding area’s population increase? Will more and more side streets (in front of the taxpayer’s homes) be invaded to make room for the languid p-sectioners and more? I applaud both the City Commission and the Committee for taking on this challenging issue. Arguing that this is all a ploy to raise revenue is not only a slap in the face, it’s just plain silly. I challenge Pierre to explore the issue a little deeper before he takes such a hard fast position. Because I can assure you that one day in the not so distant future, if nothing is done, you may end up leaving town without that ice cream cone.

  35. Diana L says:

    Beach clean-up, I don’t think you are full of it. I pick up other’s trash while I am at the beach. but in all honesty, our beaches here are pretty clean. We were just at Lauderdale by the Sea and OMGosh the beaches were full of plastic and trash. I could not have begun to make a dent in that trash there. I have no problem taking my trash home with me and that is a good idea. I do see cans overflowing with trash quite often. Perhaps where there is a problem other cans can be installed. Of course, there is a cost to that. Maybe we need to organize more beach clean up days, and I will be happy to do one. We are all in this together and we should be taking a pro active approach and cleaning up the beaches ourselves.

  36. Does the plan call for meters in front of residences? I wasn’t under the impression it did. If I’m correct these meters will make matters worse for you, not better, no?

    Also, what do you mean by, “languid p-sectioners”?

    • Swizz says:

      Jon, as the parking needs in the city continue to grow, additional properties will need to be purchased to provide the necessary parking. The money used to buy these lots could come from a reasonable fee charged to the users. Having the necessary revenue to proactively provide parking areas is better than using the rights of way to add more parking, or worse just allowing them to park willy nilly all over the place. You may not have heard, one of the solutions being tossed around was to narrow all the streets running perpendicular to A1A (making them one way), and using the gained rights of way to add parking all the way down the streets in front of more homes. So to answer your question, no I do not believe parking meters would make matters worse for me. But thankfully, my feelings aren’t the only issues in need of consideration. Like I said, I’m not advocating for parking meters. I’m respectfully pointing out that parking, regardless of whether it’s a problem now, will eventually become a serious problem if ignored. As to your question regarding P-sectioners, If you re-read the article you will see that’s a reference to Pierre’s home, the “languid P Section”. Hope that helps.

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