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Madeira Beach says parking fees will help pay for upkeep of the village, but some merchants say they'll hurt business.
By AMY WIMMER
© St. Petersburg Times,
published November 28, 2001
MADEIRA BEACH -- A handful of John's Pass Village merchants gathered outside their shops one morning last week, questioning why city workers were drilling holes in village sidewalks.
Then another merchant from the opposite end of the village strolled by, spreading what the business owners could receive only as bad news:
The city is installing parking meters in the village.
"We all kind of gasped," said Andy O'Dell, who owns Island Rags, a store in the village.
The meters are no surprise at Madeira Beach City Hall, where the idea has been floating around for years. Talk of meters became serious during budget discussions this summer, and the city plans to use the $60,000 to $90,000 the meters generate each year to cover upkeep costs at the newly refurbished village.
Parking at the village will be 50 cents an hour. The meters will be installed in about a week.
Some of the meter casings were purchased from St. Pete Beach, which recently switched to pay stations and increased beach parking to $1.25 an hour. Beach parking here is $1 an hour.
Reaction among merchants, many of whom learned of the plan while workers were drilling holes, is mixed.
Jack O'Donnell, owner of Best Deal in Town Diamond & Gold Mines, is furious that he wasn't notified that parking meters were on the way.
"This is of a magnitude and can distort business, and has in so many other places in a negative way, that I think the city should have taken the time to send certified letters to every business owner or property owner involved in this," O'Donnell said.
O'Donnell points out a series of events that have harmed John's Pass in recent years:
The city's $2.4-million redevelopment of John's Pass Village added landscaping and made the village more pedestrian-friendly, but also turned the village into a construction site.
A fire on Valentine's Day 2000 gutted several businesses and made the village an eyesore for months.
And now the county is installing reclaimed water lines down the center of Gulf Boulevard, a process that is expected to take months and limit access to John's Pass Village.
"If there ever was a time for (parking meters), which there is not, this is not the time," O'Donnell said.
Patricia Hubbard, chief financial officer of Hubbard Enterprises, which operates Hubbard's Marina and the Friendly Fisherman at the village, said news of the meters was mentioned in the John's Pass Village Merchants Association newsletter, which is hand-delivered to all shop owners.
"The city doesn't do anything on the spur of the moment," Hubbard said.
Merchants who have no problem with the meters said some of the complaining business owners park directly in front of their stores, limiting customers' access. City Manager Mike Bonfield said the parking meters should help address merchants' complaints about visitors who use the free parking at the village, then walk across the street to the beach.
"I think most people that go to John's Pass Village are willing to pay a little bit of money for parking spaces," Bonfield said. "Certainly in season, people will be glad to pay just to find a space."