MARCO ISLAND — Daphne Ricobene, paralegal for the city attorney's staff, zeroed in on the Hamptons Friday to kick off a presentation for resolving island parking issues. The parallels, she said, made the comparison a viable model for Marco Island's woes.
Early on, East Hampton realized it relied on tourism for business, Ricobene said. The city also recognized that it could offer only a finite number of parking spaces. Its message to beachgoers: If all parking spots are full; move on to the next beach. After that, the welcome mat is rolled up and parking fines make the point.
East Hampton offers free parking permits to residents. All non-residents buy permits from the town for $25 a day or $325 per year. Violators are towed and receive a mandatory $150 fine. Unlike Marco Island, East Hampton is the sole beneficiary of its parking levies.
Of beach parking spots available on Marco Island, 359 are owned by Collier County: 287 at Tigertail Beach and 72 at South Marco Beach. An additional 422 are owned by the Marco Island Civic Association. The city controls no beach parking facilities.
Joe Irvin, city zoning administrator, presented a possible solution. Ban swale parking near the south beach entrance and utilize an island shuttle from the 190 parking spaces at Veterans' Community Park and 60 spaces in Mackle Park. The shuttle would take anyone wishing to use the beach to public beach entrances.
Like East Hampton, parking would be first-come, first served. An important piece of the plan, Irvin said, was increased parking enforcement. He also asked the Planning Board to consider enhanced signage, particularly to Tigertail Beach.
As a potential second step, Irvin asked the board to consider a plan to purchase two C-3 zoned properties, one on S. Collier Blvd. and one on Winterberry Drive near the soon-to-be-constructed miniature golf course. The two lots could potentially add 135 parking spaces owned by the city and close to beach entrances.
Board members questioned the business viability of a privately owned shuttle that might be profitable fewer than four months a year. Board member Irvin Povlow said the shuttle could be modeled on the success of the Key West Express, a water shuttle from Marco Island to Key West. It comes to the island during profitable months, and then moves on, he said, suggesting the beach shuttle service could do the same.
Irvin proposed the shuttle also could be used to move people throughout the island and help resolve evening swale parking issues at the Esplanade and in Olde Marco.
Olde Marco restaurant owners Peter Marek, Sr. and Susan Ackerson said parking in their district could be solved with additional on-street spaces. Marek described the parking area he created in front of his restaurant as a tasteful alternative. Marek and Ackerson agreed that Olde Marco's swale parking problems were contentious for as little as two or three months a year and only a few days a week.
Peter Marek, Jr., joined the conversation agreeing the shuttle was a good idea for beaches and for Old Marco.
Curt Coon, owner of CJ's on the Bay, acknowledged overflow parking problems on the swales of East Elkcam Circle, but said it was a walking problem more than a parking problem. He offered to discuss with the Esplanade's new owners parking alternatives and possibly more valet services. Planning Board Chairman Dick Shanahan suggested Irvin be part of the discussion.
Members of the public asked how the city would address restroom facilities, trash pickup and other services if a shuttle were used to take people to beach areas where accommodations were not available.
The board will continue to craft a comprehensive citywide parking plan at 9 a.m. on Friday, June 15, in the Community Room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive. Parking also will be discussed at a joint Marco Island City Council and Planning Board meeting on July 16.
The regularly scheduled Planning Board meeting on June 1 has been canceled.