NAPLES — Whether it becomes a mixed-use complex or a city park, the 19-acre Grand Central Station Property near downtown Naples won’t be available for event parking much longer.
So City Council took steps Wednesday to find other parking options in the city, both for the short and long term.
“We are at the beginning of what is going to be a very long and difficult discussion about parking,” Councilman Sam Saad said.
Council approved a 2-year lease agreement with the new owners of the vacant Grand Central Station property at Goodlette-Frank Road and U.S. 41 to allow for parking on site until something is built.
Community Services will pay to maintain the site as a parking lot. Any revenue through the agreement will offset that maintenance cost.
The city also tried to be proactive Wednesday in looking into other parking options downtown.
Council members adjourned and reconvened as the Community Redevelopment Agency in the afternoon.
They voted 4-3 to pay up to $2,500 to appraise a parking lot at Fourth Street South and Fourth Avenue South for possible city purchase. The city would possibly add a parking garage to the site in the coming years.
The lot has 113 parking spaces but they are not available for public use. Instead, the spaces have been divvied out to three surrounding residential complexes.
Some members said they weren’t sure what the immediate benefit of purchasing the property would be for the city in terms of parking.
“Is there something else we could do with money to buy 30 to 40 parking spaces?” Councilman Gary Price asked.
Price voted against the appraisal along with council women Teresa Heitmann and Dee Sulick.
Several residents took the podium to support the appraisal and eventual purchase of the lot, saying it would help revitalize the west end of Fifth Avenue South.
Grace Bolen, co-owner of Grace & Shelly’s Cupcakes on Fifth Avenue South, said her customers living in Port Royal would rather drive to one of the chain’s other city locations than try to park near the downtown store.
“(Lack of parking) is a deterrent to full-time residents coming down here,” Bolen said.
The site at Fourth Street South and Fourth Avenue South has been designated in the past as an ideal place for a third city parking garage. The appraisal will be paid for by the CRA and will come before the board for a vote before it is purchased.
Noise and entertainment ordinances discussed
Council members discussed changes to the city’s noise ordinance as well as its live entertainment ordinance, hoping to simplify the permitting process for business owners looking to play music.
The way the rules work now, restaurants and other businesses must ask permission to play live indoor and outdoor music. Once permitted, they must play their music below the citywide noise ordinance. Council has a say in many of the details from hours played to number of musicians and their location in an establishment.
A few council members said they supported a shift from a “live entertainment” ordinance to an “entertainment” ordinance, saying it made little difference whether the musicians were on site or the music was recorded as long as the result did not violate city noise ordinances.
The shift will also allow the city to regulate the use of speakers outside retail establishments and any other music meant to attract or entertain.
“I don’t think our recommendation would be to require permits for all ambient music,” City Manager Bill Moss said, adding that city staff will draft amendments to the code over the summer for council consideration in the fall.
Police chief updates council on Naples Pier safety
Police Chief Tom Weschler again assured council members that the city’s pier is safe and generally free of serious crime.
A six-month review of activity at the Naples Pier from October 2012 to March 2013 showed 350 calls for service. During that time, more than 580,000 people visited the city attraction, Weschler said.
The calls for service were mainly to enforce city ordinances, including rules that say you cannot jump off the pier, walk dogs along it or drive scooters, bikes and motorcycles down it.
The one case of battery listed was not a serious one, Weschler said.
“A child was bothering a pelican and continued to do it and the man popped him in the back of the head,” Weschler said.
Still, the city is working to add more lighting along the boardwalk, which can be dark at night with the current light fixtures.
Saad, who first raised concerns about safety at the pier, said he’s been happy with the updates and now believes the pier is safe.