Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Decision On Parking

Where are the city commissioners taking us on the road to a "vibrant downtown." The SHT editorial in Sunday’s paper indicates that more free parking could disappear as a result of Pineapple Square insistence that they needed dedicated parking for the upscale restaurants they want to bring to downtown Sarasota.

In two city-owned lots in downtown Sarasota, public parking -- nearly 200 spaces' worth -- is free after 6 p.m. But next year, instead of parking there, be prepared to hand over your keys, your car, and an undetermined amount of your cash to a valet service under a developer's control.

If that prospect displeases you, tell the city commissioners. Their 4-1 vote Monday, to hand control of the lots over to Pineapple Square, is the latest in a series of decisions that have put significant public resources toward the big retail/condo project -- without getting many concrete commitments from the developer.

Don’t expect much of a response, though. As we have experienced lately the commissioners are not inclined to listen to anyone with a different view, especially the residents. One city commissioner (Lou Anne Palmer) and city staff had indicated we should wait until the Pineapple Square public parking was open before giving the State St lot to the Isaac group. Four commissioners disagreed and gave the developers control of the lot, for use by a valet service.

We pointed out the untenable situation at Bayfront Park where many parking spaces are unused yet reserved for Marina Jack’s customers. Meanwhile there are no parking spaces available for the public. The decision to let this happen as well as the current decision indicates little regard for the taxpaying public while catering in this case to Marina Jack’s business.

The editorial continues:

The public expects a fair return on its investment, but the commissioners -- in their eagerness to secure Pineapple Square -- have made some questionable decisions in that regard.

The clearest example of that was their decision, months ago, to OK the sale of the city's State Street property to Isaac Group at far under its market value. Last week, further concerns arose. As City Attorney Robert Fournier told them Monday, the developer has not yet finalized a third-party lease that is crucial to the entire project.

Who is making the decisions for Sarasota? The commissioners certainly listen intently to the developers and business interests. When will they listen to public.?

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