The St Augustine Beach Civic Association has been concerned for over a decade about the parking shortage and lack of shuttle system for our community especially on weekends and during peak tourism season. We have made a request of of City Commissioners to stand down for the time being on Pay to Park and instead work with the County add parking spaces and a satellite lot and shuttle system. Here is the proposal and supporting information we sent to the City last week!
January 30th, 2019
Mayor Undine George
City of St Augustine Beach
2200 A1A South
St Augustine Beach, FL 32080
Dear Mayor George,
As you are aware, the subject of parking has been on the minds of many in our community for some time now. Conversation on the subject has more intense since the County announced its plan to implement “pay to park” (PTP) at Pier Park. Of late, many people have expressed concerns and objections about the implementation of any PTP program. While the Civic Association Board of Directors and its membership are not excited about the prospect of PTP, we are concerned that neither the County or the City have offered any ideas to add parking spaces or a shuttle program for weekends out of season and daily in season.
As you know, Commissioner England offered to speak to our membership and a few guests last week. In her remarks Commissioner England emphasized the City heard the community and the Civic Association and was slowing down. We applaud that decision. There are concerns regarding how PTP will impact hourly retail and hospitality workers as well as those who live within a couple of blocks of the beach. As property owners are already taxed by both the City and the County, we believe property owners should not incur any parking fees. This is simply an additional tax. We also believe the County should reconsider its position regarding parking fees for City residents. About twenty years ago the County sold the community a bill of goods called “One Penny, One Park, One Pier”. The community supported and paid for this renovation program. We believe there are better alternatives than PTP and would like to see more conversation about solutions.
In our meeting, the Board and the members present voted and supported two motions requesting the City take immediate action. I share them with you on behalf of the community with the hope our City Commissioners will do whatever is necessary to work with the County Commission and Beach Services Division to develop a long-term plan to ease parking pressure and create a welcoming environment for visitors and workers here at the beach. Here are the motions with details:
- The Saint Augustine Beach Civic Association and its members request the City Commission open discussions with St Johns County regarding the use of the right of way on the north side of Pope Road to develop sixty-four angled parking spaces.
- This right of way has been the subject of conversation and misinformation for over a decade. Twelve years ago, then City Commissioner Michael Longstreet contacted the County asking about the use of this space for parking. Commissioner Longstreet was told this was not possible because the spaces would encroach into Anastasia State Park property. This was erroneous information as there is an easement.
- The closing of the St Augustine Beachfront Resort and opening of Salt Life Food Shack just a few years ago caused the parking situation in and around Pier Park to be more challenging. This impact led to discussions between the Civic Association and City Public Works Director Joe Howell. Howell did some research and determined that pavers could be used to create sixty-four (64) angled parking spaces on the north side of Pope Road. Mr. Howell also stated this could happen quickly if the County used pavers instead of an impervious surface like concrete or asphalt.
- The Civic Association began communicating with the County through calls and emails asking for action. We were told initially there was no money available for the project. In early 2018 we began to ask again. The County’s response this time was to put up no parking signs on both sides of Pope Rd. We understand and agree that property owners rightfully were concerned about visibility, ingress and egress on the south side of Pope Rd. Since there are no residences or businesses on the north side of the road, we remained puzzled about the No Parking signs.
- We continued to press the County to use this right of way to add much needed parking. The County’s next explanation was an email from Beach Services Director Billy Zeits citing “degradation of the pavement from off street parking that was occurring” and preserving the public asset of the paved roadway”. When we asked for reports from Road & Bridge and / or a paving company, the County provided three invoices for filling a few pot holes. Pope Road is a major thoroughfare and has needed repaving for several years. Instead of preserving the County asset, we think the County should be focused on improving the asset and increasing the availability of public parking near beach accesses, Pier Park and our retail areas.
The St Augustine Beach Civic Association and its members request:
- The City Commission request that St Johns County lease the grounds of the former Anastasia Mosquito Control property for $1 per year. The property would be used as a satellite parking lot for tourists, including those wanting beach access near the Pier Park. This property is less than a mile from the Pier Park and a shuttle could easily make a loop on weekends and daily in season.
- Request the City’s representative on the Tourism Development Commission lobby for funding for a satellite parking lot and shuttle. Much like the grant coming to fund sea oats planting, the TDC can provide some funding if a case can be made for a tourism benefit.
While there have been comments and rumors that TDC grant dollars could not be used, we have received communication from Tourism and Cultural Development Director Tera Meeks. According to Mrs. Meeks this idea has merit. Quoting her email, “Potentially. The details of how, why and to what extent the project would be used by tourist is key in determining if funding is appropriate and to what extent funding is appropriate. An example of this process would be the recent request from the City of St. Augustine Beach to fund a sea oat planting project. The City sent me a request, I looked it over and determined that it was eligible to be funded with TDT dollars, then the request was put on the TDC meeting agenda for review and recommendation. The TDC reviewed and recommended approval at the January meeting and the item will be on an upcoming BCC meeting for review and approval. If approved by the BCC, the City of St. Augustine Beach will send an invoice to my office and I will process it for payment.”
While a PTP system and App may one day become a reality, it is our sincere belief the County should follow your lead and slow down. The next step should be the formation of a Committee that includes members of both the City and County Commissions and a group of citizens to work on a plan that includes possible improvements and solutions. Right now, on the surface this appears to be all about the generation of revenue. The community has already made it clear that dog won’t hunt.
Respectfully submitted for the Board of Directors,