A Big Question for a Small Community
By Anne McKay Garris
About twenty residents of Eldorado Avenue on Clearwater Beach, showed up, last week, for a meeting with officials of the City of Clearwater to come to grips with a parking problem in their neighborhood.
On the west side of Eldorado, many older homes are built so close to the street that the owner cannot park his car in front of the garage without extending over the adjacent sidewalk. Back in the days when the neighbors were the only ones who parked in the area, this was only a small problem. Now, however, according to people who live along the northern strip of Eldorado, the situation is worsened by short term renters who bring some times as many as four or five cars to one building, as well as the people from elsewhere who park on the street in order to have only a short walk to the less crowded beach. In addition to the nuisance of having to go into the street to get away from the sidewalk parked cars, it has been observed that parking, both on the sidewalk and on the street combine to make it difficult for emergency vehicles to operate in the area.
The city called a meeting to see if some mutually agreeable solution could be found. At first it didn't seem that could happen. At least one family has five children, all of them driving age. Others have houses where the garage has been enclosed to add to the living space.
Some of the residents expressed concern about cars and people maneuvering safely through the blocked sidewalks and streets narrowed by parked cars. Others protested that they did not have sufficient room to park their own cars on their property and needed to park on the street without being ticketed.
Mike Quillen, director of the City's Engineer Department came to the meeting supplied with a list of possible solutions, among them to stop enforcement of parking violations in the area. Needless to say, this did not please anyone, especially as the law against parking across a sidewalk is a state law and, therefore, cannot be ignored by the city.
Other solutions included converting Eldorado to a one-way street; allowing parking on both sides of the street, or moving, or removing the sidewalks since one can't be ticketed for parking across a sidewalk which doesn't exist.
In a survey sent out to the 80 homes along Eldorado, 27 of the respondents wanted the city to work with the people who do not have adequate space to park on their property to find a solution for them. Several homeowners suggested the city remove the sidewalk on the west side and expect people to use the sidewalk on the east. Another version suggested was to remove the median between the sidewalks and the street, providing more room for driveway parking, but keeping the sidewalk.
A number of residents at the meeting opted for no parking signs on both sides of the street for all but residents with a permit sticker on their car.
After enquiry of the city's legal staff, it seemed this might be a doable way to go. According to Assistant City Attorney Camilla A. Soto, the city has the right to limit parking permits in a specific area to residents of that area. They must, however, do it for the purpose of reducing hazardous traffic conditions, protecting and preserving the character of the resort zoned area as well as the safety of children and residents or other specific and clearly articulated reasons.
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