By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor
The days of snagging a free parking space in front of your favorite downtown restaurant are over.
Smart parking meters have been installed along Atlantic Avenue from Swinton Avenue to the Intracoastal and while you won’t have to feed the meter with spare change, you will be expected to pay for your parking spot.
The city commission approved the parking management plan, which has been in the works for years. A previous commission voted to purchase the smart meters last year in a narrow 3-2 vote.
“It’s about having a plan,” Commissioner Ryan Boylston said. “It doesn’t make any sense that on a Friday night Atlantic Ave. is free and the garage is $5. We have to move forward.”
The program includes paid parking along Atlantic Avenue and on the side streets. It will cost $2 per hour to park your car beginning at noon. Weekdays meters will be in effect from noon to 9 p.m. and weekends on Friday and Saturday until 2 a.m. There is a three hour maximum you are allowed to park in one space.
Surface lots like the Railroad lot and Gladiola lot will remain free. The garage will be free until 4 p.m. where it is a flat $5 fee to park. Meters have already been in place east of the Intracoastal.
If you have a quick errand to run, there will be a free 20 minute grace period, but you still have to use the parking kiosks to indicate your car’s location.
The plan allows the city manager to make rate adjustments up to $3 per hour. He will receive input from the city’s parking management board and the Downtown Development Authority.
Commissioners approved the plan, but also asked for some changes. They would like to see a resident parking program implemented and better signage that helps people understand where to park and what it will cost.
There will be a 30 day grace period that began June 25 where warnings will be issued before ticketing begins.
Commissioners have asked city officials to look into ways to make the tickets “friendly” by including a cute message about making a mistake by not paying or even including a coupon to a downtown establishment.
Mayor Shelly Petrolia cast the sole dissenting vote on the parking plan.
“I’m not a supporter of the parking meters never have been never will be,” she said.