Jacksonville Beach pay parking returning to Beaches in summer

The Jacksonville Beach program to control crowds and crime returns.
Starting in late May, the city plans to charge a $5 parking fee on weekends, similar to last year's program to control the rowdiness and crime that sometimes arrives with summer beach visitors.

That's half of what the city charged on three weekends last summer in parking lots near the beach. City officials were impressed with how that effort reduced unruly crowds, loitering and crime and promised to make parking fees permanent.

This summer, the city will collect the parking fees on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Under the tentative plan, which has yet to be approved by the City Council, the fees will be collected from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and from 10 a.m. to midnight on Sundays.

In addition to the parking lots at the Fourth Avenue North fishing pier and Latham Plaza near City Hall, the city will collect fees from people using a parking lot just east of The Ritz bar's private parking area on Third Avenue North. The three parking lots have a total of about 520 parking spaces.

Fishing pier manager Faye Cotner said she has "mixed emotions" about the parking fees because they harmed business last summer. "We lost a lot of business because of it," Cotner said. "Four weekends in a row we lost money." But Cotner said she appreciates that the city is trying to control the crowds. "They are going to do it anyway," she said. "At least it's not $10."

City officials lowered the fee to $5 because of complaints about last summer's rate and the market rate charged by private landowners, said City Manager George Forbes.

This summer's plan is considered a quick and affordable way to rein in parking while the city keeps working with parking consultant Kimley-Horn on long-term solutions, which could include meters, kiosks or some other method, Forbes said.

"We're just putting this all together now," he said. "There's a lot to do to get this set up."

In about a month, the City Council will be asked to approve a parking management company and a security firm to run this summer's parking program, Forbes said. Later, there will be a public workshop to discuss long-term parking solutions, he said.

Kimley-Horn is studying the city's oceanfront parking from 16th Avenue North to 16th Avenue South and creating a database on the number of parking spaces, their purpose and how they're used. The firm is also exploring rates, enforcement, staffing and business-related programs such as validated parking before it makes long-term recommendations.
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