By Jane Smith
Parking meters are coming to downtown Delray Beach, a majority of city commissioners agreed in mid-October. The question remains when.
A majority of commissioners reached that decision in May, too, and were waiting to review proposals for a parking-management plan for the beach area and downtown.
But that May workshop lasted nearly five hours and city staff possibly left confused. The staff put out a request for proposals that asked whether the parking program should be run in-house or outsourced. Only one company responded.
“We screwed up,” said City Manager Don Cooper at the October workshop. He will have staff revise the request for proposals to focus on smart meters that accept different forms of payment for the beach area and then for installation west of the Intracoastal Waterway. The program also would include the two city-owned parking garages, seven city-owned surface lots and possibly a residential parking component.
At the October workshop, Mayor Cary Glickstein expressed his frustration when he said, “Five months later I have an RFP that doesn’t address the first component of how to raise revenue.”
He estimated that metered parking downtown could provide $3.5 million annually or 5 percent of the general fund.
Commissioner Jordana Jarjura said she supported paid parking in the downtown. “I also don’t think it’s fair to the businesses that we are charging to park on the beach side and not in the downtown. A lot of our traffic issues come from people circling, circling, trying to find that prime space.”
The other commissioner in support of meters downtown would like to see a phased approach. Commissioner Mitch Katz ticked off his priority list: the beach, Atlantic Avenue west of the Intracoastal, an employee parking program, the garages, the street lots and a residential component.
For logistical reasons, the smart meters likely won’t go in the downtown until 2017.
Retailer Bruce Gimmy, who also chairs the city’s Parking Management Advisory Board, told commissioners in October, “Parking is not free, we know that... But should taxpayers pay to maintain the garages? I don’t think so. A lot of people who pay taxes in Delray Beach never come downtown. It should be a user-fee situation.”
Also at the October workshop, Randal Krejcarek, city environmental services director, updated commissioners on what was accomplished since May: better signs for the parking garages and elimination of the on-demand trolley stops in favor of fixed stops.
The Downtown Development Authority’s pilot employee parking program was pushed back to mid-December, said Laura Simon, the group’s new executive director. The city is working out the details, she said. The program covers retailers and restaurants west of the Intracoastal.
Earlier in October, city commissioners expanded the hours for feeding parking meters east of the Intracoastal Waterway and along the beach.
The new times are 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week, effective Oct. 16. The hourly rate remains $1.50.
Glickstein had suggested the expanded hours to mirror activity in the area. “That’s when people are on the beach,” he said at the Oct. 6 commission meeting. Vice Mayor Shelly Petrolia wanted to make sure the city would have someone to enforce the new hours before agreeing to the change. The city manager assured her the new hours would be enforced.
The meters had to be reprogrammed and stickers applied with the new hours, said Krejcarek, when explaining the 10-day delay. Ú