By Jane Smith

    Business owners at the Boynton Harbor Marina can exhale now that the city has found a short-term solution to a vexing parking problem.
    At the January meeting of the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency board, CRA staff received the OK, by a 5-2 vote, to negotiate with the owner of a vacant 3-acre parcel at the northeast corner of Federal Highway and Ocean Avenue, near the marina.
    In order to offer about 200 free spaces to marina visitors and users, the CRA will pay $20,000 annually to One Boynton LLC to lease a portion of the parcel, once home to a Bank of America branch. It will cost another $40,000 to stripe and clean up the site, said Vivian Brooks, CRA executive director.
    “It’s a simple agreement,” Brooks said after the meeting. “We are hoping to bring it before the board in February. It’s just a matter of repaving and restriping so it should be usable in March.”
    CRA staff approached the owner of the parcel. “It’s a redevelopment site where we would like to have a project,” Brooks said. “Our ultimate goal is a public garage for downtown visitors to use but that is costly.”
    Right now, marina patrons and visitors park for free at the Marina Village garage, which is used primarily by condo owners and renters. The CRA pays over $80,000 annually to lease 122 spots in the garage.
    Starting in January, the condo association that owns the garage had planned to start charging drivers $5 each, Thursday through Sunday, to park in the public section. Money raised would pay for attendants to manage traffic flow and watch for “undesirable activity” that has been reported in the past few months.
    That potential charge drove captains of dive and fishing boats to pack a Dec. 9 CRA meeting, where they said the parking fee would hurt their businesses. They also complained about the 12 spaces near the boat slips that were designated “loading zone.”
    That charge is now set to begin Feb. 15, but it may be pushed back again to coincide with the CRA free parking lot.
    “It’s a private garage. We don’t have the authority to say charge or don’t charge. We simply do not have enough spaces for the marina,” Brooks told the CRA board members.

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