Sebastian businesses one step closer to more flexible parking

SEBASTIAN – The Sebastian City Council preliminarily approved changes to city code that could allow businesses more flexibility in providing parking for patrons.

“Hallelujah!” said Sebastian resident and council candidate Joe Scozzari. “We’re finally going to break down some of the walls” that keep businesses from succeeding.

He and others spoke in favor of the proposed plan that would allow businesses to provide more off-site parking and pay into a city fund for “public” parking.

Not everyone is convinced that allowing businesses to have off-site parking would be good for the city.

“We’re jumping through hoops” one resident said, to provide parking for businesses that are closing.

He expressed concern that the public parking at Riverview Park would be most impacted by the change in rules. Parking along the riverfront, by the Hess gas station and on the other side of the park are already at a premium, he said.

“Our gem is going to be lost,” the resident said.

The proposed changes must go through a public hearing and second vote later this month before being enacted. Those changes, once approved, would clear the way for a Mulligan’s restaurant to move into the former Flagship Marina on Indian River Drive.

The site does not have enough on-site parking to accommodate the restaurant and marina.

Under the proposed new rules, businesses can have up to 50 percent of their required parking be located off-site, within 500 feet. The business could also pay $3,200 per parking spot up to 30 spots to allow for parking within the city’s public parking areas.

The monies paid into the parking-in-lieu-of-fund would then be used by the city to acquire more property for public parking as well as make improvements to existing parking.

Such improvements and changes could include providing more on-street parking within the downtown redevelopment area and reconfiguring existing parking areas to allow for more vehicles.

Councilman Don Wright expressed support for the proposed changes but added that the city needs to do more and follow up with other ways to make the downtown area more parking friendly.

For instance, he said the city needs to address the number of “No Parking” signs on US 1. The signs confuse drivers who see that on-street parking is allowed along the major roadway.

The proposal is “very valuable to the city,” the councilman said, but they need to strike a balance between business parking and public parking in common areas.

City Manager Al Minner told the council that he has sent out a request for proposals for a parking study and expects to receive those proposals by Sept. 21. He added that he expects to have a company under contract by October to get started on the survey and have that work completed by late December or in January.

Based on the parking needs assessment survey, the Sebastian City Council could prioritize parking projects within the redevelopment area.

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