Port Canaveral cruisers may ‘sea’ a parking fee hike

Passengers of Port Canaveral-based cruiseships, who choose to leave their cars at the port while they’re at sea, may face higher daily parking fees if a new Brevard County ordinance wins final approval, County Commissioner John Tobia predicted last week.

Tobia, whose commission district includes the county’s south beach area, unsuccessfully sought to block an ordinance requiring that any new offsite parking lots  be at least 3 acres.

Tobia said the 3-acre requirement would prevent owners of 1- or 2-acre lots from developing their property as offsite parking lots.

He referred to a study by his staff, showing 3,041 properties within a 10-mile radius of Port Canaveral, whose owners would lose those rights.

“And with a loss of supply, the demand goes up, and then the rates go up,” Tobia said.

Company literature shows Port Canaveral currently charges $17 a day for parking on site, while offsite parking goes for $10.95 a day at Park N Cruise or Park Port Canaveral and $7 a day at Cruisetime Parking.

The ordinance would create “overnight commercial parking lot” as a new conditional use in certain commercial, business-park and heavy industrial areas – if commissioners approve it on final reading March 20.

While Vice Chairwoman Kristine Isnardi of Palm Bay joined Tobia in opposing the ordinance, it had the support of Commissioner Jim Barfield of Merritt Island, Chairwoman Rita Pritchett of Titusville and Commissioner Curt Smith of Viera.

In addition to setting the new 3-acre minimum size, the ordinance also would require that a developer provide a traffic study and get a conditional-use permit from the county.

Barfield said he proposed the ordinance because current zoning laws don’t adequately address the impacts of overnight parking lots, such as increased traffic.

With 700 to 1,000 cars coming onto Merritt Island at once, he said, that causes traffic jams.

“There’s no impacts on (other property owners’) property rights,” he said. “What we’re doing is protecting the safety of the citizens.”

Isnardi objected to the extra hoops the developers would have to jump through under the proposal.

“Requiring everyone to get a traffic study is a little bit overdoing it,” she said after the meeting. “Those things go for tens of thousands of dollars. And requiring everyone to get a conditional-use permit for a parking lot is a bit absurd, if you ask me.”

County planners originally proposed that any new overnight lot be paved. But Pritchett argued that solid asphalt surfaces would shed stormwater runoff onto neighborhood yards.

Merritt Island resident John Schantzen agreed, describing his neighborhood as a flood-prone area where the existing cruise lots already shed water.

“Where does the water go? It goes on everyone else’s property,” he said.

Pritchett suggested having grassy lots or holes in the pavement to allow water to drain on site.

After her colleagues agreed, county Planning and Development Director Tad Calkins responded by allowing for “alternative surfaces.”

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