Police propose doubling parking fines on Ocean Drive
STORY BY EILEEN KELLEY, (Week of October 13, 2011)
It’s a luxury few cities know: Free – albeit limited – parking in choice zones.
For two decades, drivers who overstayed the two-hour parking limit along Ocean Drive were fined $10.
That fine could double this fall if the City Council buys into police Chief Donald Dappen’s plan.
Dappen said the current fine – set in 1991 – is doing little to deter people from slightly moving their cars after the free period expires. On any given day, between 10 and 15 people are ticketed for such a reason. A doubling of the fine could bring in more money.
Dappen and others are banking on the increase, padding the recently passed budget by $40,000 in projected revenues in anticipation the City Council would OK the higher fines.
“Ten dollars to park all day is not a big deal,” Dappen said of what he perceives as some people’s rationalization that overstaying the two-hour limit is not all that costly. “We’re hoping the increased fine will help them change their mind.”
Councilmen Brian Heady didn’t appear eager to raise the fine when the matter was discussed last week.
Raising the fine, Heady suggested, could chip away at the city’s image of offering a friendly environment to visitors. The higher fines are yet more examples of government socking it to the little guy when cities and governments find themselves strapped for cash, he said.
Heady and others on the council suggested the underlying problem may be a lack of parking.
Dappen said that may be the case, but nonetheless, parking scofflaws – those who knowingly exceed the time limit and move their vehicles just enough to hide the chalk mark left behind by the city’s parking enforcement officer – aren’t doing merchants any favors.
A key to having a business, the chief said, is to be able to have a swift movement of customers in and out of spaces. An increase will help move traffic along a little bit, he said.
That’s hogwash, said Barbara Poletis, a manager of the store Patchington on Ocean Drive.
Poletis dug into her own pocket recently to pay the ticket for one of the boutique’s models who overstayed the two-hour limit when she and Poletis were in the middle of working out details for an upcoming event.
Her son and countless others, she said, have been ticketed on Ocean Drive for overstaying the limit because they are doing what merchants and restaurants want them to do: spending money.
“It’s ridiculous,” Poletis said. “They are not giving me a chance (to survive); they are ruining it. What do you mean you think it will make it easier for me? You do not want to get me started.”
Diana Shambora also sympathized with the shoppers. “I kind of feel bad for them,” Shambora, a manager at Kemp’s Shoe Salon and Boutique said. “…I really hate to see it happen.”
No merchants Vero Beach 32963 spoke to were in favor of ticketing at all during the area’s slow months.
Oceanside Business Association supports the proposed fee increase, said Al Benkert, the group’s president.
Last week his group’s board met with city leaders to discuss the matter.
Benkert and Dappen said the problem is that workers vie for the same coveted spots as the customers and consumers. “The objective is to keep the street parking available for the customers,” Benkert said.
Benkert said his group encouraged police to enforce the parking rules in the past and anticipates a fine increase will deter workers from taking up the spots as well as others from over-staying the allotted free period.
We think it will do what it is meant to do – keep folks from parking there all day,” Benkert said.
PROPOSED FEE CHANGES
Parking in a fire lane or blocking a fire hydrant: From $50 to $30*
Parking in an emergency vehicle spot: From $50 to $30*
Parking past the extended grace period: From $10 to $20
Parking over a line: From $10 to $20
Improper parking/obstructing traffic: $30 – no proposed change
Parking in a spot for a physically disabled person: $200 – no proposed change
Interference with overtime parking enforcement: From $50 to $100
* The city learned that it has been overcharging according to state guideline and therefore is decreasing the fines.