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Beachside parking fixes seen costing $500,000. Where’s the funding?


The Vero Beach City Council wants to try a bunch of things to reduce the long-running beachside parking shortage but is now plagued by another dilemma: how to pay for the pricey fixes.

Preliminary short-term solutions for the next two years recommended last week by consultant Kimley-Horn for which City Council members expressed support cost roughly $500,000 – but there is no dedicated funding source for the projects.

One fix is the creation of an additional 79 parking spaces by permitting parking in front of multi-family housing or commercial buildings on east-west streets near the problem area.

This alternative – which could cost around $400,000 for curbing, gutters and pavement – is significantly less expensive than building a parking garage near the beachside business district. The garage option, which would cost between $3 million and $4.8 million, would add about the same number of spaces.

The council also expressed interest in private businesses partnering to share lot space, exploring the option of center street parking on Cardinal Drive to create more spaces, and using a $75,000 license-plate reader to catch motorists – mostly hotel and shop workers – who game the system by moving their cars from space to space throughout the day to avoid receiving a fine.

“It may cost a half a million dollars, but we need to find a way to do it,” Councilman Robert Brackett said.

City Manager Monte Falls referred to the hefty price tag as the “elephant in the room” during the meeting.

“There is no budget to do this. We’re talking about . . . half a million dollars in these short-term improvements that have to be funded from somewhere,” Falls said. “These improvements benefit a geographical area and we need to talk about if we want that geographical area to bear the cost of that or do we want the general taxpayer to bear the cost of that. That’s a policy decision that is a tough one.”

Mayor Val Zudans disagreed with a special taxing district to cover the cost, suggesting the improvements should be paid for by the capital improvement fund, which is used for costly infrastructure fixes.

Falls said there already are about $3 million in unfunded capital projects in the city’s five-year plan, but that he could work the beachside parking fixes into the plan.

The City Council seemed less interested in several proposed long-term parking shortage solutions, including paid parking, employee off-site parking – a scheme that was tried without success several years ago – and the construction of a parking garage on the Humiston Plaza public lot or the Ocean Grill private lot.

Kimley-Horn, which was hired by the city at a cost of roughly $71,000, has held public workshops for input and analyzed more than 3,000 beachside parking spaces to see whom the spaces belong to and how they are being used.

The firm found a majority of the 3,108 beachside parking spaces are privately owned, with only about 750 public spaces. During peak demand, on Thursday, March 14 at 2 p.m., all off-street public parking was taken and 89 percent of on-street public spaces were occupied, the firm found. Meanwhile there was a surplus of 655 private parking spaces.

Kimley-Horn expects to make more in-depth draft recommendations and then formal recommendations to the council before the end of the year.