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Dunedin may use all $2.9 mil of BP money on new downtown parking management plan

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Dunedin’s thriving downtown is looking to revamp its public parking plan.

Over the past few years, the area has become a bona fide weekend and evening hot-spot. To make room for the influx of warm bodies — and the vehicles that carry them — Dunedin City Commission will hear plans for a hybrid pilot parking program, which includes paid and free parking throughout the downtown area.

According to city staff, the downtown area doesn’t have enough parking space turnover, or enough individual parking spaces.

Currently, the city owns approximately one-third of the existing parking supply. It also leases a variety of scattered and “at-risk” surface parking lots in order to provide more free parking.

The city’s new downtown parking management plan proposal involves increased parking through private lease agreements. Mease Dunedin Hospital has agreed to make its 200-space parking lot on Virginia Street available for downtown special events, at no charge to the City. And two additional surface parking lots — resulting in about 126 new spaces total — will also be part of the deal.

Increased parking requirements for restaurants are written into the plan as well.

Instead of having to provide one parking space per 400 square feet, restaurants will now potentially have to provide one space per 200 square feet.

Parking bank provisions would also be revised to increase the purchase price of a parking space from $2,500 to $8,000.

Meanwhile, negotiations for a public parking garage at 940 & 966 Douglas Avenue have already been completed. They will be presented to the local planning agency on January 13, and to city commissioners in February for consideration. Current parking on the site will be increased by 100 spaces — 215 in total — and be replaced with a new garage and a mixed-use project, which will feature apartments and retail stores.

The Pinellas County Sheriffs Department is set to enforce this new downtown parking system. It’s estimated to cost $35,000 for equipment throughout the first year, and approximately $82,000 annually for 2 full-time employees.

City staff will also recommend commissioners agree to spend the “full amount” of Dunedin’s nearly $3 million BP settlement on the project.

The hearing is slated for 6:30 p.m. January 7.

Devon Crumpacker is a Tampa Bay based writer and reporter for Extensive Enterprises Media. He primarily covers Pinellas County politics for SaintPetersblog.com, but also makes time to write the occasional bar review for FloridaBarTab.com. He lives in St. Petersburg with his fiance, Sydney. To contact, e-mail devon@floridapolitics.com, or visit his Twitter page @DevonCrumpacker.

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