Parking meters returning to downtown Sarasota

- Sarasota is one of only a few coastal Bay Area cities that doesn't charge visitors for street parking.

At least, it was. The city announced its plan to put parking meters along both Main Street and Park Avenue - two of the busiest streets in downtown Sarasota.

Some business owners in the area are apprehensive about the new plan.

"People who want to do business may go to a place where there is no charge for parking, like a mall," said business owner Chris Stakenborg.

However, other owners seem to be in favor of the pay-to-park design.

"We've had a difficult time downtown with construction. Now is a good time to just get on board and do it," said Eileen Hampshire, a business owner on Palm Avenue.

The announcement follows the city's decision to put paid parking in St. Armand's Circle.

City officials say they plan to use the money to help balance the over $600,000 deficit that is projected for the year. They think paid parking will be more beneficial for the community, lifting some of the financial burden off taxpayers.

"We believe that parking should be a user fee, much like utilities are," City of Sarasota Parking Manager Mark Lyons said.

Parking meters are not completely new to downtown Sarasota. They were previously installed, and then removed, after residents said the machines were difficult to use.

However, the city now believes they've found a solution through easy-to-use parking meters.

"It's colored, well-lit at night, it accepts coins, and we'll have a pay app," said Lyons.

The city says the meters will help to keep spots open for valuable customers which will benefit businesses along both of the streets.

The parking meters in St. Armand's Circle will be up and running within the next few months. The meters along Palm Avenue and Main Street have an installation deadline of May of 2019.

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