BP settlement means changes in parking for Dunedin

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All of the City of Dunedin's settlement from BP for the 2010 oil spill - more than $2.9 million - is now dedicated to a single challenge: parking. 

Downtown Dunedin has become a popular tourist destination and launching spot for traipses on the Pinellas Trail, in addition to a beloved oasis for local residents. 

"We are a victim of our own success now," Downtown Merchants Association President Gregory Brady told FOX 13 News. "Number one small city in Florida, best walkable city, the heart of the trail - all of these accolades have equated into much more interest." 

In recent years, the city augmented free street parking with free parking on vacant lots, which are now being acquired by developers. 

"We've got over 600 living units that are being built within the downtown core or right on its outskirts within 18 months," Brady said. "So now we're adding more fuel to the fire."

Last week, Dunedin city commissioners signed off on a "hybrid" stream of parking solutions, and committed all of its BP money to the project.

Now, parking pay stations will pop up on some of the busiest streets. There will be a mix of pay parking and free parking lots - and at least one parking garage. 

The Merchants Association supports the plan, but not all merchants belong to the association. 

"About everybody who comes in here is against it," McGuire's Barber Shop barber Morris Hensley told FOX 13 News.  

Hensley's shop will have meters out front and free parking on the side street. 

"All these other businesses around here are going to scoop up the free parking... and leave us with no parking for our customers," he speculated. 

The city's former public works director blames outdated city codes for a problem he claims will keep getting worse. Now retired, Robert Brotherton said the city does not demand new parking keep pace with new developments. 

"Citizens are upset because they're being required to face a parking meter, as opposed to the merchants and the new businesses providing proper parking," he explained. 

Brotherton also said the fight is not over. 

"They're threatening to take their concerns even into the election that's coming up next year," he said, referring to paid parking opponents.

Brady claimed the parking plan has been in the talking stages for years. 

"Now [opponents] want to come at the eleventh hour and say 'don't do it,'" he said. "Well, give us an alternative. We've got to go somewhere."