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Committee Tasked With Creating Answers To Parking Issues

Sarasota now has a Parking Advisory Committee to examine parking policies, management and access in the city.

Parking management in Sarasota's been so complicated this past year that an advisory committee hopes to make the situation more manageable.

The city's Parking Advisory Committee met for the first time Wednesday morning in City Hall where they tried to get their bearings on what they will set out to do.

"In my short time here my observation I kind of gather is there wasn't a consistent  way to provide input from the community when it comes to parking issues," said Mark Lyons, parking manager for the city.

And this committee is one way to provide that. 

"Parking isn't really rocket science although some in our industry thinks it is," he said.

Since the the committee was created by the City Commission to figure out how to make parking fair throughout the city and the Parking Division reports to Deputy City Manager Marlon Brown now.

Here are just a few things the committee will tackle, Lyons said:

• Employee parking

• Usage and turnover at lots

• Good parking plans for devlopers

• Fair parking policies in each district

Casey Jones, chairman of the board for the International Parking Institute told the group that it has to think about parking differently.

"We aren't talking about parking here," Jones said. "We're talking about providing access, and that's a fundamental difference."

He added that one-size fits-all solutions don't work, so policies and strategies that are "fairly unique" has to be used in different parts of the city.

The committee is not set up to be an advisory committee to make recommendations to the City Commission, Lyons said, but instead to provide ideas to the Parking Services Division.

And it's not in place to find a way to re-implement paid parking either, he said.

"Everything is open," Lyons said. "We have no preconceived notion of what could be said and what could not be said."

The committee is just getting its legs underneath of it and at its next meeting, which is to be determined, a regular schedule will be established, but is expected to meet monthly.

Chris Gallagher, a senior designer with and Planning Board member, will be the chairman of the committee. The vice chairman is Marty Rappaport, chairman of the St. Armands Circle Business Improvement District. Pat Westerhouse will serve as secretary. Westerhouse also serves as secretary for the Downtown Improvement District and is vice president of commercial property management at Casto, which owns the Whole Food Center property.

Other members include:

• Carl Shoffstall, Lido Key Residents' Association President

• Bob Easterly, Coalition of City Neighborhood Associations Vice President

• Linda Cochran, Southside Village Business Association

• Alex Davis Shaw, Sarasota city engineer

• Steve Stancel (ex-officio member), Sarasota chief planner

• Steve Queior, president of Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce

• Sharon Katzman, owner of

Agenda items for the next meeting haven't been finalized, but tentative topics include taking a look at the downtown parking master plan that was created in 2005, and discuss its role and place in today's parking issues.

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