BY MARCY SHORTUSE – It has been confirmed that Lee County Commissioners will review, listen to public input and make a determination regarding parking on Gilchrist Avenue at their meeting on Tuesday, April 21 at 9:30 a.m. at the Lee County Courthouse.
Meanwhile, various groups around the island are solidifying their stances to present to the board.
In a meeting held on Thursday, April 9, The Gasparilla Island Conservation and Improvement Association looked over two plans presented by two island factions – one being the Gilchrist Neighborhood Association and the other by the Churches and Gasparilla Inn Group. By a vote of 8 to 0 the GICIA board decided to endorse the Church and Inn proposal.
Both of the plans prohibit parking on the two most southern median strips of Gilchrist Avenue, and the county would allow the right-of-way to the right of each travel lane to be landscaped, the GICIA press release stated.
“Both landscape plans respect the Parker/Olmstead legacy by featuring a median whose predominant planting is two rows of palm trees,” the release said.
The Gilchrist Neighborhood Association Proposal called for “Sunday only” parking in the median between 3rd and 4th Street, and additional “Sunday only” parallel parking on the left side of the median heading south. The GNA also suggested parking be expanded in the 5th Street public lot from 45 spaces to 90 spaces, which would essentially call for the removal of all landscaping.
The GNA plan also called for parallel parking in an existing lane of the avenue, on the left side, from 1st Street to 3rd Street. This was also in one of Lee County’s original plans.
It has also been suggested that the GNA plan shows 33 parking spaces for all three of the Gilchrist churches to share, but with a two-hour maximum time limit on Sundays only.
The Church and Inn Proposal suggests angled parking on the two northern medians (between existing and future palm trees), and low landscaping on each side of the median for more orderly parking, as well as to make parking more visually pleasing.
The Church Plan also eliminates all parking on the two southern Gilchrist median strips, calls for no change to the 5th Street parking lot and gives no recommendation for changes to 4th Street.
An additional suggestion the GICIA board had for the project was that the small triangle median south of 1st Street and the 5th Street median, which runs east to west, be landscaped to be consistent with Gilchrist landscaping:
• If median parking is approved, Lee County might consider a limit or prohibition of overnight parking in the area.
“The GNA plan fails to recognize the needs of the overall community,” the GICIA press release stated. “There has been significant building in Boca Grande over the last 15 years with a resulting increase in Island population, hence an increase in congregations and church-based community activities. Parking is deficient throughout the Island.”
Plans that Lee County Commissioners created in February were not met with a warm reception by any of the island groups involved in Gilchrist parking matters. Each of the three proposals by the county included doing research on expanding the 5th Street parking lot to double the size it is now, and two of the plans revolved around parallel parking.
The commissioner’s meeting will be held on Tuesday, April 21 at 9:30 a.m. at the Old Lee County Courthouse Commission Chambers, 2120 Main St. in Fort Myers. The meeting is public.