“Our hope was that they could get close enough to agree on one option,” said a representative of Lee County, “but they each favored a different option.”
According to that same representative, the two sides can be broadly defined as a collection of Gilchrist Avenue residents united under the Gilchrist Neighborhood Association, and a coalition of churches (over whose use of the median for parking much of the debate has centered in recent years) and the Gasparilla Inn & Club, one of the oldest commercial institutions on the island.
“It’s important to understand that this description is greatly simplified and there are other entities that are interested … ,” said the county rep. Downtown businesses and the Gasparilla Island Conservation and Improvement Association have weighed in as well.
The three options most recently proposed were the county’s attempt to “coalesce the myriad of parking and landscaping possibilities … that have been suggested” in recent years, and that those options could then become a starting point for compromise between the groups.
It is not the first time the county has proposed a solution to the parking problem, but none have stuck and compromise has eluded the debate’s participants for decades.
Currently, the county is awaiting each side’s latest proposal.
“We are in the process of getting each side to specify with a drawing and in writing what parking/landscaping option they preferred, and under what conditions … ,” according to the Lee County representative.
She continued that the county has not received them yet, and when they do, they will review each and make staff recommendations before presenting them to the Board of County Commissioners.
County staff hopes to present the proposals to the BoCC at the second meeting in April, and “hopefully move forward with the project.”