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Sarasota, Fort Myers merchants and restaurants push back on strict parking rules

June 20, 2024
By Staff Report

As parking has once again occupied the forefront of islanders’ minds, several other popular destinations along the Gulf Coast have been having similar conversations just this week. 

Boutique merchants in downtown Sarasota threatened to sue the city over paid parking. Merchants on Palm Avenue, ironically the home of both a Methodist and Episcopal Church, have complained that complicated parking meters and restrictions have driven away customers, and that metered parking was used by construction workers.

Several new parking policies will take effect on Monday, July 15 in Sarasota including new electric vehicle and garage parking fees; paid parking at Centennial Park and for 80 spaces on Benjamin Franklin Drive; and credit card only metered parking space kiosks.

“We’re a growing city and our parking program needs to reflect best practices around the country that encourage parking space turnover without deterring visitors who want to experience all that Sarasota has to offer,” said Parking Manager Broxton Harvey in a Monday, June 17 press release.

In Lee County, Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson and the council announced temporary free on-street parking after 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday for downtown, due to merchant pressure, lost business, and the difficulty in working paid parking kiosks, through an outside vendor.

This change, which was announced at Monday’s city council meeting, will be in effect until the Caloosahatchee Bridge is partially reopened August, according to the city alert.