HOLMES BEACH, Fla. (WFLA) — Leaders from Manatee County and the city of Holmes Beach have been at odds over beach parking for the last two years.

It was in 2020, when city officials reduced on-street parking in residential streets by about 1,100 spaces, according to police. City officials said they had been receiving complaints from residents saying their front yards were turning into parking lots.

Manatee County Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge has been urging the city to bring the spaces back, arguing the taxpayers who live off the island are losing access to the beach. However, the city hasn’t budged and the on-street parking remains as it did in 2020.

During a meeting with state and local representatives, Commissioner Van Ostenbridge said the city’s mayor showed support for the possibility of a parking garage.

“During the meeting, the mayor said that she thought building a parking garage was something she could get behind and she was willing to pitch it to the council for a vote. She asked me to speak with the commission, come up with a proposal, and bring it to Holmes Beach. Before we could start planning a parking garage, Holmes Beach proactively moved to ban parking garages from the city, which eliminates the possibility of building a garage at all,” said Van Ostenbridge. “It seems that Holmes Beach essentially does not want visitors. That is concerning because a lot of these visitors, most of them, are coming from Manatee County. They are residents and taxpayers of the county who own those beaches and they have a right to go to the beaches,” he continued.

The first reading of the ordinance took place last week. The proposed local law, which would prohibit multi-level parking structures states the commission desires to ‘maintain the residential nature of the City of Holmes Beach’ and ‘finds that multi-level parking facilities are not supported by the vision’ in the city’s comprehensive plan.

“It is not going to solve the parking issue. We have a traffic problem and until the county recognizes the traffic, the horrific traffic that has been created from promotion over the years, we will never be able to solve these problems. No matter what a three-story parking garage would have created, it would not solve the problem because there is just a deficiency of infrastructure on the island to support the traffic that we now receive,” said Holmes Beach Commissioner Terry Schaefer. “I think it is pretty well-established that people come here because they feel like they are in a very welcoming community. Without residential integrity to maintain the residents that remain here, that is where we see a long-term problem that continues to exist. We try to fashion our ordinances to find a balance of accommodating everyone we can that desires to be here, but we have not had the cooperation from Manatee County recognizing the problem has always been over-promotion of this island,” he continued.

The parking battle reached new heights in 2021, when Manatee County leaders denied Holmes Beach nearly $300,000 in tourism dollars. Commissioner Van Ostenbridge told 8 On Your Side he plans to propose fewer dollars go to Holmes Beach because of the ongoing parking dispute.

“I am not comfortable allocating tax dollars from outside of Holmes beach to enter Holmes beach while they are being so unwelcoming to visitors,” said the county commissioner.

“I think many of us really didn’t appreciate the threat, that is what home rule is all about. Thank goodness we have home rule in the state of Florida and we intend to manage our issues and do so in accordance with the statutes, but also protect both our residents and visitors coming to our city,” said Commissioner Schaefer.

The second reading of the ordinance is scheduled for later next month.