MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — For the last few years, public parking and beach access have been a controversial topic in Manatee County.
Back in 2020, officials with the City of Holmes Beach reduced on-street parking on residential streets by about 1,100 spaces, according to police. At the time, city officials told 8 On Your Side they had been receiving complaints from residents saying beachgoers were treating front yards like parking lots.
Over the last two years, there’s been a push by some on the county commission to get those spaces back, but that hasn’t happened.
At one point in 2021, Manatee County leaders denied Holmes Beach nearly $300,000 in tourism dollars.
At the time, Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge told 8 On Your Side he planned to propose fewer dollars go to Holmes Beach because of the ongoing parking dispute.
In 2022, the city passed an ordinance banning multi-level parking structures. The move took the county’s plans of building a public parking garage at Manatee Public Beach off the table.
Now in this new year, the parking debate has reached the state level.
Last week, the Manatee County delegation voted unanimously in support of a bill that would override the city’s parking structure ordinance. Rep. Will Robinson plans to introduce the bill in Tallahassee this session.
“Parking issues are a disaster on Anna Maria Island and folks can’t park on the island, they can’t visit the island, there are many who work on the island that are having trouble even getting to work and it is frustrating to me that we have not solved these parking and access issues. So this is one small thing that the legislature has to do to step in to protect the rights of those folks that want to access their public beach that they pay for by their tax money,” said Rep. Robinson.
Though most beachgoers agree that parking is a challenge on Anna Maria Island, many weren’t sold on the idea of going vertical.
“I am not real interested in a high-rise parking garage, just because of the obstruction of the view. We have come out here pretty regularly while we have been down here and we’ve never ever not found a parking space,” said part-time Bradenton resident Ed Schott.
Michael Russo said he gets to Manatee Beach early to ensure he gets a parking space.
“I think the island – it looks great the way it is, and even though it is difficult to park. I do think that building something like that is probably going to detract from the natural beauty. I understand their point with beach access, but I just think that at some point, there needs to be some legislation to keep the natural beauty of where we live,” Russo said.
A draft of the bill states, “notwithstanding any law, local ordinance, or local regulation to the contrary, Manatee County may, as the board of county commissioners deems necessary for public health, safety, and welfare, construct one four-story parking facility within each municipality located within the territorial boundaries of Anna Maria Island.”