Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Weinstein: Form Agency to Focus on City Parking

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Weinstein: Form Agency to Focus on City Parking

Article excerpt

Jacksonville development leader Mike Weinstein says the answer to what he called downtown's "most stifling problem" is the creation of a government body focused strictly on parking problems.

Members of the new agency, which could be created by the City Council as a Public Parking Authority, would "wake up every day with nothing but that [parking] on their minds," Weinstein said yesterday during remarks at an orientation session for the 14 new council members who take office July 1.

Weinstein, executive director of the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission, got immediate agreement on his pitch from other city leaders. Ginger Soud, the incoming council president, said she was "very seriously" considering the idea, and Dan Haskell, the City Hall department head who supervises parking issues, was even more enthusiastic.

"I'm 150 percent in support of that," said Haskell. "We need to attach some planning to the method by which we provide and regulate parking."

The city already has authorities for purposes such as transportation, housing and downtown development. They are governed by appointed boards of volunteers and are staffed by regular employees.

Exactly how a new authority for parking would work hasn't been decided. It could have regulatory powers as well as planning responsibilities, and it could work with city-owned lots and garages, privately owned properties, or alternatives to downtown lots in the form of shuttle services to transport commuters from Alltel Stadium or other staging areas.

"We may be edging out of city-owned parking lots," Haskell said, "and that's fine, with the understanding that we have been providing it for so long that it's going to take a lot of public education."

A new parking authority's main advantage would be the increased focus it should provide, Soud said.

"That would be its only function, to evaluate and continue to evaluate parking needs," she said.

Right now, Haskell said, increased development downtown is outpacing the city's ability to provide parking for it, and good planning is being sacrificed to the department's enforcement responsibilities. …

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