Monday, September 7, 2015

To Marcia Pounds at the Sun Sentinel, stop Deerfield Beach from Metering the Cove

Hi Marcia,
A while back you did an article in the Sun Sentinel about taxpayer money used to attract businesses to Florida, specifically Broward County.  Have you been following the attempt in Deerfield Beach to put some of our businesses out of business?  Could you do a story about how lots of taxpayer money is being used to attract businesses to our area, but Deerfield, to get a few bucks, is about to put many businesses out of business?
There is a small shopping center “The Cove Shopping Center” which during the recession was struggling to hang on, it is now doing well, almost full up, it is on Hillsboro Blvd.  just west of the Intracoastal.  The center has a variety of mom and pop businesses clustered around a parking lot. It is loved by the neighborhood, and frequented by residents. 
Strangely the parking lot is held by the city in trust from the Sullivan Family with the stipulation it be use for a parking lot or returned to the family.  The city cannot sell or transfer the property.  Weird I know. 
The city pays for the maintenance of the lot (formerly the businesses were assessed but the city let that lapse, who knows why).  The lot is close enough to the beach to park and walk (about 10 minutes over the Intracoastal bridge) which many do for the free parking.  The businesses are more than willing to go back to the assessment to handle the cost of maintenance and have given the city a proposal to do just that, but it seems to be falling on deaf ears.
There was a “workshop” by the city – forced by the center owners - about the proposal and it was jammed with business owners and residents protesting this mess, and giving really good reasons that their businesses would not survive the metering. (There is one loud mouth resident who is demanding that the lot should generate money to lower taxes,as if!!!  he was the ONLY one at the workshop who spoke in favor.) 
Sure there is a problem with beach goers parking there, but it is not a really big deal, mostly on weekends.  I go there and have never not found a parking place. Sure sometimes it is not right in front of the nail salon, but...  Beach parking is such a non problem that the city doesn’t even enforce the 2 hour limit.
Now the city wants to meter the lot with those boxes that make you put in your license plate number.  No other shopping center has meters in Deerfield, imagine paying to shop at Publix.  People will not visit the nail salon or the cafes or the doctor and dentists offices if they have to pay.  The doctors in the Cove have elderly patients who will have to trundle over to the boxes with their walkers and figure out how to work the thing, all in 90 degree heat or rain.  Even with the first hour free, they have to do that.  And, what doctor is done in an hour?   
Please help the residents and businesses stop this bad idea. 
From,  Meter Madness - 08/28/15
The city wants to charge for parking in the Cove Shopping Center. Of course they do. Just about every city charges for parking on city-owned property. It's big business now, especially in a city like Deerfield Beach that has a beach resort district that attracts thousands of people every day. It makes sense to extract some money from all these visitors to defray the costs of maintaining a beach area (and make a little on the side, right?).

Of course, the Cove is not the beach. But the city, through its Community Redevelopment Agency, has poured millions into the Cove Shopping Center to make it a hot destination spot as well. Someone wants to build a classy hotel down there (see the previous article). In a way, it's amazing that only now is metering the Cove being aggressively pushed — before now, discussion of it always seemed to be pushed aside or deferred to a different time — and the proposal is encountering equally aggressive public opposition. Opponents of the plan, which include most of the businesses, say that installing meters will all but destroy the shops and restaurants in the center.

People who have lived in Deerfield Beach for a shorter time than I might be astounded to know that when I landed here 30 years ago, there wasn't a single parking meter anywhere in Deerfield so far as I'm aware. Certainly not at the beach or in the Cove or at any park. Beach parking was free and in some places any day at any time. So if I wanted to drive up to the beachfront and park at 3:00 a.m., I could do so and it didn't cost a dime.
Then came the parking curfew, the beach parking lot, and parking meters. So much for the good old days. It was just a matter of time before the Cove Shopping Center, just off the beach, would come into the crosshairs.

Will paid parking hurt the businesses in the Cove? It's indisputable that it won't help any business and some claim they will be mortally wounded. Parking meters seem to go against the effort to make the Cove Center a robust business district.

Meter proponents say that providing this free parking is a subsidy to business. This, apparently, is a bad thing, but it's also a stupid argument. What if it is? We (taxpayers) subsidize businesses in many ways all the time. Why do we do this? To encourage business growth in the city. And we taxpayers likewise benefit by not having to pay for parking when we go to our doctor or while we satisfy our sushi craving.

Using the same argument, I suggest businesses, from now on, pay to build and maintain roads. After all, public roads are how they get their product and how people get to them to buy it. Taxpayers pay for roads — clearly a subsidy to business based on this logic.

Besides all this, most of the Cove businesses say they are willing to pay an assessment to maintain the parking lot. City officials estimate annual maintenance costs at around $80,000. If the businesses agree to pay, then the ridiculous subsidy argument disappears.

I don't know how much revenue the city would get out of this, but evidently the city doesn't know either. Using the same baseline ($2.00 per hour, first hour free), the city's projections have ranged from $1.3 million to $1.9 million annually. The city realizes about $1.9 million from its 800 or so metered spaces at the beach. The Cove Shopping Center has about 500 spaces.
Then there are the start-up costs, which include $25,000 for an enforcement vehicle (alias cop car). Why not use a golf cart?

I could go on about this, but the city commission has already heard the arguments, pro and con. They should reject the parking meters and work out a maintenance assessment plan with the Cove businesses.