Tuesday is the day city commission leaders will take a final vote to keep or get rid of paid parking in Dunedin.
Dozens of business owners and city residents have been blasting city commissioners with emails, handing out hundreds of flyers, calling commissioners dozens of times and showing up in force at public meetings.
Several businesses argue paid parking is squashing sales and killing the ambiance in downtown Dunedin. They plan to pack Tuesday’s 6 p.m. commission meeting.
Many shoppers and business owners argue the parking should go back to being free. The city has raked in $400,000 since the meters were installed last year.
Now Dunedin leaders hope to compromise. They'll vote Tuesday on a plan to enforce paid parking only after 5pm Monday through Friday and on the weekends. They also will vote on giving residents a free parking pass.
Dunedin officials also found out 77% of people that park do not use the Parkmobile app, according to data Dunedin officials. The city also says the meters are encouraging higher turnover among shoppers. You would think a higher number of different customers on the city streets and in businesses would be a good thing. Jane Sweeney of MJ's Fashion and Gifts says not necessarily. Her bottom line is suffering. Her revenues are down 17%."They can have all the parking they can come up with in the world but if they put me out of business then what are the customers coming down for?" said Sweeney.
David Becker’s sales are down 7% at Suncoast Beach Company. Just next door at Cafe Al Fresco, server Tim Cunnings says their restaurant has lost a significant amount of sales since the meters went up. "Paying rent is not easy for me anymore. I used to make great money, now I just make okay money," Cunnings explained.
Lee Mullen, who owns the Lasting Impressions store, likes the paid parking. Mullen says it forces non-customers to park elsewhere, which increases parking spot turnover. “Sometimes people park here, take the trolley to Clearwater Beach where they’d pay $30-40 bucks a day to park. They were basically using us as a parking lot before the meters came in.”
Some city leaders argue the new system works because parking spots are being used more by potential customers instead of people using the Pinellas Trail or employees parking in spots all day.