HOLMES BEACH, Fla. — The city of Holmes Beach on Anna Maria Island has eliminated nearly 1,100 beach parking spots and that has many people upset.
For years, parking has been an issue on Anna Maria Island.
"We don’t have the room," said William Tokajer, Holmes Beach police chief.
Tokajer says in May alone, nearly 22,000 cars came onto the island daily.
"And that’s during a pandemic. We will never have enough room for the people coming out here. We will always have people driving around in a circle looking for a place to park," said Tokajer.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Holmes Beach banned all street parking. City leaders say residents wanted to keep it that way to stop people from trespassing and overcrowding neighborhoods.
"It's a public safety factor of the parking when it comes to people blocking driveways, leaving trash out, urinating next to their cars," said Tokajer.
Out of nearly 2,400 parking spots, the city decided to remove close to 1,100 street parking spaces in residential neighborhoods.
"It would still leave 1,307 spots available," said Tokajer.
But the decision left so many people furious, they started a petition that has more than 10,500 signatures. People also made signs that say "Save our beach parking."
"It’s heartbreaking that they do this without any kind of community input," said Peggi Davenport, owner of Duffy's Irish Pub in Holmes Beach.
Davenport says her mother was a commissioner and mayor in Holmes Beach who helped make the beach more open to the public.
"It's a little place of heaven that we are lucky we get to live in every day and people get to come and visit and we should welcome them," said Davenport.
Chief Tokajer said there were several opportunities for the public to respond at previous commission meetings. But he says no one opposed it until now.
There is another Holmes Beach commission meeting Tuesday night. The parking issue was already voted on last month but people still plan to come and voice their opinions.