BRADENTON, Fla. — For the first time leaders of Holmes Beach and Manatee County met to publicly discuss the battle over beach parking.
The issue began in the Spring of 2020 when Holmes Beach, the biggest city on Anna Maria Island, closed street parking during the pandemic to stop crowds from coming to the beaches. But most of the spots were never reopened for public parking, permanently eliminating about 480 beach parking spots. Something Manatee County leaders are not happy about it.
"We want 480 parking spots back," said Kevin Van Ostenbridge, Manatee County Board of County Commissioners Chairman.
Since then, Manatee County leaders have been fighting with Holmes Beach to reopen the spots so that Manatee County taxpayers who can't afford to live on the island can also enjoy the beach.
"There are 400,000 people in Manatee County and there are 3,000 in the city of Holmes Beach, that’s less than 1%. We are literally here to debate if the beaches should be restricted to the 99% and left open to the 1%," said Van Ostenbridge.
But Holmes Beach city leaders say they don’t want beach traffic clogging their residential streets and their small community cannot handle the amount of traffic coming onto the island.
"Our roads are blocked, we have congestion everywhere. Everyone is circling everywhere trying to find a place to park," said Judy Titsworth, mayor of Holmes Beach.
On Tuesday, Holmes Beach and Manatee County leaders came together for the first time during a public workshop to try and find solutions. The county presented letters from the mayor of Bradenton and Manatee County state representatives requesting that Holmes Beach leaders consider reopening the street parking spots for the public.
But as for now, Holmes Beach leaders refuse to reopen the streets for public parking.
"We don’t have the funding that you all have and it's not up to us to provide parking for your beaches," said Titsworth.
Leaders discussed other solutions such as parking at the library and talks of building a parking garage, but they ran out of time before any decisions were reached. They’ve agreed to meet again at a later date to continue the conversation.