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Thousands of tickets fail to solve beachside parking problem


The City of Vero Beach issued more than 4,000 parking tickets over the past year, and more than 60 percent of those annoying little slips of paper were given out on Ocean Drive and at Sexton Plaza.

But the island parking problem they were intended to help with – a problem that has plagued beachside shops and restaurants for years – has not improved.

In fact it seems to be getting worse.

Some people do not pay the tickets, especially tourists driving rental cars, and for others the fines are just part of the cost of doing business.

A banker who works on the island frequently pilots his SUV into one of the many 2-hour-limit slots along Ocean Drive and, also frequently, doesn’t bother to move the vehicle before 2 hours have passed.

As a result, he was ticketed 28 times between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017, but it doesn’t seem to have bothered him. He paid the $20 fine for all 28 tickets – a total of $560 – and quite possibly is hogging a space today.

Similarly, a local woman was issued parking tickets 21 times – including one on Valentine’s Day. At some point the next day, on Feb. 15, another was affixed to her windshield.

Occupying a parking space for too long is the most frequently ticketed offense, but Vero Beach Police Lt. Kevin Martin said vehicles are also ticketed for parking in handicap spaces and for backing into the angled spaces.

“When they pull out of the angled spaces, it places that vehicle into oncoming traffic,” Martin explained.

Those and other offenses can increase fines. Blocking a fire lane will cost the offender $30. Illegally parking in a handicap space will run $200. Arguing too much with the officer issuing a parking ticket could cost you $100.

According to Martin, several years ago 2-hour parking spaces were the law. A movement meant to entice visitors to stay longer at the beachfront led to increasing the limit to 3 hours. Businesses failed to reap the foot traffic they’d hoped for, so in early 2016 timed parking reverted to two hours.

“It wasn’t us looking to write a bunch of tickets,” explained Anna Carden, Public Information Officer for Vero Beach Police. “It was the business owners who lobbied for a return to the shorter time limit.”

It’s also become a political issue. Local ophthalmologist Val Zudans is running for a seat on the Vero Beach City Council. His election flyer lists Ocean Drive parking as one of the issues he intends to tackle.

Good luck. Police say few hotels on the beach provide on-site parking for their employees and storeowners note that up to three times a day hotel workers come out en masse to move their vehicles to different parking spaces, continuing to occupy spots needed by customers while avoiding the $20 fine.

“Sometimes you see the workers come out to move their cars,” said Melissa Arduini as she manned a register at The Beach Shop on Ocean Drive. She also related a tale of one worker who supposedly lost his job after parking in a space reserved for his boss.

A few doors down from The Beach Shop, Leslie Mather and her daughter were serving customers at the Countryside Citrus store.

“I can say it has hurt our business,” Mather said of the congested parking on Ocean.

A short-lived shuttle didn’t help. Workers were supposed to park in Riverside Park and ride the free bus to their hotel and retail jobs, but no more than a handful ever did.

Now the city is taking another crack at the problem. City Council recently directed the Planning and Zoning Board to come up with recommendations on how to ease parking along the stretch of Ocean Drive most frequented by tourists and beachgoers.

Paid parking may be the only thing that will really work, and city officials say they are open to that idea – not meters, but the kind of setup where you put money in a machine and put a paid slip on your dash.