St. Pete Beach Commission Update

Beach Bans Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers 

In a unanimous vote on June 12, St. Pete Beach commissioners banned medical marijuana treatment centers within the city limits.

“This will give us some time to see how it works or doesn’t work in the city of St. Petersburg,” said Commissioner Ward Friszolowski. “If we want to look at it again years from now, we can always re-evaluate.”

Commissioner Rick Falkenstein said, “We’re so close to St. Petersburg, we can go in town for dispensaries.”

Mayor Alan Johnson and Commissioner Terri Finnerty also approved the measure while Vice Mayor Melinda Pletcher was absent.

Two Transportation Options Presented

During a special workshop on May 22, Brad Miller, CEO of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) and Heather Sobush, the agency’s planning director, made a presentation providing average daily full-size trolley ridership analytics from February through June 2017, by bus stop, for all of St. Pete Beach and a three-day survey conducted December 7 through 9, 2017 for the Pass-a-Grille neighborhood located south of the Don CeSar hotel. They requested direction from commissioners regarding future service changes in Pass-a-Grille.

The PSTA presentation primarily focused on the looping route between the hotel and the 8th Avenue main business district area of Pass-a-Grille, which is between Gulf Boulevard-Pass-a-Grille Way to the east and Gulf Way to the west.

During the three-day survey that, according to Sobush, was conducted during cold weather that most likely lowered ridership numbers, the PSTA found 89 people used the service and of those, two-thirds used it to get to work while the remainder were traveling to access recreational activities. They found that a maximum of six people rode the trolley at any given time. Currently, the trolley service runs every 20 minutes, 17 hours a day at an annual cost of $257,000.

“I’ve been requesting for three years now, ridership numbers south of the Don by the time of day and I’m still not seeing that,” said Pletcher. “We don’t even have them by the day of the week. These are the type of analytics that would be nice for us to know in order to be making decisions.”

Pass-a-Grille roadways and adjacent areas have been undergoing construction for several years, which causes “intense navigation” issues for full-size trolleys, said Pletcher.

Change options discussed included using smaller 15-passenger public transit shuttles that are still accessible to people using walkers, wheelchairs and bicycles while being more maneuverable in congested areas and extending route timing from 20 minutes to every 30 minutes.

“We’ve had people auditing the stops as well trying to get analytics regarding how many people get on and off the trolley,” said Pletcher. “Our numbers are not in sync” with yours.

The PSTA agreed to provide additional data for commissioners to consider regarding daily ridership numbers by time of day in addition to the need for route frequency and the cost of smaller vehicle options for the loop especially during road construction projects.

In another presentation, Corey Hubbard covered the history, present day service and future for a waterborne mass transit solution in the Tampa Bay area. Hubbard represented the fourth generation in her family and their private business called Tampa Bay Ferry and Taxi.

“Waterborne vessels have been our passion since my grandfather, Captain Wilson Hubbard, started his business in 1930 just four miles down at the road at the age of 15,” she said. The Hubbard family also operates a marina in Madeira Beach located at John’s Pass Village and Boardwalk.

Her family’s vision for the current and future needs of waterfront communities in Pinellas and Manatee counties is a ferry service that will reduce area road congestion, be an economic development resource for municipalities and an income generator for everyone involved.

“Your partnership with us is essential for success,” she said. Developed in stages, a private ferry service could link Pass-a-Grill in St. Pete Beach to Gulfport, St. Petersburg’s downtown pier and Anna Maria Island in Manatee County in addition to other locations in northern Pinellas County along the Gulf of Mexico and intracoastal waterway.

In summarizing points made by all commissioners after Hubbard’s presentation, Johnson said, “We do have parking and traffic problems and there is no one solution to any of it. Buses help and this is another piece of it. It’s faster by ferry than car to go from Pass-a-Grille to Anna Maria. You are the right people to do this. We need to start looking at what we need to do for the next step.”

Parking Fees May Increase

During their regular meeting on May 22, commissioners unanimously approved on first reading an ordinance that would increase parking fees from $2.25 to $2.75 per hour. Commissioners also directed staff to prepare a separate ordinance that would raise parking violation fees. 

During their June 26 meeting, commissioners approved the parking meter rate changes on the second and final reading of the ordinance. The city plans to use the first $500,000 collected in fines to pay for beautification efforts like at certain intersections.

Parking violation fee increases were also discussed during the June 26 regular meeting and included the cost of overtime parking at meters going from $30 to $50 and parking on streets or lots restricted to residential permits changing from $40 to $60. The first reading of this ordinance was approved unanimously.

Egan Park Upgrades Approved

Following up on their August 22, 2017 authorization for a design concept by civil engineering and surveying firm George F. Young of St. Petersburg, commission members approved a multi-part upgrade plan for Egan Park during their June 12 meeting.

The .68-acre park is located at 9101 Blind Pass Road.

New amenities will include parking spaces for 13 boat trailers and 48 standard vehicles, a boat rinse station, a kayak staging space and a children’s play area.

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