Gulfport’s City Council kicked off 2017 with a spirited debate on the perennial issue of parking on Tuesday, January 3. By a vote of three to two council members rejected a resolution that would have eliminated about four parking spaces to benefit residents of a specific street but which opponents felt would best be dealt with by addressing the larger issue of parking shortages generated by Gulfport’s rising popularity.
During a sparsely attended meeting that concluded after an hour and five minutes, council quickly dispatched most of the housekeeping issues on its agenda. It was the resolution requesting to only allow parking for residential lots on the south side of Delette Avenue between 54th Street and Beach Boulevard, which would have eliminated four or five parking spaces on the north side of the street, that drew the most attention.
The block of Delette Avenue in question comprises 11 lots – nine residential and two commercial, including Pia’s Trattoria -– and is often used by city visitors to park their vehicles. It is the narrowest in the waterfront area – 16 feet wide versus 17 feet.
City Manager Jim O’Reilly told council the Gulfport Police Department had examined the issue and considered several options.
“We do acknowledge the value of parking,” he said. “This was the least intrusive we could recommend.”
Councilmember Christine Brown, who introduced the resolution at the request of several of the street’s residents, said continuing to allow parking on both sides might create a situation in which the avenue would be too congested to allow access by emergency vehicles.
“It’s time that we address it from a public safety standpoint,” she said.
Resident Dan Bucchioni described to the council how motorists often park willy nilly on the avenue, blocking access by the U.S. Postal Service and making it hard for residents to access their homes.
“Four spots is a modest investment,” he said. “And while we’re at it, speed bumps would be nice too.”
Opponents noted that parking is a chronic problem created by Gulfport’s increased popularity and that the issue belonged in a larger discussion of parking in general and what the city wants to see at its overall character.
“I’d rather address it via enforcement than start down the road of taking away parking spaces,” Mayor Sam Henderson said.
After exploring various alternatives, council rejected a motion by member Dan Liedke to table the discussion pending more research by the City Manager on options like widening the street and limiting parking to compact cars, and went ahead with the vote. Henderson, Liedke and Vice Mayor Michael Fridovich voted against the resolution and Brown and Councilmember Yolanda Roman voted in favor.
Among other things council also:
– Announced that the winners of the city holiday decoration contest were Kim and Jackie Overstreet for the general theme and Smokin’ J’s BBQ for the commercial theme;
– Agreed to table a resolution supporting equal rights for members of the LGBT community under Florida law pending updates by the city attorney incorporating suggestions from several council members; and
– Approved a resolution authorizing the mayor to sign an application to the National League of Cities to consider the Gulfport Public Library’s LGBTQ Special Collection and Resource Center for the City Cultural Diversity Award.
– Agreed to have the city manager draft a budget amendment that would allow the placing of colorful banners promoting the city of Gulfport in areas outside the waterfront district such as 49th, 58th and 64th streets.
Overheard at the January 3 Gulfport City Council Meeting
“We’re asking for a 25-pound weight restriction and signage to reinforce that.” – Resident Susan Ray in her request to change the guidelines for dogs allowed to play in the small-dog area at the Gulfport dog park.
“I would also like to invite council to the official opening of the marina.” – City Manager Jim O’Reilly inviting members to a ceremony to formally inaugurate the new facility for overnight boaters at 5 p.m. Tuesday January 17, before their regular council meeting.
“I’m shocked that there’s still this going on. … It’s a generational thing. The kids today just love everybody.” – Councilmember Christine Brown, who is also a high school teacher, expressing dismay at discrimination against members of the LGBT community and highlighting the inclusiveness she sees among her students.
“We’re pretty clear on that.” – O’Reilly, responding to a question by Councilmember Yolanda Roman on guidelines for medical marijuana dispensaries potentially interested in opening in Gulfport, said zoning laws would determine if and where any could set up shop.