One of St. Augustine’s busiest intersections, the modified traffic circle at San Marco Avenue and May Street | Noah Hertz, Jacksonville Today

St. Augustine Commission kills parking rule update

Published on June 24, 2024 at 9:07 pm

St. Augustine’s city planners say it’s time to revitalize outdated parking laws, but the City Commission on Monday killed what would have been the biggest update to the parking code since 1988. 

Among the proposed changes were new rules that would have reduced — and in some areas eliminated — the number of parking spaces new businesses are required to build in St. Augustine. 

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St. Augustine Planning Director Amy Skinner says the changes would have meant fewer cars on the road and a bigger push for alternate mobility options. 

A handful of residents said they were worried it would actually keep more cars on the roads, promote denser development and chase out locals. 

“Don’t do it impulsively and prematurely,” one resident said, “because it will only increase traffic.” 

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Instead of discussing the changes, Mayor Nancy Sikes-Kline pumped the brakes.

“It’s better if we all just give it a breath,” she said at Monday’s meeting. 

Parking woes

St. Augustine has parking problems, and that’s something that residents for and against changing parking regulations agree on. 

The city’s planning staff has been hard at work on a remedy. 

“Basically, we realized that if we have an old parking code, to some extent it promotes bad habits,” Skinner told Jacksonville Today on Monday morning before the meeting. 

But the decision to postpone adopting new parking regulations came because City Commissioners felt it just wasn’t the right time. 

Vice Mayor Roxanne Horvath said it was the public’s response to the ordinance that led her to want to shelve the ordinance. 

“What I’m hearing from people,” she said, “is not that they’re not wanting to do it. It’s just that they don’t want to do it right now.”

Encouraging other modes of transportation is a good idea, she said, but until the city has a proper urban circulator and the parking garage planned on the Broudys property on West King Street is constructed, the changes could just inconvenience residents.

Economic development

Skinner and the city’s Planning and Zoning Board have been wanting to promote people parking their cars near downtown and walking, biking or catching a ride over. In addition to encouraging fewer cars to drive downtown, Skinner says, reducing the number of parking spaces businesses are required to build also promotes economic development.

It won’t be easy to rely less on cars, Skinner says, but it’s all part of moving toward the city’s vision for the future where the city streets are less covered in vehicles. 

“Hopefully it will help local small and local businesses, and make it more affordable to open a business and come into the city and keep a diverse economy,” she says. “For local businesses and small businesses, there’s a lot of startup expenses and parking is one of them.”

As written, the ordinance would have exempted several busy areas — notably the San Marco Avenue corridor — until the city could ensure there were enough alternative parking options other than in front of residents’ homes. 

“We are really hoping to relieve pressures for all different types of users who are trying to come downtown,” Skinner said. “Save historic structures so historic structures don’t need to be torn down to build parking lots.”

The next steps for the parking ordinance are now up to the City Commission, City Manager David Birchim told commissioners, and Mayor Nancy Sikes-Kline made clear that she wants to properly notify the public when the ordinance will return so residents are able to weigh in.

“Our residents have expressed their concern for the implications of the recommended updates, and it seems prudent at this time to hold off on making these kind of major changes all at once,” Sikes-Kline told Jacksonville Today. “When we see the upgrades and changes to parking alternatives and solutions, then perhaps we can revisit the ordinance.”

This story was updated June 25, 2024, with additional comments from the City Commission and a statement from the mayor.

author image Reporter email Noah Hertz is a Jacksonville Today reporter focusing on St. Johns County. From Central Florida, Noah got his start as an intern at WFSU, Tallahassee’s public radio station, and as a reporter at The Wakulla News. He went on to work for three years as a general assignment reporter and editor for The West Volusia Beacon in his hometown, DeLand.

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