PALMETTO, Fla. — The parking situation is set to worsen at the City of Palmetto boat ramp if it remains a trendy destination for boaters on weekends.
The looming closure of an overflow parking lot on Riverside Drive now has some in Manatee County concerned about being able to access the Manatee River from there with their vessel.
A fishing event has the parking lot at the boat ramp closed off to the public this weekend. On such occasions, including on regular weekends, several boaters use the nearly 4-acre overflow lot right across the street.
"We rent out JetSkis and stuff like that so we're here quite often," Joshua Smith, a boat and jetski owner, said.
The undeveloped lot can accommodate up to 100 vehicles. But soon that option will no longer be available once the city closes it off to make way for development. That new plan would lend to further compound the ongoing parking woes for users of the boat ramp.
"It's a hard situation but if you take out the parking, you basically take the boat ramp away because there's nowhere to go with your truck and trailer," Smith said. "At that point it's concerning and there's nothing else close, so I'm not sure where else to go."
The mayor of Palmetto said the lot was never intended for parking in the first place and keeping the property undeveloped as an overflow parking lot was not an option because the city has pressing needs and priorities.
"There are people that need affordable housing," Mayor Shirley Groover said. "People need some low-income housing and we would be derelict to not meet our obligations, and provide that for this local area."
A developer is proposing a seven-story apartment complex with restaurants and retail spaces to serve that purpose. The mixed-use development would also include nearly two dozen parking spaces to fit trailers for boat ramp patrons.
It's a plan which the mayor said meets Palemetto's Community Redevelopment Agency's goals.
"It's always been in the plan that that would be for redevelopment. That's what CRA does," Bryant said. "That's their whole initiative and a property such as this has so much value as far as redevelopment."
Smith said the need for jobs and providing affordable housing far outweigh keeping the lot as a parking lot. However, he adds that there ought to be a middle ground because of how popular the boat ramp is in the area.
"I understand both sides of it, but you might as well eliminate the boat ramp and put something useful there if you're going to eliminate the parking because parking is everything," he said. "I run a business out of here and we take the boat out of here, so yeah we would like it to stay."
The city plans to fence off the lot sometime next week. In the meantime, some residents have called for a meeting with the developer to discuss the issue.