City narrowly OKs higher parking fees for renters

Published: Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 10:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 10:00 p.m.

Renters in residential areas near the University of Florida campus will pay significantly more for parking permits.

On Thursday, the City Commission narrowly approved a plan to increase the cost for an annual on-street residential parking decal from $19.50 to $50 for apartments, rented houses and other non-homestead properties in most of the eight residential parking zones.

The fees for non-homestead properties in what commissioners deemed to be parking “constrained” districts, areas of primarily student housing where the number of issued permits far exceeds the available spaces, rose more significantly to $100

For homestead properties, where the property owner lives in the house, the cost essentially stayed the same — $20 a year with the option of $60 for a three-year permit.

Commissioners Susan Bottcher, Thomas Hawkins, Yvonne Hinson-Rawls and Lauren Poe voted for the increase. Mayor Craig Lowe and Commissioners Todd Chase and Randy Wells cast the dissenting votes.

Lowe said his opposition focused on the wide disparity in price between rental and homesteaded properties.

“I don't mean it in the fully-loaded sense of the word but it's discrimination without a rational basis,” he said.

Chase said “the only thing I guarantee you we are doing” is generating more revenue for the city.

The fee increase proposal came about because prior consultant studies said the $19.50 fee was not covering the administrative costs for the program and over concerns that non-residents were obtaining permits in neighborhoods near UF to avoid the higher costs — $150 annually for students — to park on campus.

A city staff report included printouts of a Facebook page and a Craigslist ad from students trying to buy a permit from someone with an address near campus.

John Fleming, who owns student apartment complexes near campus, told commissioners some student tenants would obtain and then sell off permits. Others, he said, would use the permit and give up their spaces in an apartment complex lot to friends who do not live there.

Some opponents of the increase described it as a money grab or discrimination against renters. Resident Jo Beaty said it should not be considered until UF students who might be affected return from summer break.

The $50 fee for rental properties would be for Zones 3,4,6,7 and 8, the portion of Zone 2 east of Northwest 13th Street, and any additional districts the city may establish in the future.

The $100 fee for non-homestead properties is for parking Zones 1 and 5 and the area of Zone 2 west of Northwest 13th Street.

Zones 1 and 5 are areas of primarily student housing that stretch south from University Avenue on the east side of Southwest 13th Street and include University Heights.

In Zone 1, there were 394 available spaces and 944 permits sold in 2011, according to staff. The area of Zone 2 west of Northwest 13th Street includes student rental homes in the College Park neighborhood.

Besides modifying some boundaries of existing zones and establishing a new Innovation District parking zone, the commission will also consider more money in next year's budget to fund three additional parking attendants as temporary workers on a one-year trial basis.

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