Destin considers pay-to-park at Zerbe St. lot

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TONY JUDNICH @Tonyjnwfdn

DESTIN — The City Council on Monday agreed that it needs more information before it can decide whether to finalize and open the city’s planned Zerbe Street pay-to-park parking lot.

In a recent memo to City Manager Carisse LeJeune, city Public Services Director David Campbell said staff planned to install pay-to-park regulatory and informational signs this week at the 51-space lot, which is on the northeast corner of Zerbe Street and Sibert Avenue and behind McGuire’s Irish Pub.

Currently, drivers can park in the lot for free.

Destin officials recently paid almost $8,000 for the installation of wheel stops, parking space numbering and additional gravel at the lot, and they later might partner with a private investor to build a parking garage there.

Council members Parker Destin and Chatham Morgan, however, expressed concerns on Monday that some drivers would avoid the planned pay-to-park lot and park in nearby neighborhoods and next to the adjacent Destin Community Center instead.

Destin said some members of the public who share such concerns were unable to attend Monday’s meeting. His fellow council members agreed with his motion to continue discussing the item at the council’s March 19 session.

Councilman Tuffy Dixon did not attend Monday’s meeting.

Last May, city officials began a pay-to-park pilot program at the 146-space Marler Street lot. The charge is $1 for the first hour and 50 cents for each additional hour.

Through Monday, the Marler Street lot had generated $8,543.50, city spokesman Doug Rainer said. That money covered the cost of the recent work at the Zerbe Street lot, he said.

But issues tied to the planned pay-to-park Zerbe Street parking lot, as well as a potential parking garage there, need a lot more discussion, Morgan said.

“I’m all for charging for parking, especially to parlay it into parking improvements,” he said. “But Mr. Destin does have a very valid concern that this would make that right-of-way problem on Sibert and on Calhoun (avenues) that much worse. Before we go forward with this, I would be more comfortable if we had an idea on enforcement, and how we are going to keep these folks from making the right-of-way problem worse.”

At the pay-to-park Marler Street parking lot, users can pay with the Passport Parking app on their smartphone, by using the app’s website or by calling the number on the signs at the parking lot. Each violator receives a $30 ticket.

Through Monday, a total of 12 people had been ticketed for not paying to park at the Marler Street lot, Rainer said.

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