Parking meters downtown could net Delray $3 million a year

Delray Beach wants to nix free parking and add meters to its 3,000-plus city-owned spots downtown. (Melanie Bell / The Palm Beach Post)

 

DELRAY BEACH — A plan to place parking meters at more than 2,000 free spots in downtown Delray Beach could net the city more than $3.15 million a year.

City leaders are mulling over the adding smart meters, which would charge a fluctuating rate based on location and demand, a concept called “surge pricing”.

The city commission heard a brief pitch Thursday to place the meters downtown, but the lengthy discussion that was anticipated was pushed to a later date.

» READ: Shhhh! Five secret (and free) places to park in downtown Delray Beach

If the city opts for the lowest rates,  it’s expected to net $894,000 per year, assistant city manager Karen Gardner-Young said. If it charges the highest rates, the city is projected to make $3.15 million per year.

The specific rates per hour weren’t shared, and commissioners made no decisions.

The cost of street parking along Atlantic Avenue between Swinton Avenue and the Intracoastal — downtown’s busiest stretch — would cost the most. Prices would likely drop the further visitors park from Atlantic Avenue.

Parking along Atlantic Avenue west of Swinton Avenue  likely would remain free, Gardner-Young said.

“We want to encourage development there,” she said.

The city owns 3,277 parking spots in downtown, 727 of which are inside two parking garages.

The parking garages currently charge a $5 flat fee after 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Seven-hundred spots along the beach are already metered, but would become smart meters with charges that fluctuate based on time of day.

The remaining spots in downtown are currently free for 8- or 2-hour parking.

More than 400 parking spots sit west of Swinton Avenue, many of them at the Delray Beach Public Library and City Hall. They are rarely used, a city parking study notes.

On Friday and Saturday nights during season, Atlantic Avenue parking is almost always filled the parking study reports. City leaders want to encourage more turnover there.

Other cities in Palm Beach County charge up to $3 per hour for parking, said , assistant city manager Dale Sugarman.

But the city won’t shy away from hiking that price to more than $3 for Atlantic Avenue, Commissioner Shelly Petrolia said at a June meeting.

City commissioners budgeted about $3.7 million to buy smart meters, license plate readers and a smartphone application needed for the parking plan.

Florida’s Turnpike to grow from 6 to 10 lanes, add express lanes in south PBC

Florida’s Turnpike after express lanes and widening. (FDOT)

BOCA RATON — As use of Florida’s Turnpike grows, as will its lanes from six to 10 between Glades Road and Boynton Beach Boulevard with the addition of express lanes, residents of southwestern Palm Beach County learned Monday evening.

The Alliance of Delray Beach, an association of residents west of Delray and Boca Raton, was presented the long-term plans to expand the Turnpike by Florida Department of Transportation officials at a meeting Monday. More than two dozen residents attended the meeting, many of whom shared concerns about added traffic noise as a result of the highway’s expansion.

By 2023, construction will likely begin on expanding the lanes from six to 10 between Glades Road and Atlantic Avenue, said Michael Shannon, the department’s director of transportation development.

» RELATED: What do turnpike express lanes have to do with bicycles and sidewalks?

Construction on Atlantic Avenue to Boynton Beach Boulevard won’t start for at least the next five years.

To avoid a gas line just east of Florida’s Turnpike, the lanes will shift and additional lanes will be added west, Shannon said.

Two center express lanes will be added in both the south and northbound directions between Glades and Atlantic, similar to the express lanes in place on Interstate 95.  With the planned addition of express lanes on Florida’s Turnpike, Florida will be the first state in the U.S. to enact an additional toll on top of an existing one.

While residents were assured the heavy daily traffic flow on the highway meant necessary expansion, many shared worries of added traffic noise.

“It’s loud there now,” said Cherie Gross, a realtor west of Delray Beach.

» READ: 7 things to know about the I-95 express lanes planned for Palm Beach County

A noise analysis will be performed within a year or two to determine the expansion’s effect on neighboring communities, FDOT officials said. The department is exploring the potential for noise walls, concrete barriers between the highway and communities that would absorb and reflect some of the noise.

“If you want to sit outside on your patio, (the noise) becomes a problem,” said Michele Fingerman, a resident of the Addison Reserve community just east of Florida’s Turnpike.

Noise barriers, however, have their limitation, Shannon said. The noise is often decreased in homes immediately adjacent to the highway, but bounces over to homes farther away from the highway.

“Noise walls are more of a perception benefit than an actual benefit,” Shannon said.

 

County group pushing for nude beach organizes coastal cleanup

The north end of Gulfstream Park, a county-owned beach between the coastal towns of Briny Breezes and Gulf Stream. (Photo by Lulu Ramadan/Palm Beach Post)

A group advocating for a nude beach in southern Palm Beach County held a coastal cleanup on Saturday at the park it hopes to free from the constraints of clothing.

About 35 members of nonprofit Palm Beach Naturists collected everything from cigarette butts to beer cans and bottle tops to plastic bags at Gulfstream Park, which sits between the towns of Briny Breezes and Gulf Stream.

The Palm Beach Naturists, led by resident Karl Dickey, is pushing the Palm Beach County commission to designate a portion of the county-owned beach clothing optional.

“We look forward soon to a day where naturists will be able to take care of a clothing-optional beach here in the county,” Dickey said of the coastal cleanup. “It is also important for the public to understand we are strong stewards of the beaches we visit.”

» READ: FBI search condo of Delray woman reported lost at sea

The Palm Beach Naturists, which Dickey says has 500 members, sent a letter to the county commission in May requesting to designate the north end of 6-acre Gulfstream Park clothing-optional. It would be the only nude beach in Palm Beach County.

While the group awaits a response from the county, it plans continue coastal cleanups, Dickey said.

“Naturists want clean and safe beaches and though the county does a fabulous job, it is important that volunteers like Palm Beach Naturists come out to help,” he said. “Our beaches are a precious natural resource for recreation and relaxation as well as a scenic treat for tourists.”

The nude beach proposal sparked mixed reactions from local businesses and beach-goers when it was first brought forward in May.

The closest nude beaches to Palm Beach County are Haulover Beach, at the north end of Miami-Dade County, and Blind Creek Beach in Fort Pierce, both at least an hour’s drive from Gulfstream.

The county’s parks and recreation department would have to evaluate the request and recommend it to the county commission, Commissioner Steven Abrams said in May.

While it would become the only nude beach in the county, it wouldn’t be the first.

Back in the 1970s, what is now MacArthur State Park in North Palm Beach was, though unofficially, a clothing-optional beach.

A 2-mile stretch of coastline belonging to insurance billionaire John D. MacArthur had a reputation as one of the nation’s largest nude beaches.