SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — Island city officials had a plan two years ago to install high-tech parking meters on Gulf Boulevard that would have charged $10 a day and accepted credit or debit cards.
The meters would have used wireless technology to alert police or code enforcement workers of parking violations.
But officials quickly backed off that idea in the face of outcry from residents who said it didn’t make economic sense and would have hurt tourism.
So officials are now looking to the public for ideas on addressing parking problems. They have called for a public hearing July 10 to gather public opinion on parking issues.
Parking problems are most prevalent along Gulf Boulevard, especially during summer vacation season, when tourists, Island property owners and day visitors from the Rio Grande Valley jostle for the limited number of street-side parking spots.
“The meeting on July 10 is just going to be a public hearing to get feedback on paid parking on Gulf Boulevard, that’s basically it,” Mayor Robert Pinkerton said.
“There is really no plan on the table right now. We’ve looked at some stuff, but it doesn’t appear to work,” he said. “Our public works director attended a big conference on parking and came back with some good ideas, but we want to hear from the public before we proceed any further.”
City officials rejected the August 2011 plan to install automated meters on Gulf Boulevard after it met with a backlash from the public.
Under the proposal, 90 percent of the profits would have been kept by a company that would have provided and maintained parking meters, Pinkerton said.
But Pinkerton said charging for parking would have been a “beach access fee” and state law would have required most of that money to go into beach access improvements such as “walkovers” — wooden structures that make crossing loose sand easier — and which protect native plants.
Detractors said the meters would not help the situation and that parking shortage and traffic jams occur only during Spring Break, major holiday weekends and other peak times.
Rob Nixon, chairman of the South Texas Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, a national organization, said a portion of proceeds from parking meters are supposed to be used for beach improvements, but the plan was unlikely to provide any funds for beaches.
A plan instituted last year restricting parking on side streets is still in effect, the mayor said. “People are still getting ticketed,” he said.
Officials said people who own beach homes can get permits for their own cars to park on their side streets and, if they are planning a gathering, can get permits for guests.
It is currently possible for anyone owning a vacant lot to get a city permit to operate a parking lot, the mayor said. But no one has actually applied for such a permit, he said.
Meanwhile, the city is moving forward with plans to improve city streets. The city has received a $150,000 Texas General Land Office grant — which requires a 100 percent match from the city — that will be used to widen streets, build sidewalks and stripe either parallel or angle parking, city Coastal Resources Manager Ruben Treviño said.
That work will begin in the fall, he said.
Public Works Director Marcy Newman said a Texas General Land Office official will give a short presentation at the July 10 meeting.
Creating more pedestrian walkways and bike lanes is planned, she said.
“We want to improve pedestrian safety, bike safety and vehicle safety,” she said.
The July 10 hearing will be held at 5:30 p.m. in the South Padre Island City Council chambers, 4601 Padre Blvd.
Written comments submitted after the public hearing must be hand-delivered or postmarked on or before 3 p.m. July 24, city officials said.
Written comments can be submitted to:
Marcy Newman, P.E.
Public Works Director
4601 Padre Blvd.
South Padre Island, Texas 78597