Put the Parking Costs Where the Profits Are

By Suanne Thamm

Dear Commissioners:

It seems to me that most of the complaints about downtown parking adequacy come from those who are engaged in money-making ventures downtown:

Retail shops. It has long been established that employees of these businesses account for the short supply of close-in parking spaces. Despite many suggestions made by the city and city commissions over the years, this situation has not changed.

River cruise and charter boat fishing businesses. Another long-term complaint is that patrons of these businesses take up parking spaces for long periods of time, thereby depriving the normal flow of shoppers and diners of close-in spaces.

Visitors who frequent our downtown to dine or shop don’t seem to have the complaints that our locals do. Probably because they can’t believe that there are so many parking spaces downtown and they are all free. I would also respectfully suggest that local residents have little need to shop in a downtown that seems more geared to the desires of visitors rather than to locals. For example, there is no grocery store, drug store or laundry downtown, while there are plenty of boutique shops for clothing, jewelry and the like.

Somehow, the provision of parking spaces to aid commercial interests has, by default, become the job of the city, not the people who make a living downtown. In other communities, downtown businesses provide the parking lots, spaces and garages to benefit their patrons. But that idea doesn’t seem to have any appeal locally. Valet parking is another way to mitigate congestion in densely populated commercial areas. But not here. Off-site parking served by shuttle service also works in some places. But not here. It seems as if everyone turns to the city and the taxpayers to solve this problem. And yet to propose paid downtown parking is to invite the usual complaints from the usual complainers.

Is there a solution? There could be, if the parties could come together on some public/private parking deal — which seems highly unlikely. In the meantime, I would encourage the city to lower the current street parking limit to 2 hours from the existing 3, impose the same limit in city parking lots, and enforce the limit with fines. The one exception I would allow is the lot on N. Second and Broome, which could be left unlimited for retail and restaurant workers.

Everyone — me included — touts the “home town ambience” of Fernandina Beach. A beautiful waterfront clogged with parking lots and a possible parking garage is not consistent with that vision. Public money used to benefit private businesses should give us all pause.


Suanne Thamm

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Mark Tomes
Active Member
Mark Tomes(@mtomes)
23 days ago

The City and County could go together on an island-wide shuttle service. It would alleviate traffic, pollution, parking problems, and would help those who need it most.

Active Member
23 days ago

Lowering parking to 2 hours will not help when three hour parking is not enforced. The prior police chief created a downtown officer job and officers spent all day walking around downtown. The new chief did away with the dedicated downtown job and created the community officer/Facebook job.

Noble Member
23 days ago

Enforce the 3 hour parking please. Let’s start doing what we know works.

Active Member
23 days ago
Reply to  Bob

As a vacation destination, enforcement of 3 hour parking would not support our culture of Southern hospitality. Having enforcers monitoring the streets and hassling visitors whose time had expired while they were visiting and supporting our local small businesses wouldn’t enhance their Amelia Island experience. Such bad experiences travel quickly to other tourists. Just saying, we need to stop trying to kill the goose laying the golden eggs.

23 days ago

The author of this article sounds very accusatory of the people who run and work in the shops, restaurants and at the docks. Please remember if we do not have workers we do not have shops, restaurants and thriving docks. The solution has to work for ALL of the People that suffer from the issue. I agree with Bob, let’s try enforcing the parking laws on the books first and go from there before adding more laws, regulations or restrictions. And remember the Employees need areas to park where they can leave their cars 8-10hrs so they don’t have to worry about getting tickets or getting towed or having to move their cars while they are working. Maybe an Employee of downtown Parking area by permit only sort of situation or just let them park in any area with a permit, no fee just have to show proof of employment downtown or store ownership since we do NOT want to DE-incentivize people from running or working in shops, restaurants or at the docks!

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