I can't say when I had ever seen quite so much applause in a City Commission Meeting. After the presentation there was a thunderous applause in a packed Commission chambers for a solid minute.
Of course I am getting ahead of myself...
The place was packed because there was so much to talk about. There has been a petition circulated around the neighborhood asking for more police presence in the Central South portion of my city, and we could use it. Too many crimes within a week, all caused by a wolf-pack of teenagers that have found that since they get picked up and released they basically can get away with it.
There has been the change of the Parking Meters up and down the Drive. While that is connected to the Main Street Plan, this is not a direct connection. The plan is still in flux as they discuss the details, and as we all know, the Devil is in the Details. Personally I strongly believe that there should be a pass given to any Wilton Manors Resident (Show Driver's License) for free parking at any meter. Place Sticker in window and you are home free. I don't believe that any resident should have to pay a red cent for this sticker either. We have to put up with influx and outflow of tourists every day, a raceway through our neighborhood, and the added "benefit" of hearing bars like The Mix have their rather frightening mix of Karaoke and Piano Bar music on the air two blocks away.
That having been said, the presentation went down extremely well. The chambers were packed with people to discuss the Parking situation from all sides and the lights were dimmed. The basic point of the plan was a Phased Approach to take back the Drive from the people who use it as a thoroughfare to go elsewhere. You can't do it all at once, but the idea was to first reclaim the Drive from the State of Florida and make it a City Street. That has a cost associated with it which is the amount that you will have to pay to keep the thing up. There will be a cost of $137,000 (round numbers) to actually do the first phase.
That was the set up and the Cons. What about the Pros?
First off, we slow people down and encourage those people who want to come to the city to actually come here. You can't find parking past about 10PM on a Bar Night (Thursday Nights especially) and the streets here are plugged up with out of towners running around looking for an open spot. It has been this way since 1997 when I started coming to Wilton Manors and is actually a measure of our success. People like us and want to come here.
Second, when we stripe the drive, we almost double (135 before and 115 added - again round numbers) the parking inventory. Now with Doubled Parking for a third the price of the existing plan of demolition of Old City Hall and paving it over with Parking Spaces. If you want to add another approximately 115 parking spaces at 400,000 you can do so, but personally I feel the best way to approach this is to Stripe the Drive, Demolish City Hall, Meter the Drive, and put grass and trees on the old City Hall site for the interim with the option of paving the Old City Hall site around those trees at a later date.
Third if the Parking on the Drive is Wildly Popular at night, like we all expect it to be, we will have the funding source to actually reclaim the median strips and plant trees and flowers down the strip.
Fourth there is the funding. Repeat after me, and do so every time someone questions why we want to do this: "The Plan Funds Itself With A Surplus". First year costs are always higher, but even the first year had a surplus. Three years the surplus was 1.6 Million Dollars. Roughly. What can a small city do with 1.6 Million Dollars? Simply put, excluding the addition of a lot on the old City Hall site, it comes very close to funding the entire project after about 4 or 5 years. That would be if it isn't seen as a cash cow to fund other discretionary programs.
The Wilton Manors Main Street Plan will Stripe the Drive. After that, it will reclaim the Medians, allow us to plant the medians, and finally it will allow us to have trees and shade as well as safety. This is one of those rare things that will actually allow us to have our cake and eat it too. It doubles our parking inventory, funds not just that parking effort but improvements in the future, and after five years the money coming in is "gravy" and allows us to further proceed with other plans.
Main Street have used the most conservative numbers when figuring out this plan. The Plan actually uses the most conservative estimates that have been used in the discussions by Lanier when they were proposing to the City that they would be our Parking Authority Consultant. "Your Mileage May Vary" but The Word On the Street says that we could actually expect the Plan to fund more than the numbers that we had come up with.
Yes, more than 1.6 Million Dollars. Quite a lot of money for a small city like Wilton Manors.
All we have to do is enact it.