Paving Paradise?

Paving Paradise?

Workshop

Thursday, June 1

5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Waterfront Brewery

Something of this magnitude, has to have community input.” — Key West Commissioner Sam Kaufman.

Commission considers garages, traffic in Old Town

 

It seems rather antithetical to the city’s mission to go “Car Free” and then potentially build parking garages in Old Town. The new Car Free media campaign encourages visitors and residents alike to ride bicycles and use the new Duval Loop bus to discourage driving in old town. But Key West City Commissioner Richard Payne is citing three traffic studies recommending more off-street parking to ease the congested streets.

“I don’t think we will ever be ‘car free.’ The campaign will never be successful. Just not gonna happen,” said Payne on Wednesday. On the same day he pulled a resolution to approve two new garages at 609 Greene Street and 616 Simonton Street from the June 6 commission agenda. Instead, Payne is planning a public workshop to discuss the issue. “There are a lot of misconceptions out there and we need to make intelligent decisions,” said Payne.

“I have a lot of concerns about spending $8 million dollars on a garage before seeing how ride sharing effects the city and giving the Car Free campaign a chance,” said Commissioner Sam Kaufman. He said he has received dozens of emails against parking structures and cannot recall one in favor. Instead, Kaufman said he would like to prioritize infrastructure funds for immediate concerns like affordable housing or repairing existing roads.

Payne said he does not believe ride sharing, expected to be approved on July 1 statewide, would ease congestion. He said it would be “a termite’s delight” to have ride share vehicles circling city streets waiting to pick up passengers. “I am philosophically against enterprise that provides a public service. Everyone is relying on this to be a magic elixir,” he said. Payne says garages will provide people of New Town, his district, parking in Old Town.

The proposed four-story garage at 609 Greene Street has prompted local businesses to launch Facebook campaigns against it. The Conch Republic Seafood Company is handing out information packets that explains the garage would add 250 parking spaces, but would eliminate spaces for nine existing businesses including the historic fishing industry and Reef Relief. Public concern also laments the loss of the view of the historic harbor. Also, the Bight Board has voted against a garage at the harbor.

Payne in response says, “It’s a scare tactic. Businesses would profit and everyone would be accommodated. We can’t preserve what is gone.”

Since the removal of the items from the agenda, Kaufman has adjusted the focus of the Thursday workshop; he wants to discuss OVERALL traffic concerns. “But I don’t want to waste 12 hours in a workshop on garages that may ultimately be voted against, and still doesn’t fix our problems.”

 

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