FORT MYERS, Fla. — With the upcoming city budget, officials with the city of Fort Myers are considering increasing the parking rate for downtown Fort Myers.
This will include garage parking and the price of the parking meters.
"That's very steep to do that," said Kelly Venticinque, a resident of Fort Myers.
Venticinque recently moved to Fort Myers from Chicago because she said Chicago had become too expensive. After hearing about the parking rate increase, she said she doesn't understand the need for it.
"Paychecks aren't going as far as they used to and I don't see a reason for it," Venticinque said.
Mayor Pro Tempore and Councilman Liston Bochette, who represents downtown, said part of the reason for the increase is because the current rates are too low for a population size of Fort Myers.
"Our parking rate for a meter is $0.25. Across the state, it's $1.00 or $2.00. Even in Miami, it's $7.00. We've got to get them back up to pay for some of those expenses," Bochette said.
Those expenses include sewers, stormwater, and maintenance for the city as well as roads.
Meters aren't the only changes. Some other ideas include:
- Increasing nighttime flat-rate parking from $4 to $5.
- Increasing monthly parking from $55 to $75
- Extending Parking enforcement later than 5 pm during the week and adding parking enforcement on Saturdays.
Councilman Bochette said this is coming at a time when the city doesn't have a choice, especially with the city growing.
"We want to drive more people into the parking garage and less people from taking up the street, parking for extended periods of time," said Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson. "You want the street parking to be flipping over."
Another concern on the city's radar is a recent rise in violence in the downtown district, including fights and shootings.
"Raising those rates and enforcing those rates may discourage some of the riff-raff from coming downtown," said one city official in the city's budget workshop last Monday.
Fox 4'a Briana Brownlee asked Mayor Anderson if he agreed with the statement.
"I actually agree that is a good strategy," said the mayor. "But what I think needs to be done for it to be effective is to do it later in the night," Mayor Anderson said.
"I don't agree with that," said Ventincique." Everyone thinks that when you have rate increases it would be better, but it doesn't. I know wonderful neighborhoods where [fees have] gotten more expensive and 'riff-raff' still happens."
The parking rate increase is part of the city's upcoming budget. Next Thursday, Sept. 8, there will be a public hearing where the community can give their opinions.