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County Commission Gets Updates on Parking Garage Projects

Majority remain committed to controversial Holmes Beach garage


BRADENTON — On Monday, Manatee County Commissioners received staff presentations on four possible future parking garages, including a controversial proposal to erect a massive parking structure in the City of Holmes Beach where the current public beach parking lot is located.

The possible future parking garages discussed during the meeting included the structure intended to replace the county’s downtown parking garage which accompanies the government administrative building on Manatee Ave, another at the Premier Sports Complex in Lakewood Ranch, one at the Bradenton Area Convention Center in Palmetto, and one on Anna Maria Island.

According to details provided in the staff presentation slide show, the downtown parking garage options range from a structure that would comprise 12-26 levels. The levels could include not only parking floors, but also floors designated for office space, retail, or even a green space top floor.

The county’s downtown parking garage was found to need total replacement last year after an engineering inspection, and Acting County Administrator Charlie Bishop told commissioners on Monday that a recent structural report showed the current structure likely only has two years of life remaining without significant and costly investment into repairs that would only prolong the issues. 

Of the presented options, staff recommended commissioners consider an option that would include 1,156 parking spaces, roughly 19,500 square feet of office space, and 22,500 square feet of green space. The overall footprint of the garage would be larger than the one that exists today. The estimated cost to construct the new garage is estimated between $85M and $100M. The county commission has already budgeted $30M toward the project’s cost.

The estimated combined cost of the second and third parking garages exceeded $40 million.

The Premier Sports parking structure could range between 42,000 and 48,000 square feet when completed, bringing roughly 615 parking spaces to the campus. The estimated cost to construct the garage was said to be $22 million. The commission has no funding earmarked for the project.

Staff proposed that the Bradenton Area Convention Center parking garage could be constructed with a total footprint of 41,600 square feet. The facility would include 10, 350 square feet of retail space, and three parking levels offering 300 parking spaces total. The estimated cost of construction was stated as $20 million during the presentation. The commission has not yet set aside funds for the project. 

Holmes Beach

Details about the potential future Holmes Beach parking garage were lesser during the presentation, as staff explained that even the photo rendering included in the presentation was not specific to any actual design assessment or plans, but rather only “taken off the internet.”

The Holmes Beach parking garage presentation began in an unprecedented way, as the commission chairman’s aide provided a presentation timeline, running down a commission’s perspective on how the county had come to even be discussing a parking garage for the beach.

During public comments, multiple representatives of the City of Holmes Beach gave public comment pushing back on the narrative presented by Van Ostenbridge’s aide, including Mayor Judy Titsworth, the city’s attorney, Commission Chair and Vice Mayor Carol Soustek, and the city’s Chief of Police, William Tokajer.

When Chief of Police Tokajer’s comments ran over the three minutes generally allowed for the public, he requested additional time to finish his statements, but Van Ostenbridge denied the request while “thanking” him for his comments.

Mayor Titsworth invited commissioners to come and tour her island city on a busy weekend afternoon so they could have an accurate perspective of the number of parking spaces before deciding on building the garage. The mayor said city officials have received comments from residents who are overwhelmingly in opposition to the garage.

The possibilities for the structure included designated space for concessions, restrooms, locker rooms, retail space, and even a restaurant. The estimated cost was said to range between $30-$35 million, although it was not clear how the figure was calculated.

Staff was seeking the direction of commissioners during the meeting to move forward with the initial mapping and design to begin the lengthy process which would include a necessary stormwater study, environmental study, and traffic and lighting studies.

Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge, who infamously waged political war with Mayor Titsworth over beach parking shortly after he was elected in 2020, was “all-in” on the need for the county to move forward with the parking garage.

In the wake of the feud between the City of Holmes Beach and Van Ostenbridge, legislation was proposed by Rep. Will Robinson (R-Bradenton), whose district includes the island cities. Robinson had unanimous support from other members of the state delegation, including Sen. Jim Boyd (R-Bradenton), Sen. Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota), Rep. Mike Beltran (R-Manatee/Pinellas), and Rep. Tommy Gregory (R-Manatee). The bill—which gave Manatee County the authority to override the island city’s home rule and self-permit to build a parking garage on the county-owned property at Holmes Beach—was signed into law this June by the governor.

Commissioners Jason Bearden and James Satcher passionately backed Van Ostenbridge in full support of the county building an island garage, with Satcher saying the structure should be the county’s “top priority” among those presented on Monday.  

Commissioner George Kruse disagreed, calling such a project a waste of taxpayer money. Kruse argued that creating 600 additional parking spaces would do little to improve access to the beach and would not address traffic—which he said was the greater issue.  

“People move out here because they want to enjoy the lifestyle in Manatee County and they aren’t allowed to do that because they cannot find parking,” Commissioner Bearden alleged.

Bearden argued that investing tens of millions of dollars into a 600-space parking structure is an important priority because it would mean “planning for the future.”

Several residents of Holmes Beach also gave public comment on Monday, speaking against a possible parking garage. Residents expressed concerns over how the garage would irreversibly change what makes the island special, while not effectively creating any more space to accommodate visitors.

"There is no space, it is a seven-acre beach so you are going to have about thirty square feet per person when you are talking about having 5,000 people on this little beach," Bruce Myer, who lives in Holmes Beach, said.

Christopher Sutton, a local business owner in proximity to the proposed parking garage site, "It's a density issue. You're trying to put this massive parking garage with all those parking spaces on one central point of the island."

Sutton’s mother, owner of nearby Bamboo Beach Apartments/Vacation Rentals, offered a free weekend stay to any commissioners willing to take it so that they could come out to the island and see for themselves the number of people, beach attendance, and parking situation.

Kruse expressed his opposition not only to the county moving forward with the construction of a beachfront parking garage but also expressed frustration in the lack of proposed public-private partnerships to help offset the costs to taxpayers for the other three proposed garages.

“The facts are we don’t have money to build four parking garages,” said Kruse.

The total estimated for the construction of all four garages came to $172 million as of Monday’s presentation. Though a work session meeting is not an "action" meeting—and no votes were taken—the board majority gave direction to staff to move forward to the next phase on each of the four structures. 

To replay Monday's meeting presentations, commissioner discussion, and public comments, click the video below. 


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  • lib224

    I just want to note that were over 200 written comments submitted by citizens. 100% were in opposition to the parking ramp on Manatee Beach. The only way that this will be stopped is by replacing several commissioners.

    Wednesday, August 16, 2023 Report this

  • nellmcphillips

    Hard to believe this even got accomplished by the state Legislature going against home rule. The County Commissioners are clueless to traffic issues but wants to suit tourists with parking. You go BOCC after the dollar and then continuing to do foolish things. You all need to go and get a clue as to what the people need not what you want to fill your own pockets.

    Wednesday, August 16, 2023 Report this

  • sandy

    Hate to say this but Kruse made sense. The parking ramp on the beach is not a priority (as Beardon and Satcher said) but he ranked it about 20th behind Moccasin Wallow, the fly-over I-75 on 44th, the parking ramp downtown which right now only have 2 more years of life without putting a few million in it to extend it, other bridges in the county, etc. Contrary to what Beardon said about doing it for the future. All the other projects will also help in the future. Kruse better watch his back. He's been bucking Van Ostenbridge more often than not. Pedicini and the developers won't like that. Maybe that is why he hasn't declared candidacy yet.

    Wednesday, August 16, 2023 Report this

  • klmsinc

    This is no longer a skirmish to acquire or not to acquire a parking garage but it is all out citizens and a tax payers to have a say in the development of Manatee County. Look at the bureaucracy that is all in agreement on this. The politicians paid by taxpayers who at election time have different stories than they have now. Mayor Titsworth and not just a few prominent citizens are saying we don't want this and now that the representative and commissioners have all the backing of their colleagues and they have made them selves right in their own eyes thus making it right? REALLY? Commissioner Kruse - once again thank you!

    Now we on the real East County are comforted somewhat by this because for years we have heard all the lines, "attend more meetings", "write more letters", "you really need to incorporate"

    Well I contend that y'all have that in Holmes Beach and it ain't doin squat!

    I am ashamed of Rep. Will Robinson's attitude in this whole affair.

    It is seemingly getting to be no longer a skirmish but an all out county wide fight for causing "authority" to realize that they are answerable to the one's who provide them jobs.

    Thursday, August 17, 2023 Report this