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Manatee County's Island Parking Garage Myth


The district-switching County Commissioner, Kevin Van Ostenbridge, continues to pursue his ill-conceived parking garage plan by searching for funding through a public-private partnership. The county apparently has no available funding other than additional debt for this counterproductive plan. A Bill, CS/HB 781, recently signed by Governor DeSantis, allows for this option without the traditional Requests For Proposal and the competitive bidding process.  

Mr. Van Ostenbridge failed to realize that parking garages were disallowed for years prior to his threat to the Holmes Beach Commission, when he said; “there will be consequences” if you follow through. His blatant threat resulted in continued rejection of funding for legitimate projects by the  Tourist Development and County Commissions, all the while Holmes Beach has led the County in  City contributions for years with $40,000,000 in contributions and $141,200 in return in the past  12 years. 

The question is: will a garage add safe additional parking capacity and assist in traffic control  surrounding the public beach, when in fact excess parking exists as monitored on weekends and  holidays by our Chief of Police? The most recent count of beach parking in Holmes Beach totaled  803 spots, plus the potential of two nearby church lots. 


  1. On average, 100-220 unused parking spots exist at peak traffic periods. The City has clearly  marked all beach access streets, provided on-site signage, has created a QR code distributed  by Police Officers to identify all parking availability on the City’s website to hasten finding  availability and continues to provide FREE PARKING for all. The County has confirmed that a  garage will be PAID parking which will result in Holmes Beach and both other cities  considering converting all street beach parking to paid parking to counter over crowding on  it’s streets. Holmes Beach continues to resist paid parking and has no allowance for paid  parking in it’s Land Development Code.  
  2. City has an inter-local agreement with Manatee County requiring a minimum of 500 beach  parking spots, while we presently provide 775. City has agreed to amend the agreement by  increasing the language to the 775 spots. This agreement is necessary to qualify for County  beach re-nourishment funding. 
  3. The County has estimated the building project would require 2+ years to complete, eliminating  the approximate 425 existing spots on site during construction. Where would visitors find  those missing spots? My guess would be more remote spots. 
  4. City has negotiated permission with the two largest churches closest to the beach to allow  parking on their lots. Church of the Annunciation offers an additional 55 spots, only asking for  a donation. St. Bernard Catholic Church had agreed to consider and awaits contact from the  County Commission to specify their request. Their lot would add approximately 300+  additional spots.  
  5. The Public Beach in Holmes Beach appears to be beyond capacity at peak periods, what  would an additional 475 spots, adding an additional 1000+ people do for safety with only 1  life guard tower? By Comparison, Coquina Beach has 9 guard towers in Bradenton Beach to  the southern tip of Anna Maria Island. 
  6. H.B. 475, passed by the Legislature at the request of the County Commission, listed no conditions, such as stormwater engineering, environmental studies, or beach capacity studies, to properly evaluate the sustainability of a garage. For additional retribution, the bill eliminated any and all Holmes Beach involvement or ordinance compliance before groundbreaking. The current lot is permeable sand and soil, the garage will be concrete, where will the water drainage go during storms or surges? 
  7. Most importantly, a garage would be a band-aid as the real issue is TRAFFIC, not parking, and a garage would only exacerbate the congestion arriving and departing. A longer-term potential solution would include off-island parking with free public transit to the beach, accelerating travel by a center lane for emergency and mass transit vehicles only, and minimizing congestion on the causeway and new bridge. This, of course, involves planning and funding for said expansion, a concept rarely deployed by the current County Commission. With traffic backed up to 43rd St. on Manatee Ave on the weekends, what will the thousands of new homes already approved by the County result in five years from now? A funding source for off-island parking studies and acquisition of the land could be the millions of dollars from the  TDC bed tax, again contributed by visitors, significantly from Holmes Beach properties. 
  8. Think about this concept of public-private partnership, which is often successful in many communities.  However, who do you speculate would be a front runner for the project, perhaps Mr, Beruff and his associates, the principal financial backer of 5 of the 6 existing County  Commissioners? The private partner would be the beneficiary of a long-term income stream  and capable of setting the price per hour for all attempting to enjoy our remaining paradise.  Joni Mitchell had it right 60 years ago with her song “They paved paradise to put up a parking lot”. Think about the options and facts presented and consider expressing your beliefs in letter form to the County Commissioners and most importantly, VOTE. Manatee County is on the cusp of taking your FREE beach parking. Will that result in only the financially capable being able to access the beaches? VOTE…..

Terry Schaefer was elected to the Holmes Beach City Commission in November 2019 and re-elected in 2021 and 2023. He currently serves as chair/vice mayor.


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  • Libby23

    As usual, well said, Commissioner Schaefer. The additional point worth making is that this isn’t a parking garage per se; it’s a vendetta. KVO’s gotta go!!!!

    Sunday, June 9 Report this

  • san.gander

    No parking garage should be built on Anna Maria Island. Clearly, it would be lovely if all could use the beach, but that is not feaseable. Those who now live there, lucky dogs, know adding more, and more, and more, capacity for residents, vacationers, etc. would destroy their lifestyle... that some have paid dearly for. Osterbridge, for his own reasons, money, revenge? on neighbors who don't want him representing them anymore... could care less. Build parking garages, flood the beaches with visitors... let businesses rake in some more dollars - destroy the ambience, the life style of those who actually call the island home. Wreck the West Coast of Florida make it just like the East Coast ... high rise canyons to get to the beaches!

    Sunday, June 9 Report this