BY MARCY SHORTUSE - Parking on the Gilchrist Avenue has been a mixed blessing for the Boca Grande Community. While it is necessary to accommodate the large gatherings that are held at the Gasparilla Inn Beach Club, at the churches and even at downtown events, it has been a bone of contention for those that live on the street. Now, a group of residents have formed a committee to try and see if changes can be made.
According to Randy Cerchie, public operations manager with the Lee County Department of Transportation, a group of Boca Grande residents came to his office within the last few weeks with a new landscaping and parking plan. They said they believed they had community consensus, and that they would be happy to implement the plan with DOT’s blessing.
“They came in with a parking scheme, and some landscaping stuff,” Cerchie said. “They didn’t leave the plans with me for review, but I think it involved parallel parking along the median on Gilchrist Avenue. Instead of pulling onto the grass median, this plan reflected some landscaping in the median strip, with parallel parking against the median. Before they went any further I asked if they had community consensus. Because we need that.”
Cerchie said he was unaware there was opposition to the plan until Lee County Commissioner John Manning’s office called him.
According to Nan Gonzalez, Manning’s assistant, the group of residents did not come to the commissioner at any time, but went straight to Lee County DOT.
“The last time they came in, I think it was around the holidays, they met with DOT,” Gonzalez said. “I started getting phone called after that, specifically from the churches in Boca Grande. They were not happy. Other people from the community contacted us as well. We weren’t sure what they were talking about until we talked to the Department of Transportation.”
Gonzales said when she called the DOT office, Cerchie told her that the Gilchrist group had approached them already. Because DOT hadn’t gotten any of the negative phone calls that Gonzalez had received, they were considering going ahead with a public hearing on the island about the issue.
“Then DOT came back and said there definitely appeared to not be public consensus,” Gonzalez said. “So at this point, no public hearing will be held until there is public consensus. The last I heard, this group was working on a new plan.”
Gonzalez also mentioned the fact that beach access parking might be brought back into the mix.
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