Concerns about illegal parking and overuse of the boat ramp on Harbor Drive behind Florida Keys Marathon International Airport may spur the Marathon City Council to increase parking fines and create a no-parking zone near the ramp.
"Not only do we have to deal with the parking issue, which is clearly a mess, but pursue ways of going about restricting the overuse of the ramp," Tom Wright, a nearby resident of the ramp, said at Tuesday's council meeting. "It really does clog up the neighborhood. With the rise in tourism that we're facing, it really is an imposition on the quality of life for the people who live in the neighborhood."
Although some solutions were proposed, no action was taken. Councilman Dan Zieg suggested having a workshop in the next month or so. From there, suggestions can be worked into a proposed ordinance to be reviewed by the Planning Commission and City Council.
"I think more public input is going to be needed for this," Zieg said. "We have to be proactive about this."
Some suggestions offered up Tuesday include making areas of Harbor Drive and Aviation Boulevard near the ramp tow-away zones, adding signs, increasing parking fines from $20 to $100 and requiring a permit to park near the ramp.
Zieg leans more toward permitting instead of increasing fines.
"There's no sense in changing it to $100. Most people don't the tickets anyway," he said. "We could restrict it to permit parking, allowing locals and out-of-towners to get a permit from City Hall."
Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay said signs stating parking violators near the ramp could be ticketed and towed should alleviate problems. He said similar solutions were taken at boat ramps on Key Haven and Shark Key in the Lower Keys, drastically reducing calls to those areas.
"If the city puts the signs up, we'll enforce it," Ramsay said.
But when it comes to permitting, the sheriff sees potential issues.
"If they are launching a boat, are you going to tell them to stop?" Ramsay asked the council. "Is there going to be a fine? Are you going to violate them?"
Ramsay said while his department will be able to enforce parking, he does not have the manpower to issue code violations. That would be left up to the city’s Code Compliance Department to figure out, he added.
"The truth is, when it comes to the boat ramp, there are not a whole lot of options," Mayor Mark Senmartin said. "We want to explore all of them though. The key is going to be enforcement. If the sheriff needs to stay on top of it, then that's what we'll do."