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Key West raises parking fees at two popular tourist spots

This is what you need to know about the Florida Keys

The Florida Keys are famous for beaches, fishing and great weather. Here's what you need to know about one of the country's top tourism destination.
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The Florida Keys are famous for beaches, fishing and great weather. Here's what you need to know about one of the country's top tourism destination.

It will cost a little more to visit Key West if you want to watch the sunset at Mallory Square or walk along Smathers Beach.

The Key West City Commission in a 6-1 vote on Sept. 4 ended free parking near Smathers Beach on A1A, in the 1900 to 2600 blocks of South Roosevelt Boulevard, in an effort to increase revenue as budget season is wrapping up.

Commissioner Billy Wardlow, whose district includes the area, was the lone dissenter.

Commissioners also unanimously raised Mallory Square parking rates from $4 an hour, or $32 a day, to $5 an hour or $40 per day. Metered parking in much of the rest of Key West is $4 per hour. The lot has 100 spaces.

“This is not out of the range of market rate for this part of town,” said Parking Director John Wilkins.

The increase at Mallory, where tourists flock daily to watch the sunset and street performers, is estimated to generate $241,120 a year in additional revenue.

The $4 hourly rate at Mallory Square currently generates about $964,000 a year, city staff said.

Parking at Smathers Beach, however, has been free along A1A since 2012, when the commission ordered 107 single-space meters plucked from the sidewalk after getting complaints from residents. The rate had been a quarter per hour.

City staff says tourists will pay for the bulk of the new parking.

“We did a quick sample out there and found that about 75 percent of the cars using that area were not from this area,” said Wilkins.

The $4-per-hour rate will begin as soon as the city gets a state permit for the work and installs the pay stations.

Locals with residential stickers will get up to four hours per day for free.

The commission also approved creating metered parking in the 1500 block of Reynolds Street, and the 700 and 800 blocks of Seminole Street near the Casa Marina resort.

Locals will have to dig further into their pocketbooks for parking downtown, where marked “residential” spots require a yearly permit sticker created in 2014 for $10 per year. It will double to $20 this year.

The city will sell some 11,000 permits this year, staff said. The sticker allows residents to park for free for up to four hours per day at several parking lots downtown, including the Key West Historic Seaport and the Simonton Street fire station.

But commissioners stopped short of installing even more parking pay stations downtown. A proposal from the finance department to force drivers to pay for parking around the Monroe County Courthouse, including the residential Thomas Street, failed 4-3.

City staff said that decision means about a quarter of a million dollars in lost revenue and will require budget cuts.

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