Valet parking might be a way of life in many corners of the country, but an increasing number of island restaurants have begun offering the service to their patrons, particularly during season.
That prompted Sanibel Planning Department to study how valet parking is addressed in other communities and bring a draft of options before the Plan Commission on Tuesday. Planning director James Jordan said the current land development code does not address valet parking as a permitted use specifically nor related signage requirements.
"I think we need to address the signage issue and try to educate people with a uniform set of standards they should follow," said Jordan. "We intend to guide, not restrict, businesses from providing valet services. It may actually help them better manage parking on their property where parking is limited. And address the public safety issue by not blocking ingress and egress to the public right of way."
Jim Fricke presented a three-option summary of what the planning department found during its study of other community actions.
"One option is to require providers to apply for and obtain an annual permit and pay a fee," said Fricke. "A second option is for providers to apply for a permit or to register their activities which impact public access or right of way. Third, provide an exemption from a permit which may be offered in cases where the service is contained on-site and the service and signage are not visible from or impact public right of way."
Collectively, commissioners did not favor charging a fee for such a permit and expressed that the city should remain the least intrusive as possible.
"I don't think we need to make a lot of requirements that a business has to do," said commissioner Tom Krekel. "I am in favor of educating without intrusion."
Vice chairman Dr. Phillip Marks, who brought up valet parking as he knew it in California, added, "I am in favor of containing it on-site and against tipping, which might cause attendants to get in a rush to get cars to the patrons."
Commissioner John Talmage raised an intriguing question in his assessment of the presentation.
"Is this an opening for shared parking? I'm all for shared parking and interconnectivity," Talmage said. "It keeps vehicles from going out on Periwinkle to get to the next business. There are a lot of other signage issues along Periwinkle, too, but I believe option three is the way to go."
According to the third option recommendation, signs would be temporary and only erected on the premesis during hours the service is provided. One temporary sign visible from the entrance announcing the service, with a face area up to six square feet, and another sign identifying the valet station, with face area of two square feet, would be permitted.
"It would be a mistake for us to add a bunch of new rules with fees, which becomes an impediment for businesses," added commissioner Chuck Ketteman. "We've lived the way it is for 35 years without this issue, so I don't see it as a problem. I favor option three."
Commissioner Holly Smith sees valet parking as a benefit to businesses that offer it.
"It is a benefit for them to better manage parking in their lot as well as being a convenience to customers," Smith said. "I think the exemption is a great idea. I'd like to hear more from the businesses and get their thoughts. We don't have any facts or figures before us enough to know if there is a problem."
Commission chairman Michael Valiquette added, "I am not in favor of charging fees, but we need to make sure everyone knows the guidelines and that signs have to meet code. That solves a problem before it becomes a problem."
With no public input during the meeting, Valiquette asked Sanibel Captiva Chamber of Commerce president Ric Base to sample its membership for input to add when the revised recommendations are brought before the commission at a future meeting.
There will be no Plan Commission meeting on March 12 due to City Council calling for a workshop meeting on the commercial redevelopment plan on that day. The workshop, expected to last up to four hours, starts at 9 a.m. Commissioners and the public are invited to attend and offer an exchange of ideas.
The next Plan Commission meeting is set for Tuesday, March 26.