Recently, patrons of downtown Mount Dora noticed the valuable commodity of parking became even more scarce.
In recent weeks, the City of Mount Dora erected “No Parking” signs along at least three downtown blocks, an area already affected by a substantial parking shortage. The areas include Third Avenue west of Alexander Street, Fourth Avenue east of Baker Street, and Third Avenue east of Baker Street.
The City did not respond to a request for the rationale of the timing of the reduction or whether the signs are planned on additional downtown streets. The number of recent parking spaces eliminated is estimated in the dozens.
The new signs appear on streets that became very narrow when drivers parked on both sides. According to the city, parking is now permitted on one side only to allow adequate passage for emergency vehicles. In one half-block area, parking is prohibited on both sides.
In the past, the City staff stated there were 720 public parking spaces downtown and a 200-space parking shortage if all the restaurants were full. The recent removals significantly increase that deficit and can profoundly affect downtown businesses’ revenue during their short six-month season.
The City of Mount Dora has been considering a mix of short- and long-term options to remedy the shortage, but nothing is imminent. In the meantime, a temporary moratorium on removing downtown parking spaces was not proposed.
One of the quickest short-term remedies under review by City staff is leasing a parking lot on Highland Street to use for a valet service after the previous valet company discontinued their brief service last summer. Drivers could opt to drop their car at a downtown valet stand and have it stored at the Highland Street lot until they are ready for it to be retrieved.
Another short-term remedy is a four-hour limit on parking in the downtown core which the City expects to implement in the winter of 2018.
The City may also provide a designated parking lot for store and restaurant employees. There have been efforts to encourage owners and employees of downtown businesses to park outside the downtown core to allow more spaces for customers, but compliance is voluntary. The recent parking reduction arguably spurs employees and owners to park closer into the downtown business district.
Scott Alderman with his 7-passenger shuttle.
One local resident, Scott Alderman, started a free shuttle service in October to help visitors get around the downtown area. His golf-cart-type shuttle, named Mount Dora Transit, operates daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. The electric shuttle only operates within downtown and has room for seven passengers. Although it doesn’t directly help shuttle people into downtown from outlying areas, anyone wanting assistance getting among downtown locations can merely call or text 352-409-8722 for a lift. Alderman plans for the business to generate revenue by selling advertising space on the shuttle and having it available for private functions.
Other solutions to the parking shortage being considered by the City include the purchase of nearby available properties just outside the downtown core to use as parking lots, as well as the long-term solution of building a parking garage.
The city is currently examining a 23-passenger, fixed-route shuttle service modeled after the successful one in Stuart, Florida. These electric vehicles would shuttle visitors from parking lots in other parts of the city into downtown.