TREASURE ISLAND — It will soon be much harder to outwit Treasure Island’s residential parking pass program, but also tougher to qualify for a hang-tag or decal.
During a Nov. 1 work session, Assistant Finance Director Mike Munger told city commissioners “it shouldn’t surprise you that staff is always on the lookout for areas within city operations where we could benefit from an update or refresh, a new set of eyes … to see if there’s anything that needs to be updated and changed; the residential parking pass happens to be one of these areas.”
The pandemic and influx of new residents has changed how a lot of people are using the beach, Munger said. The residential parking program was modified in 2020, he said, adding, “We wanted to re-look at all the regulations and see where they should be updated … I kind of decided a rewrite might be the best and cleanest way to start all over with this resolution.”
Over the years, staff realized that certifying residency by checking driver’s licenses is not the best way to go.
“The driver’s license has been the main go-to, not only to prove personal identity but residency,” he said. But driver’s licenses often don’t reflect the current year. Former residents have come to the city and illegally purchased a parking pass because the license has a Treasure Island address, but they no longer live at that address.
“We want to implement another double check, so there is a driver’s license to confirm personal identity, but you still need to prove residency with a current document,” he told commissioners.
Vehicle registrations have been the most reliable form of documentation, he said, because they have current addresses and the license plate. The city will be asking for them going forward, Munger said.
The city will also require those showing a lease to prove residency to prove the lease is current.
The city will no longer use voter registration as another way to validate residency, because just like driver’s licenses, they do not have a current date on them.
“A couple of years ago we actually removed utility bills as one of the documents that prove residency, because they are easily forged,” the assistant finance director said. “If you have a buddy who lives in Treasure Island, you can call them and say, ‘Hey, I’d like to change my Verizon bill to your address for a month,’ and suddenly you’re a resident of Treasure Island. That’s way too easy to do. “
The city will respect utility bills either from Pinellas County or Duke Energy, he said, “because those aren’t utility bills that can be faked like some of the other ancillary cell phone bills and that type of thing.”
Another big change in the rewrite is the addition of golf carts, Munger told commissioners. Hang tags don’t last in an open-air golf cart, he said, so the city will use tamper-proof decals that will be stuck onto the carts and cannot be removed.
The city allows for the purchase of two parking passes. Because hang tags “can migrate and move between different vehicles,” the city will offer an option of a hang-tag or decal for the first vehicle, but the second one would be a decal by default.
The parking passes would apply to any future street parking on Sunset Beach.
Residents who have property ownership scenarios such as trust or LLC can still purchase a parking pass by demonstrating they have sole or individual ownership of the trust, LLC, or similar arrangement.
Munger told commissioners he envisions the city eventually going to digital parking passes. “This is to be a temporary stop-gap until the parking program contract runs out. I envision in the future residential parking passes will be virtual and digital.”
Residents would register their license plate “and be done, and the city will have pay-by-plate enforcement,” he said. “There won’t be any lost hangtags or decals anymore. This is kind of a temporary solution to set us up for those changes that we anticipate in the next couple of years.”
Current interpretation of parking regulations allows a residential permit program for public parking as long as the parking is available to the public as well, Munger said. Staff is recommending allowing the pass to be used in any City of Treasure Island metered space.
However, the permits will remain invalid in the City of St. Petersburg Municipal Beach Lot or any private parking areas, since the city cannot give away another entity’s parking, he advised.
Changes to the city’s residential parking permit program will be voted on at the next regular meeting.