WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — An outcry from business owners in West Palm Beach has officials rethinking recent parking fee changes.
Some say they are encouraged by recent talks with the city about parking policies in the downtown district.
However, others believe a price hike is a proactive approach to managing a fast-growing region.
This month, the first hour for on-street parking in downtown West Palm Beach doubled from $1.25 for the first hour to $2.50 for the first hour.
The rates remain in effect 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including Sundays.
Denise Hull is a downtown business owner who opened D is for DOG, Inc. pet grooming salon along South Dixie Highway two years ago.
"It's just, perhaps, another challenge to overcome," Hull said. "It's a mixed, mixed bag as a small business owner. I think it's too early to tell."
She wonders if steeper prices will open up more parking spots for customers or will it turn them away?
"I know that there's a lot of people that like to just plug the meter and run in real quick," Hull said. "It could be a challenge."
But Hull is feeling encouraged after a recent meeting with business owners and city staff.
Raphael Clemente, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority, attended the meeting.
"City staff was incredibly responsive and sat down with merchants and heard them out," Clemente said. "As I understand it, [they] are considering changes or tweaks to the program that will be brought to the commission for consideration."
The parking authority is considering rolling back the hours of enforcement.
"From a policy perspective, you do your very best to understand what the needs of the community are, but also react and respond to all the growth pressures," Clemente said. "Being able to move people in and out of a downtown area is the lifeblood of the place."
City commissioners haven't made any decisions yet, but Hull is staying optimistic in the meantime.
"Only time will tell, but hopefully it'll be a positive thing," she said.
Potential changes to the hours of enforcement could be discussed in the next city commission meeting.
In the meantime, a parking violation in downtown West Palm Beach will cost offenders $37 to $42.