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30A Area Getting Parking Lot, Transit Hub

A schematic drawing shows the proposed layout for a parking lot on Walton County Highway near Walton County Road 30A, a popular tourist route. The lot includes a trolley station as part of an effort to boost public transit.

A parking lot planned for a 2-acre tract on Walton County Road 393 South near County Road 30A could become more than just a parking lot, according to Walton County Tourist Development Council (TDC) Director of Beach Operations Brian Kellenberger.

The planned lot, a short distance north of the regularly crowded Ed Walline Regional Beach Access on 30A west of Blue Mountain Beach, will include a structure that will serve as a stop for a planned public transit system designed to help get cars off 30A. The two-lane beachside road is a popular route for visitors to the county’s beaches that can also get jammed with workers heading to businesses along the route.

Kellenberger expressed optimism Thursday that as it develops, the public transit along 30A will be used by visitors and workers.

“The biggest catalyst for change is pain, and it’s painful to drive your car down 30A right now,” he said.

 The transit structure, to be designed in the “coastal cottage” architectural style that defines Seaside and other communities in the south county, will include an air-conditioned space and restrooms for people waiting for the trolley-style vehicles proposed as a public transit option for the area, Kellenberger said at the sparsely attended Thursday workshop seeking public input on the parking lot.

Beyond the trolley station, the lot is planned to have 87 regular parking spaces, two handicapped-accessible parking spaces, 11 spots for golf cart parking and 168 spaces for bicycles in racks arrayed around the lot.

Both the purchase of the land for the lot and its construction are being funded with proceeds of the 5% “bed tax” charged to people staying in local accommodations while visiting the county.

Bids for construction of the parking lot and its trolley station will be sought after the Walton County Board of County Commissioners approves the conceptual plan unveiled at Thursday’s workshop. That decision could come at the commission’s Sept. 28 meeting.

Kellenberger said he doesn’t foresee any difficulties getting bids for the project. “We’ve had decent participation in our construction invitations to bid,” he said, adding that the lot and the transit structure are “a fairly easy project.” 

Not contemplated at the time the lot was initially being designed — but necessary now in light of the County Commission’s recent passage of an ordinance establishing a pilot program for private electric stand-on scooter rentals — will be places for those devices, Kellenberger said Thursday.

At present, both parking and the planned trolley service will be free, although there is a possibility that could change in the future. But there is a good reason for keeping at least the transit service available at no charge, Kellenberger noted Thursday.

“You want people to ride it,” he said. “You want people to get out of their cars.”

There will be no overnight parking allowed at the lot, but Kellenberger conceded that, given nearby presence of short-term vacation-rental properties, some visitors might decide to park there around the clock.

“Do I expect some people to try and take advantage of that (available parking)?” Kellenberger asked. “I do, but we’ll keep an eye on it.” 

The lot, which will be lighted, won’t have any specific hours of operation other than signs being posted to warn against overnight parking. Kellenberger estimated that, given the proximity of a nearby commercial district, vehicles likely could be in the lot as late as midnight on some nights.

Violators of the overnight parking ban will initially get a courtesy tag on their vehicle, but after that, tickets will be issued, said Kellenberger, who noted that the county’s code compliance office has added a couple of new parking enforcement personnel to its ranks.

In comments aimed at allaying any concerns of nearby residents and business owners, Kellenberger said TDC personnel “will touch the lot every day” to ensure that it stays free of trash. Its lawn and landscaping will get weekly attention. Lighting installed on the lot will be shielded to avoid undue infiltration onto neighboring properties.

Not necessarily connected but already planned for the area is the installation of a traffic signal at CR 393 and 30A, Kellenberger also said.

In comments near the end of the workshop, he suggested that the focus on parking and transit options for the county’s popular beaches may be a signal that the local government has turned a corner in its handling of growth and tourism.

“I like to think we’re in the phase of polishing the apple,” he said. “We’re not completely built out, but we’re pretty darn close, and we’re taking efforts to polish things up to make it the vacation destination it needs to be for the people that live here and the people that come visit here.”

Source: The Walton Sun

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