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September 11th, 2014

Concerns arise over public access to Oceana beach paths

V
illage officials will look at ways to add golf cart parking spots near two new public beach access paths on either side of the Oceana condominium – but stress they will not sacrifice safety for the sake of convenience.
That was the message Tuesday, September 2, after Village Council member Jim Taintor updated his colleagues on his efforts to find space for additional golf cart parking to make the beach access paths usable for more residents.
Taintor first brought up the issue August 26, noting getting to the paths requires a lengthy walk for most islanders. “There are no parking spaces for cars anywhere along those roads, therefore there is no space for someone who wants to drive their car, park it and walk down that easement.
“I think we’re prohibiting our residents from using it. It really becomes a private access.”
He added the path on the north side of Oceana has just three golf cart spaces, while the one on the south has four. Because the original development order for the paths requires golf cart spots, he feels the situation is inadequate.
While local leaders were negative about adding vehicular parking, on August 26 they encouraged Taintor to explore solutions for golf carts.
Vice Mayor Michael Davey said Taintor is “absolutely right” on the golf cart parking issue, but that he would draw the line at adding vehicular parking.
“I certainly don’t want cars parking there – that’s good, frankly,” Davey said.
Council member Michael Kelly, who lives in the neighborhood, added it seems residents are using the paths, so there’s no reason to further congest the area with additional vehicle parking: “Golf carts and bicycles are the way to go. I’m not in favor of encouraging parking there.”
With that in mind, Taintor met with Building, Zoning and Planning Director Jud Kurlancheek, Fire-Rescue Chief Eric Lang, Public Works Superintendent Tony Brown and Marcos Corti, Chief Executive Officer for Oceana developer Consultatio North America, to look at the options.
The conversation turned up both possibilities and concerns.
Taintor said the path on the north side of Oceana is 25 feet wide, which creates limitations: Lang worries letting golf carts park along the side of the path could make it difficult for fire trucks and ambulances, which require 20 feet clearance, to use it to reach the beach; while Corti is concerned unit owners would complain about seeing golf carts lining the landscaped easement.
Taintor said both concerns are valid, and agrees with two suggestions from Kurlancheek:
First, look at installing golf cart spaces along the Ocean Drive roadway abutting the neighboring Silver Sands Beach Resort property. “That is our easement, there is room for additional golf cart parking, and I think we should avail ourselves of it,” Taintor said. “It would be our nickel, but three golf cart spots doesn’t cut the mustard.”
Then, as a long-term solution, when the Silver Sands is redeveloped, obtain an adjacent 25-foot easement. With double the space, look at adding golf cart parking spaces.
Meanwhile, while the north path presents problems, Taintor sees opportunities at the south path.
He said it’s well over 35 feet wide, so there’s plenty of room. “I recommend we allow golf cart parking on that south easement as much as possible, working in conjunction with Consultatio,” he said. “It’s what can be worked out to allow better access for our Village residents.”
Taintor added with any parking, he would suggest only allowing carts with local registrations.
While Council members called for more information, they did express concerns after Corti said he isn’t sure safe interaction between golf carts and pedestrians is possible on either path: “The design and intent of this easement focused on the pedestrian – that was the main purpose. If you allow golf carts driving through the pedestrian walkway, I’m concerned about safety.”
Both Kelly and Davey agreed.
While Davey remarked, “I would certainly like to have golf cart access there,” he said Corti has a valid point.
Kelly added, “To me, it’s analogous to the Village saying we’re going to let golf carts go down a sidewalk. You’re going to have golf carts and pedestrians trying to compete for the same space.
“It’s not safe; it won’t fly.”
Despite the concerns, officials didn’t abandon ship: as Taintor and Council member Mayra Pena Lindsay noted, public beach access is an important enough goal that it’s worth continued effort.
“Obviously we want our residents to be able to use these easements,” Taintor said, noting asking older people and people lugging beach gear to take a lengthy walk is unreasonable.
Meanwhile, Pena Lindsay pointed out better public beach access could help the Village move up on the state’s funding list for beach restoration. “These easements can help tremendously in providing public access to our residents,” she said. “Having it be practical beach access is part of the case we’ll make to the state for funding.
She added Consultatio should be on board with that, too, as a better beach means higher property values for everyone: “Having a wide beach is just as important to the Consultatio project and to the new homeowners as it is to all of us.”
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