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Editorial: Fingers crossed for ‘honor system’ ordinance

By Staff | Mar 16, 2011

Last month, a request by a property owner on Sanibel who wanted to acquire a parking permit for a vehicle registered to an owner at an off-island address came before the City Council. The resident did not own a car, but used a vehicle which was owned by a close friend who was staying with them.

During discussions on the matter, the question of whether any resident could be issued a Residential Parking Pass for a vehicle not registered to an island resident, but with that vehicle under the control of that resident, drew a brief debate among the council.

As a taxpayer, it was argued, that resident had a right to purchase a Residential Parking Pass. But because the ordinance stipulates that such passes are only available “to any vehicle owned by or leased to a city resident,” one could not be issued.

Finally, city staff was directed to look into the matter. It did, working together with the Sanibel Police Department to find a solution that would properly remedy this situation.

During Tuesday’s City Council session, legislators passed an ordinance which amends the City of Sanibel’s Beach Area Parking Restrictions. The new law states that in the event that a resident and/or Sanibel ad valorem taxpayer property owner does not own or lease the vehicle for which a parking permit is sought, one may be issued under the following conditions:

• The vehicle for which the permit is sought is under the sole control of the resident and/or Sanibel ad valorem taxpayer property owner and a sworn affidavit is provided to the Sanibel Chief of Police, or his designee, attesting to such sole control and identifying the vehicle.

• The Sanibel Chief of Police, or his designee, in the event the sworn affidavit is found to meet the requirements of this section, shall issue such parking permit conditioned upon the continued sole control of the vehicle by the applicant during the term of the permit.

Vice Mayor Mick Denham objected to the ordinance, noting that the only requirement for anybody to acquire a Residential Parking Pass would be the say-so of any applicant. In essence, such passes will now be issued “on the honor system,” he said.

Chief of Police Bill Tomlinson, although he agreed that it would be nearly impossible to precisely monitor the accuracy of information provided by applicants with sworn affidavits, felt that the ordinance was strong enough as presented.

Despite the objections of Denham and fellow councilman Jim Jennings, the ordinance was approved.

We guess that we should keep our fingers crossed that people who own property here, both full-time and part-time residents, won’t make a mockery of a well-intentioned law that allows for parking passes to be issued on promises alone. We suspect that islanders will be keeping a close eye on those highly coveted residential spaces at the beach… and hope they report any possible violations to the police immediately.

For a solution that was sought to remedy a “rare” injustice, we also hope that the city will monitor the number of applications related to this ordinance comes through the doors of the Rec Center, now in charge of issuing parking passes.

Sometimes using the “honor system” actually works, but often it does not. We are hoping that this one does.

— Reporter editorial