By LOIS KINDLE
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and Sun City Center Security Patrol have partnered to address parking complaints in Sun City Center.
“Most neighborhoods have curbed sidewalks where cars can’t roll up on them,” said HCSO Community Resource Deputy Jeff Merry. “That’s not the case in Sun City Center.”
The problem is many residents and drivers of commercial vehicles do, and it’s illegal in Florida. It’s against the law to park on or block a sidewalk, even in your own driveway.
But most folks don’t know that, so the HCSO and security patrol are working together to get the word out. The sheriff’s office has printed colorful informational cards, which Sun City Center Security Patrol drivers have been asked to place on the windshields of any vehicle parked on a sidewalk.
The cards have all kinds of information on Florida parking laws on them, such as you can’t legally park on a bicycle path or exclusive bicycle lane, in front of a public or private driveway, within 15 feet of a fire hydrant or against the flow of traffic.
“Parking on a sidewalk is a safety hazard and the problem has blown up here,” Merry said. “Wheelchairs, electric assist vehicles and people with walkers, canes or crutches have difficulty getting by. Sometimes they have to divert their travel to the street.”
Merry said some cards will also be printed in Spanish.
“We started the program Feb. 14, and we’re very pleased the message seems to be getting out,” said Tim Broad, security patrol chief. “We’ve literally placed out hundreds of these advisory cards, and the numbers [of vehicles parked on the sidewalks] have already been significantly reduced.
“We’ve had a few objections, but we’ve actually had people come out to thank us for doing this,” Broad said, adding the effort is simply about building awareness. “It’s not intended in any way to be confrontational.”
Every week or so, a list of all cards placed on vehicles by the security patrol is turned over to Merry with the plate numbers of the offending vehicles. That way, he can see if there are any repeat offenders and issue a ticket, if need be.
Meanwhile, on the traffic front, Merry has been addressing complaints about the number of crashes at El Rancho Drive and State Road 674.
“Social media has been ablaze about this,” he said.
Merry has researched the intersection, pulled reports of all traffic stops and crash reports, plus county documentation on the light, which was put up in 2014. Access to the Kings Crossing Shopping Center was limited, and, at that time, the entrance leading into Publix was the No. 1 crash site in Sun City Center.
A golf cart crossing was also made at the El Rancho and SCC Boulevard intersection, and there have actually been fewer accidents now than there were previously at the Publix site, Merry said.
Six other intersections have more traffic crashes (in order of frequency): Cypress Village Boulevard and State Road 674; U.S. 301 and 674; Pebble Beach Boulevard and 674, Trinity Boulevard and 674, and Del Webb Boulevard East and 674.
To address public concern and perception about the El Rancho Drive and State Road 674 intersection, Merry spent a couple of hours observing traffic flow on different days and had a speed trailer set up for a week.
“Speed is not an issue,” he said. “Most accidents there have been due to the running of red lights. We’ve requested the timing and sequence of the light be adjusted by the county, and the light now has the ability to be monitored by Traffic Control in Tampa, where a traffic study will be done to see if anything else needs to be done.
Merry said he feels when the timing and sequence issues have been addressed, accidents will be further reduced at the intersection.