CLEARWATER, Fla. ( - Traffic slowly churns in the roundabout at the Memorial Causeway entrance to Clearwater Beach.

Motorists stalk the Pier 60 parking lot, driving up and down, waiting for a precious space to open up.

Farther north, a cul-de-sac at the foot of the Sandpearl condominiums fills with parked vans and cars unloading beach chairs, umbrellas, coolers and people at a narrow beach access point.

The scene is familiar — and not just during spring break or on holiday weekends — in what a USA Today poll last year concluded is “Florida’s best beach town.”

With a record number of visitors and an improving economy pushing new restaurants, hotels and stores out of the ground, parking has come to the fore in many area tourist communities.

In some cases, though, city governments have concluded big spikes in demand during special events and peak weekends don’t justify spending millions of dollars for parking lots that won’t see much use during the remainder of the year.

Clearwater Beach appears to have reached a tipping point.

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