Referencing a concern for safety, the Sarasota County Commission voted Wednesday to lower the speed limit on a section of Midnight Pass Road and prohibit low-speed vehicles there, as well.
The discussion item was divided into two parts: 1. To lower the speed limit on Midnight Pass from Vista Hermosa Circle to Sanderling Road from 40 mph to 35 mph; and 2. To consider a resolution to prohibit the use of low-speed vehicles, such as golf carts, on the same stretch of the street.
County staff created an online survey in August 2013 to gauge public opinion on both items, and the survey closed in February. Responders favored the speed reduction by 64% and the prohibition of low-speed vehicles on the road section by 85%.
“I’m adamantly opposed to expanding the area for low-speed vehicles,” said Commissioner Nora Patterson. “It’s a narrow road.”
The use of low-speed vehicles on such a trafficked road would either be dangerous — drivers trying to pass the vehicle — or “really annoying,” Patterson said.
But not everyone agreed with her opinion.
Mike Cook, a Siesta Key resident who lives near the discussed section of road, supported both the speed limit reduction and the allowance of low-speed vehicles.
Near Point of Rocks Road there is a Sarasota County Area Transit stop, school bus stop and a beach access point.
“I’ve personally witnessed two accidents there,” he said.
Another Siesta Key resident, Michael Brown, opposed both parts of the item.
“Low-speed ‘toys’ will adversely affect all of us residents on Siesta Key,” Brown said.
They would contribute to congestion, as would the speed limit reduction, he said. He was concerned drivers who typically drive slowly would reduce their speed even further, causing more congestion.
Paula Wiggins, Transportation Planning manager, said a reduction of 5 mph would not significantly impact current congestion patterns.
“My concern is public safety,” said Commissioner Joe Barbetta. “If I had my druthers, I’d lower it to 30.”
The board voted unanimously to approve the reduction of speed, and it approved a resolution to prohibit low-speed vehicles.
In other votes
• In a 3-2 vote, the commission approved to adopt a contract with Benderson Developments LLC to sell the 41.34-acre, county-owned property on Fruitville Road and Coburn Road for $3 million. The property was declared surplus in 2013. Commissioner Nora Patterson and Commission Chairman Charles Hines opposed the approval.
• Commission voted unanimously to adopt an ordinance that would amend the county code in relation to solicitations and commercial activities, such as boot-drive fundraisers, within the public right of way. The original ruling on these activities, made in February 2013, prohibited the obstruction of traffic and exchange of anything between a pedestrian and an occupant of the vehicle.
Representatives of the Muscular Dystrophy Association attended the meeting in support of the amendments to the ordinance, which would allow them to reinstate their annual boot-drive fundraiser. Typically held on Labor Day weekend, the MDA and local firefighters would raise about $25,000, said Katie Bobbin, a divisional director of MDA.
The commission voted to adopt an ordinance that would include the suggested amendments, such as limiting such solicitations to once a year or developing a permit for right of way activities.