The Siesta Key trolley and a proposal to allow outdoor displays of merchandise have been two of Siesta Key's most pressing, unresolved issues for more than a year.
At a Tuesday Siesta Key Village Association meeting, however, both took significant steps forward.
First, Sarasota County Area Transit Director Glama Carter announced that the Siesta Key Trolley will finally start service July 12. The new trolley service will provide transportation for Siesta residents at approximately 20-minute intervals along existing SCAT routes 10 and 11 (stopping at the same stops), which run roughly the length of Siesta Key between the north and south bridges.
The trolleys will be in addition to the regularly scheduled bus service and will field two buses decorated in a special design that will be finalized at the end of April.
The decision to add the Siesta trolley service stems from a May 14 decision of the Sarasota Board of County Commissioners (BCC) to approve $3.4 million in new vehicle services for SCAT — allowing for the opening of a new route and expanded services.
The BCC decided, against SCAT recommendations, to choose the Siesta trolley proposal as a short-term priority for funding over a trolley service along University Parkway that would provide service to the area around the University Town Center and Nathan Benderson Park and Aquatic Sports Center.
The move forward on the Siesta Key trolley was welcomed by Siesta residents and businesses, however, who see the additional public transportation as a way to both reduce traffic congestion on the island and make the area more appealing to tourists.
The debate over allowing the outdoors display of merchandise on Siesta Key (which is banned countywide) also took a step forward Tuesday.
Discussions about amending the countywide ordinance to allow limted outdoors display of merchandise within the Siesta Key Overlay District date back to last spring, when the SKVA cracked down on businesses ignoring the law, which county staff had largely ceased to enforce.
The SKVA board unanimously approved a proposal Tuesday, created by a steering committee representing 85% of Siesta Key businesses, which outlines the rules by which outdoor displays would be allowed through the purchase of a $25 annual county permit.
"This is pretty subdued," Patterson said, referring to the size and scope of the displays asked for in the proposal. "I don't think it will make the area look junk… which some had feared it would."
Robin Hood Rentals owner Mark Toomey pitched the proposed county ordinance amendment to the SKVA board. He said the new rules would be easy to enforce, but stressed that allowing outdoor displays were vital to the bottom lines of many Siesta retailers.
“Siesta Key is not going to look like a flea market,” Toomey said. “People who aren't compliant will have their permit revoked.”
Following the SKVA's Tuesday vote, the outdoor display proposal will now move to review by county staff, followed by a public hearing before the County Planning Commission, and then finally a vote by the County Commission.
"Adoption is still months away," Toomey said.
Contact Nolan Peterson at [email protected]