County Commissioners favor the project and approve study of configuration and costs.
Parking for Siesta Key Village, particularly during season, can be difficult to find, but members of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce have proposed adding 22 public spaces along Ocean Boulevard.
County commissioners unanimously directed county staff to work on a report for how the spaces could be configured and what the cost of the project would be. County Administrator Jonathan Lewis said the report would be done within 30 days.
Siesta architect and representative of the Siesta Key Chamber Mark Smith said that discussions on this segment of parking began about five years ago.
Smith’s concept allows for 18 spaces across from The Old Salty Dog, along Ocean Boulevard. The spaces could be created in the public right of way between palm trees and street lights, Smith said.
The remaining four spots would be placed in the public right of way on the east side of Ocean Boulevard, next to The Old Salty Dog.
“As you’re all aware, parking is a premium on Siesta Key, and this, we believe, is a good solution,” Smith said.
Further, the project would remove palmetto and cabbage palms. Smith, who also is a member of the Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp. — composed of Village property owners that pay for the area’s maintenance — said the removal of these trees would help address safety concerns in the area.
Due to the size of the trees, pedestrians lose sight of the road when walking on the sidewalk, which he said causes many safety concerns, particularly at night. Additionally, he said there have been several incidents of homeless camps, which could be eradicated with the removal of the trees.
Commissioners all showed their support for the project, stating it would help drive business to the Village. Commissioner Nancy Detert said that although it wouldn’t bring too many parking spots, every single one helps.
“Normally, you’d say it’s too small to bother with it, but every space is at a premium, particularly when you’re that close to the beach,” Detert said.
Commissioner Christian Ziegler also was in favor of the project because it would support businesses in Davidson Plaza and improve landscaping in the area.
“We all know the Village needs additional parking, and that entire area where you’re proposing, I can’t say that’s the most beautiful landscape in town, so I would like to see that redone and looking great,” Ziegler said.
His only concern was motorists backing out of the angled spaces into the middle of Ocean Boulevard, though he noted the street is wider than Sarasota’s Main Street, which offers similar parking.
In an August email to its members, the Siesta Key Condominium Council said it was against the parking expansion because of safety and aesthetic concerns.
The spots are located close to the entry point to the Village, where speed limits slow from 20 mph, and bicycles and cars share the road. Additionally, a nearby bus stop can create a bottleneck effect.
“A typical day in this area experiences slower, frequently backed up traffic as drivers and bicycles share the roadway as they enter the Village from the north,” the email said. “The bike lane has ended. Now imagine cars and bikes negotiating around backing up cars on both sides of Ocean [Boulevard].”
No formal steps on the parking lot will be taken until county staff completes the report.