The county will further discuss implementing paid parking on Siesta Beach after three surveys of residents and business owners on the Key show support for the move.
At Commissioner Al Maio’s urging, the County Commission will renew the discussion of paid parking on Siesta Key.
“I cannot go to a meeting on Siesta without a question about parking,” Maio told commissioners at an April 10 meeting. “Are we going to address it? Do we want paid parking?”
Commissioners agreed to host a workshop where stakeholders can discuss the possibility of paid parking on Siesta Key, and other parking options, like the lot in the works at 6647 Midnight Pass Road.
Maio cited three surveys that showed members of the Siesta Key Association, the Siesta Key Condominium Association and the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce in favor of paid parking at the public beach, if county residents were exempt and if the money raised stays on Siesta Key.
“It’s going to be a fairness issue,” Commission Chair Nancy Detert said, suggesting the county should survey residents in other areas as well.
But Maio said what the three Siesta organizations want — such as free parking for residents — would benefit the rest of the county, too.
In the past, commissioners have raised concerns that paid parking at the public beach wouldn’t help keep cars off the Key, and wouldn’t raise a substantial amount of money for the county.
Since the summer, the commission has been grappling with the idea of alleviating traffic and parking issues on the Key. Staff brought a slew of possible solutions before the board, including paid parking, adding more parking lots, adding parking off the Key and implementing a public transit option to get people to the beach, or starting a bike sharing program.
The conversation stalled in December after staff presented all of the options. Commissioners asked for some more information, but the tone of the conversation showed cost was an issue in moving forward with any of the options: It would likely cost too much money to construct a parking lot, or expand public transit options, or start a new program like paid parking.
The only firm decision the commission made was to begin the process of clearing the land on Midnight Pass Road to make way for 30 or so parking spaces.
Siesta Key residents are encouraging the county to move toward solutions for the island’s parking shortage. At an April 5 Siesta Key Association meeting, the group discussed its October survey that showed residents are in favor of establishing a paid parking program on the Key.
SKA president Gene Kusekoski said there was some disagreement about whether residents were willing to pay a fee for permits that allow them to park on the island without paying for individual spaces. He said many SKA members were willing to pay “a reasonable small fee” to support a permit system for residents.
In addition to advocating for paid parking, SKA also wants the county to create a shuttle program that allows visitors to park on the mainland before coming to Siesta Key. Kusekoski believes such a program would address congestion issues on the island.
“Getting cars to stop coming over the bridges is key for a number of reasons,” Kusekoski said. “(The traffic) is brutal.”
A date has not been set for the future parking workshop.