Although the commission isn’t actually considering it, some residents think a parking garage on Siesta Key would solve a lot of problems.
As the County Commission begins exploring options to bring more parking to Siesta Key, the community is divided over what approach would be best.
The commission is looking into constructing another parking lot on the Key, as well as other options for paid parking. But one option was left out of the discussion: a parking garage.
“If anyone wants to build several large parking structures, they will witness my demise for proposing that,” Commissioner Al Maio has said. “No one wants them next to their home.”
Commissioner Charles Hines mentioned it at the commission’s most recent discussion on parking options for the Key.
“There’s no appetite whatsoever to build parking garages on Siesta Key,” he said. “That only brings more cars onto Siesta Key.”
But even as the commission debates non-garage options, some property owners aren’t so sure.
“Well, obviously I think the best solution is for [the commission] to build a parking garage somewhere,” said Chris Brown, a landowner on Siesta Key. “I think it would be very costly.”
Even if it did make ultimate sense, Brown said, a garage is a complicated thing to build. It would involve grappling with regulations in the Siesta Key Overlay District — including setbacks, landscaping, etc. According to the county’s zoning administrator, a parking garage is permitted on Siesta Key in commercial districts, of which there are few. In residential zones, it would take a special exemption.
Additionally, the typical height restriction for buildings on Siesta Key is 35 feet, or about three stories. However, applicants in commercial zones can ask for additional height, with approval through a special exception.
These regulations come in addition to the potentially prohibitive cost of purchasing land then constructing a garage.
Maio said parking garages can cost somewhere around $20,000 per space. For comparison, the city is planning to build a 500-space parking garage on St. Armand’s Circle — a project with a price tag upwards of $15 million.
Mark Smith, an architect and chair of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, said there would have been an opportunity to put up a garage when the public beach was renovated in 2014, even if it was just one story.
“But everybody doesn’t want their view hurt,” Smith said, echoing the concern of many Siesta Key residents.
In the coming months, Hines suggested the commission consider the possibility of building a parking garage or finding some existing parking on the mainland, and incorporating public transportation to get visitors where they want to go on the Key.