Safety issues outweighed the three spots being debated for the commission, but a proposed lot could provide more parking nearby.
It’s hard to guess how many public parking spaces exist on Siesta Key and harder still to fathom how many cars pursue them daily.
But at a recent meeting of the County Commission, the focus was squarely on three spaces along Old Stickney Point Road: There was a presentation, there was comment from the public, there was discussion among staffers and commissioners.
“We spent an inordinate amount of time talking about three parking spots because that’s the point we’re at with Siesta Key,” said Commission Chairwoman Nancy Detert.
On the south side of Old Stickney Point Road, near the south bridge, there are designated parking spots. On the north side, people often park illegally in front of fire hydrants or they park legally nearby, but in a way that constricts traffic when cars are parked on the opposite side. The area in question is a 465-foot stretch of road, but the problem areas are located across from the Daiquiri Deck, and across from Sabal Drive.
“The most important point I want to make is how special each and every public parking spot on Siesta Key is,” Mason Tush, owner of CB’s Saltwater Outfitters, told commissioners.
“We do have the opportunity to gain three more public parking spots in a major battle for space on Siesta Key.”
Russell Matthes, one of the owners of Daiquiri Deck, said parking problems are always the top complaint from guests. He equates one parking spot to $50,000 in gross annual revenue for his restaurants.
“We understand the premium of parking,” he said. “It’s huge.”
He asked that commissioners just post signs to prevent people from parking in front of the fire hydrants. But other residents had concerns about congestion, and county staff agreed.
“For the sake of three parking spaces, to endanger the public is something that in good conscious the County Commission can’t do,” said Paradise Cove resident Neal Schleifer.
In the end, the commission voted unanimously to post no parking signs on the problem areas.
“I think the win-win is going down the street a little bit,” Commissioner Charles Hines said, of the former Sheriff’s substation at 6647 Midnight Pass Road — just a few blocks down — that the commission is working to turn into a parking lot.
The Sheriff’s Office vacated the less than 2-acre property in October, and the commission subsequently decided a parking lot would be a good fit. Cost estimates say a 39-space lot would be about $500,000.
The commission so far has approved the $25,000 demolition of the building on the property — one of what Commissioner Al Maio calls “incremental steps.”
County staff is selecting a vendor for the demolition, and no date has been set.
“We need to get going as a county” on the new lot, Maio said.