Money is still a problem for solving Siesta Key's parking problem, but commissioners are moving forward slowly on a number of options.
A tight budget was again at the top of the discussion as county commissioners tried to identify ways to fix Siesta Key’s parking problem.
An updated presentation at a Wednesday, meeting prompted commissioners to begin moving toward creating a parking lot on the Key on the site of a former Sheriff’s Office building.
County Commissioners for months have been considering a parking lot at 6647 Midnight Pass Road, a property formerly occupied by a Sheriff’s Office training office. An estimated cost for the project to create 39 spaces was more than $500,000.
“This would be something that would be a no-brainer for us on a good day, but we’re still trying to make up our deficit,” Commission Vice Chair Nancy Detert said, referencing the $11 million in departmental cuts the county will need to make in the next fiscal year.
Instead, commissioners directed staff to demolish the building on the property for up to $25,000. Commissioner Al Maio called it an “incremental step” in the process. Still, the source of that money hasn’t been identified and it isn’t allocated in the budget.
Commissioners also discussed approaching the operators of malls or other large properties near Siesta Key to rent or otherwise set aside parking spaces for a proposed off-island park-and-ride arrangement.
The owner of the Sarasota Pavilion, near Stickney Point Road and Tamiami Trail, offered up to 74 spaces at more than $270,000 a year. The owner of the Westfield Siesta Key mall offered 40 spaces, at about $15,000 a year.
But even at a lower price, or in some kind of donation deal based on the benefits of potential customers parking on the property, the cost of public transit to and from the beach might be prohibitive.
“That almost doesn’t matter if we don’t have enough money to operate the trolley on a consistent enough basis to make it work,” said interim County Administrator Jonathan Lewis.
County staffers estimate about $1.6 million would be needed to run trolleys throughout the year.
Moving forward, the commission directed staff to explore private options for a bike-sharing program, and try to set up a presentation from Charlotte County staff about their experiences with implementing paid parking.