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Workshop discussion leans toward paid parking

Residents from across the county turned out to voice their concerns and ideas on how to best approach parking and traffic on Siesta Key.

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  • | 12:50 p.m. February 27, 2019
  • Sarasota
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Start talking about traffic on Siesta Key, as dozens of residents and county leaders did on Wednesday at a special workshop on the topic, and there’s no shortage of ideas.

And it didn’t take long for paid parking at Siesta Beach to come up.

"Siesta Key Beach is one of the few places we can take our family, we can take our friends, and it’s affordable.”

As County Commissioners gather information on possible solutions to frequent traffic tie-ups on the popular destination, people were invited to share their views.

Linda Ferguson said she's witnessed fistfights over parking spaces.

John Ferguson told commissioners he heads to the beach very early for his daily walk to avoid traffic. “But when I leave,” he said, “It’s backed up to U.S. 41.”

Mark Smith of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce said 85% of the members polled in his organization said they supported some form of paid parking on Siesta Key, with an identical percentage supporting free parking for county residents. Siesta Key Association President Gene Kusekoski said that SKA members were largely in favor of paid parking with some kind of parking pass for county residents.

But not everyone was willing to reach into their pockets to pay.

 “For a lot of us, that is a burden,'' said Dorian Swan. "Siesta Key Beach is one of the few places we can take our family, we can take

Linda Ferguson address the commission at the public workshop.
Linda Ferguson address the commission at the public workshop.

our friends, and it’s affordable.”

Commissioner Nancy Detert was also one of the voices in the room that sounded unconvinced about the effectiveness of paid parking.

“As far as I’m concerned, paid parking doesn’t free up parking spaces, it just generates revenue,” she said.

While the workshop was designated as a public forum, not a meeting at which decisions were made, commissioners closed with what they wanted to see next.

“I’d like to see: where would we build a garage?” Commissioner Christian Ziegler asked. “What options do we have in that area and what would the cost be? These cars are coming. It doesn’t matter what we do, nothing is stopping people from coming to Siesta Key.”