Sarasota County Commissioners unanimously approved 22 new parking spaces on Ocean Boulevard, though a few island organizations are still against the plan.
In early November, the Public Works Department delivered a report that analyzed the proposal, which representatives of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce first brought forth. Staff found that the expense of the additional 22 spaces would be $250,000.
Funding for the project, staff found, could come from the county’s General Fund, which is largely composed of property tax and gas tax revenue, the 1-cent infrastructure sales tax and the Tourist Development Tax.
The parking spaces were first talked about five years ago when Siesta Key business owners wanted to expand parking in Siesta Village. Though the board showed interest, Commissioner Alan Maio said funding for the spaces at that time didn’t come through.
“Staff felt we didn’t have the money and I should’ve pushed it, but at that time we were dealing with a lot of stuff,” Maio said.
The proposal was revisited in October when Siesta Chamber leader Mark Smith brought an 18-space proposal to the board.
During his presentation, Smith said parking is a premium on the key and business owners in the area thought the spaces would help drive more business.
The project will add 22 diagonal spaces along Ocean Boulevard, near The Old Salty Dog restaurant. The spaces will be created in the public right of way.
Commissioners initially were worried about decreased funds due to increased expenses due to COVID-19. However, Maio said initial projections showed county revenue sources dropping 20-30% but new numbers project a 2-5% decrease.
“Is there any way in that delta we can come up with the $250,000 and not push this another year down the road,” Maio asked.
County Administrator Jonathan Lewis said with direction from the board, staff could create the spaces. Commissioners unanimously approved the project.
The Siesta Key Association and the Siesta Key Condominium Council have expressed opposition for the spots.
Since August, SKCC leaders have expressed disdain for the spaces, citing safety and aesthetic concerns.
In letters to SKCC members, leaders said the spots could create a bottleneck near a bus stop.
“The SKCC loves the trolley and applaud the county’s efforts to have a consultant find ways to make the SK roadways safer for all who use them,” a letter states. “This parking space increase is a dangerous backward step.”
SKA members have previously expressed concern for the spaces which they argue are in a residential area and adding a project for commercial use could affect the access for condo residents in the area.
A timeline for the project has yet to be discussed.