Paid Parking

| September 1, 2017

Siesta Key Association launches another survey

   On Aug. 4, the SKA emailed its latest survey to members. This one is in response to a July 11 County Commission discussion regarding the potential for charging people to park at Siesta Public Beach.

Commissioners indicated a keen interest in using the resulting revenue to boost mass transit options that would decrease traffic on the Key.

A note on the SKA website says, “An invitation to complete a survey seeking member views on paid parking at the Siesta Key Public Beach and other Siesta Key sites was sent to all currently active SKA members … The survey will be open until September 6, 2017. … If you received an invitation but have not completed the survey, please take a few minutes to do so in the next few weeks. We want to hear from all members!”

The survey also asks members how they feel about the possibility of the county’s charging for parking at Turtle Beach, in the public parking lot in the Village, at a proposed new parking lot/Siesta Key Breeze stop on South Midnight Pass Road and at all the county’s beach accesses.

Further, it inquires about members’ views on whether county property owners and/or those people whose primary legal residences are in the county should pay to park.

This survey is the third the SKA has undertaken thus far this year. The first was on the open-air trolley — the Breeze — that the county operates for free. The second encompassed questions about a series of hot topics on the Key — from the potential for a new hotel to members’ views on the proposed Siesta Promenade mixed-use development at the intersection of Stickney Point Road and U.S. 41.

Harold Ashby, President of the Siesta Key Association, sent an email to Carolyn Brown at Sarasota County on August 14 with the preliminary results of the survey. The info was sent so the county will have an idea where the members of SKA stand regarding the idea of paid parking at the beach for a commissioners August 29 session of business.

In the email, Ashby states,” The Survey was sent to the 1,060 SKA members (households) for whom we have valid email addresses. We have 1,405 active members (households); however some have not provided email addresses, some email addresses have become stale and some members have requested that we exclude them from eblast emails. As the survey document indicates, we received 582 total responses so far. We released the survey on August 4 and it will be closed on September 6. A few days prior to closing the survey, those who have not responded will receive a notice that the survey is about to close. Our experience has been that the notice usually triggers a spurt of responses, but the overall percentages change very little.”

The email goes on to say “The survey was structured so that only the addressee can answer it once. It cannot be forwarded or answered multiple times. If the member answered “no” to the first question, they were not given the opportunity to answer the other questions.”

“The members were also given the opportunity to provide written comments. We received almost 300 comments, many of which provided advice on how to implement paid parking, the types of systems to be used, etc., etc. We deliberately avoided many “how to” questions in our survey, but that didn’t stop many members from offering “how to” advice in the comments. At this point, we wanted to hear from our members on the question of paid parking, yes or no, and the related significant questions of which Siesta Key parking lots to implement paid parking, exclusions and discounts and use of proceeds. We also recognize that the notion of using paid parking proceeds to finance the acquisition of off-key parking sites may be considered at some point, so we asked the members to chime in on whether they would support a County decision to acquire off-key parking site(s). Although the comments we received covered many diverse areas, there are two areas that were mentioned by many members and I believe merit attention:”

“Many residents are concerned that paid parking will drive beachgoers into the neighborhoods where they will park illegally. SKA has received many complaints about the lack of enforcement of no parking laws and the lack of law enforcement support for dealing with people who park on private property without the owner’s permission. The County will no doubt need to address that issue as part of any plan to convert to paid parking.”

“Many residents felt that Siesta Key residents and/or Siesta Key property owners should be entitled to free or reduced rate parking. We deliberately did not ask that question because the Trolley already provides most of those people with a viable alternative to driving to the Beach or the Village. However, SCAT has declined to provide Trolley service to the north end of Siesta Key (north of the Village) which may contain as many as 1,000 residential properties.”

“I spoke to Dr. Beach last week to determine his reaction to paid parking at Siesta Beach. He was generally OK with paid parking and mentioned a suggestion that it be implemented for peak periods only. He also emphatically said that he would not want to see paid parking develop into a “money grab” by the County whereby the proceeds were not used to improve the condition or maintenance of the beach or provide facilities for non-motor vehicle access to the Beach. He said he has taken negative views on beaches that have implemented significant parking and access charges, well beyond what would be considered reasonable user fees.”

   Following are the results of the survey so far in regards to the main questions:

Q1: Are you in favor of Sarasota County charging for parking at Siesta Key Public Beach? If you answer YES to this question, you will be asked to answer additional questions regarding exemptions from paid parking, use of paid parking proceeds, etc. There were 582 responses with basically 76% (441) in favor of the paid parking.

Q4: What percentage of the proceeds from paid parking do you believe should be invested in projects that support Siesta Key needs for transportation and parking? Of the 426 responses, 258 wanted 100% of the revenue to be invested for transportation and parking.

Q5: Do you believe Sarasota County should aggressively seek to acquire parking facilities located off Siesta Key together with mass transit options to reduce the number of cars on Siesta Key? Of the 426 responses, 337 or 79% believe the county should seek off island parking.

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