By Rachel Brown Hackney
In late September, Sarasota County staff posted new signs at 12 parking spaces on Beach Road — adjacent to Siesta Public Beach Park picnic shelters — prohibiting the spaces’ use between midnight and 5 a.m. daily.
That restriction was the 4-1 decision of the Sarasota County Commission in a Sept. 7 vote; it was a response to complaints from Sunset Royale and Crescent Royale condominium owners. The buildings are across the street from the parking spots.
“I am ecstatic,” Paul Parr, one of the proponents of the late-night parking prohibition, told SNL “I am very happy, and I think the commission did a real good job of parsing [the concerns and information].” Parr said he was certain his fellow property owners in Sunset Royale and those at Crescent Royale also would be thrilled with the decision.
Commission Chair Al Maio — who is the Siesta Key representative on the board — made the motion for the restriction after passing the gavel to Vice Chair Paul Caragiulo. “I’ve spent a lot of time on this issue,” Maio said. When he was first elected in 2014, he continued, he visited with a number of the condominium owners in Sunset Royale and Crescent Royale. “I believe, based on listening to dozens of people, that between midnight and 5 a.m., there are a lot of activities [in or next to those Beach Road spaces].”
As Parr and Robert D’Orsi, president of the Sunset Royale Association, pointed out to the county’s Traffic Advisory Council members in June and the County Commission in September, residents and renters at the two complexes contend with considerable noise late at night — much of it, they say, emanating from the area of the picnic tables and the parking spots.
Commissioner Christine Robinson cast the lone “No” vote, having asked staff and D’Orsi numerous questions about the number of vehicle crashes and pedestrian injuries related to use of those parking spaces. Robinson also pointed out people arrive at the beach park early in the morning to collect trash on the shoreline; yet, the beach parking lot officially does not open until 6 a.m.
During his Sept. 7 presentation to the commission, Robert Fakhri, manager of the county’s Traffic Engineering and Operations Division, explained that representatives of Sunset Royale and Crescent Royale were petitioning for one of three options: elimination of the 12 spaces; restricting the spaces to loading zone usage only; or prohibiting parking after 10 p.m. each day.
Fakhri also told the commission that both the Siesta Key Village Association and the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce had provided letters protesting the elimination of the parking spaces but supporting a prohibition of usage between midnight and 6 a.m.
Replying to a question from Maio, Fakhri explained that the restrooms in the beach park close at 10 p.m. That was why he believed the condominium owners had called for the parking restriction after 10 p.m., Maio said.