By Rachel Brown Hackney
Property owners at the Sunset Royale condominium complex on Siesta Key voiced frustration and their eagerness for the County Commission to address the matter after the county’s Traffic Advisory Council (TAC) unanimously denied their request to eliminate 12 parking spaces parallel to Siesta Public Beach, limit the spaces to loading zone use only or prohibit parking in them between midnight and 6 a.m.
“That’s just horrible, Paul Parr told SNL moments after the June 13 vote in Sarasota.
Bob D’Orsi, president of the Sunset Royale Condominium Association — who filed the petition on behalf of the organization — talked of plans to pursue the issue with the County Commission. “That’s the next move,” he told the SNL: “start getting some support with the commission.”
Lisa Cece, the special district coordinator for the county who is serving as the temporary staff liaison for the TAC, told SNL in a June 14 email that the matter will be forwarded to the County Commission.
During an interview after the June 13 meeting, D’Orsi said, “I really thought for sure we were going to get the midnight to 6 a.m. parking [restriction].”
Both the Siesta Key Village Association and the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce provided letters to the TAC in support of that option, staff notified the council on June 13.
In making the motion to deny the petition, TAC member Becky Ayech pointed out that she has been a county resident for close to four decades, “and beach parking has always been a problem in this county.” Any time local government can take action to ensure public access to the beaches, she continued, “I think that’s a great thing.”
At the outset of the council’s consideration of the Sunset Royale request, Shanon Rodden, a technical specialist in the county’s Transportation Planning Division, explained that staff’s research showed that vehicles using the 12 spaces “do not impede traffic flow, create safety issues or impact emergency services operations.”
Furthermore, Rodden noted, staff asked the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office for data about complaints regarding people or vehicles in those spaces, and the office responded that it handled 13 calls between May 2015 and May 2016. “[They] do not substantiate [the petitioner’s claims of] unlawful activity,” she added. Eight of them were unrelated to parking, she noted.
During his public comments, Parr told the TAC members, “the [Beach Road] parking “does obstruct traffic,” and he invited them to come to Sunset Royale, sit on a condo balcony — especially on a weekend — and observe the issues that arise. People are inclined to fling open their vehicle doors without looking for approaching traffic, Parr said, and bicyclists veer into the traffic lanes, for example.
During his turn at the podium, D’Orsi explained that, with the park improvements under way much of last fall, people were unable to utilize the Beach Road spaces as regularly as they do now; that accounted for the low number of complaints Rodden cited from the Sheriff’s Office.
"There is a lot of nighttime activity there,” he said of the parking spaces, especially on Sunday nights, after the conclusion of the Drum Circle on Siesta Public Beach. If people were sitting in front of their homes “at 3 o’clock in the morning, playing the radio, [talking] and having a few drinks, it would disturb you,” he told the TAC members.
Only one member of the public asked the TAC to deny the petition. Skip Parrish reminded the council that the beach park predated the construction of Sunset Royale across the street, so anyone who bought a condo in the building should have known what to expect.