Employees find a home as chamber takes over south lot

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Parking spaces for 43 cars will be shared by 7 businesses

By John Morton

It took nearly two years to come to fruition, but on April 1 several entities in Siesta Key’s southern business district will have access to some much-needed parking spots for their employees.

On March 29, the Sarasota County Board of Commissioners agreed to lease that county-owned land at 6647 S. Midnight Pass Rd. to the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce for $19,350 per year initially, and four one-year renewals will be made available with an increase of 3.5% each year.

In return, the chamber is leasing the 43 parking spots to seven of its members interested in using them for employees only. The breakdown on the allocation of spots is as follows: Daiquiri Deck South, 9; Captain Curt’s, 9; Clayton’s Siesta Grille, 7; Big Water Fish Market, 7; Miguel’s Restaurant, 7; Sea Club V, 2; and Tropical Beach Resort, 2.

The chamber will be responsible for upkeep of the lot. It is located next door, to the south, to Crescent Plaza, home to Miguel’s and Big Water Fish Market. That lot has only 66 spots (48 in front, 18 in back) for 10 businesses.

Mason Tush, a chamber board member and owner of CB’s Saltwater Outfitters, spearheaded the project. At the March 29 meeting, fellow chamber member Gabe Garcia, who owns Miguel’s, emphasized to the commissioners the challenge many businesses face with employee parking, and thanked commission chairman Alan Maio for helping bring the endeavor to completion.

The commission unanimously approved the lease with the chamber.

“It’s a big deal,” Tush said. “Some of the staff with our businesses were getting parking tickets because they had to park in the wrong spots.

“It was no fault of their own — they’d circle around, looking for a spot, and they’d have no choice but to park wherever they could or not go to work.”

The 1.83-acre lot was once the site of a Sheriff’s Office training station. At one point, the commission considered using it as a turnaround spot for the county’s Siesta Key Breeze trolley. Then, discussion began about using it for parking and in June of last year the county spent $157,000 to pave area, which began last fall.

However, whether the lot would be used for public parking or be earmarked for chamber employees became a debate. Several residents opposed the public-parking concept in fear that beach-goers would walk across the street and through their properties, seeing as no public access was in the immediate vicinity.

Eventually, the chamber plan won out.

Tush made it clear that more parking solutions are still needed in the south business district.

“This is not a solve-all. It’s just a little relief, and that’s a start,” he said.

John Morton
Author: John Morton

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