Three years after it was initially discussed, proposal for new public parking lot on South Midnight Pass Road to undergo first review by county Planning Commission

Public hearing set for May 7, via virtual meeting technology

A county graphic shows the location of the parcel at 6647 S. Midnight Pass Road. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Slightly more than three years after the Sarasota County Commission first discussed the idea, the Sarasota County Planning Commission members will have the so-called “first crack” at deciding whether to make it possible for county property located at 6647 S. Midnight Pass Road to be transformed into a public parking lot.

The county staff petition is the focus of the first public hearing on the Planning Commission’s May 7 agenda, the News Leader learned this week.

During their regular session on April 22, the County Commission gave County Administrator Lewis the go-ahead to allow the planning commissioners to begin meeting again, so as not to create a significant backlog in decisions on land-use applications amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The May 7 agenda says in bold at the top, “The Planning Commission will be utilizing Communications Media Technology (CMT) for the Public Hearing and there will be no physical location.”

In regard to the parking lot petition, the staff report notes that the county is seeking a Special Exception to develop a 0.54-acre section of a parcel owned by the county’s Public Utilities Department. The land is zoned Residential Multi-Family-1 (RMF-1), which allows up to six dwelling units per acre under the aegis of the Siesta Key Overlay District.

This is the Binding Development Concept Plan for the parking lot. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The proposal calls for 29 parking spaces to be added to the 14 already there, for a total of 43.

The site is south of Sun N Sea Drive, the staff report notes.

During a Sept. 26, 2019 Neighborhood Workshop conducted by county staff, the report continues, 37 members of the public were present to hear the details about the plan.

“The purpose of the proposed parking lot expansion and conversion is to provide additional parking to commercial patrons, general public, beach goers, visitors and others,” the narrative for that workshop explained.

The plans call for two Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) parking spaces, bicycle racks and motorcycle parking, along with the other spaces, that narrative added. “County staff indicated that the public parking facility will be free of charge including no time limitations,” the document continued. “However, if deemed practical and necessary, the County would consider a fee charge and restricting parking hours of operation.”

A county Public Utilities Department building on the property at 6647 S. Midnight Pass Road conceals a water tank. File photo

Further, the staff report for the Planning Commission notes that a Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) stop for the Siesta Key Breeze trolley is near the South Midnight Pass parcel; thus, parking lot patrons could use the trolley “to access various destinations around Siesta Key.”

The staff report also notes that a 6-foot-high vinyl privacy fence, 290 feet in length, would be erected along the southern property border, next to the Sea Winds condominium complex. The report explains that while that fence “does not meet the requirements of the [county’s Unified Development Code of building and zoning regulations], reconfiguring the parking area to accommodate the required landscaping would result in reducing the drive aisle within the lot,” which would interrupt traffic circulation and access to the parking spaces. That would create “a potential safety hazard,” the report adds.

A chain link fence standing from 4 to 6 feet high will be built along the northern boundary of the parcel, the report points out; that fence will continue at the height of 6 feet along the eastern portion of the site.

Additionally, a 5-foot-wide landscaping buffer will be provided along the northern property line between the chain link fence and the parking lot, the report says. “Landscaping at the parking lot entrance on Midnight Pass Road will be enhanced with new plantings and trees,” the report continues.

The construction would lead to a net decrease in impervious area from 12,308 square feet to 9,590 square feet, the report says.

Altogether, the parcel at 6647 S. Midnight Pass Road comprises 1.83 acres, the staff report points out. However, the remaining 1.29 acres “are not subject to the special exception.”

County staff has explained to the commissioners that a building on the eastern side of the property contains a water tank that is part of the Public Utilities Department infrastructure.