OUR POSITION: We understand the need for public parking for Sunseeker and believe the county should work with the resort to find a solution, but the county should resist using Bayshore Live Oak Park property.
A parking lot for Sunseeker resort is back in the news and there are strong opinions on both sides whether: 1) it’s needed; 2) if Charlotte County should help pay for it and 3) where it could be built.
There is much to consider before any decision is made, but there is no doubt a need will exist for public parking to accommodate those who would patronize Sunseeker restaurants and possible shops along the waterfront boardwalk. Sunseeker is counting on a robust business from the public along with its guests to support a number of eclectic restaurants that are planned — all with a waterfront view.
We could argue for either side as Charlotte County commissioners offer up their opinions on the topic. A discussion this past week during a commission meeting made it appear the four commissioners present were split evenly on finding the money and property for parking.
Money is one issue, as costs for a parking lot could range from $931,000 to $1.9 million, depending on full paving, partial paving or grass. An even bigger challenge we believe is where the parking lot would be built. The idea of giving away any Live Oak Park waterfront property for a parking lot is stomach-churning.
Live Oak Park property could be off limits anyway as county staff pointed out the park was bought with more than $1 million in public conservation funds from a trust that must approve any tree removal.
In a Daily Sun story by Betsy Calvert, Commissioners Ken Doherty and Stephen R. Deutsch seemed to lean toward finding county funds for a parking lot while Commissioners Chris Constance and Joe Tiseo were much more cautious about promising any parking spaces.
Constance favored waiting until the resort is open to see how much demand there is for public parking before adding “I don’t see this being on our tab.”
Doherty was concerned that a lack of parking would be an issue.
Tiseo said he might consider pitching in to help pay for parking if Sunseeker would agree to pay to connect its portion of the waterfront boardwalk to the county’s walkway along Bayshore Drive. That could cost between $100,000 and $800,000.
There will be some parking available across Tamiami Trail in Live Oak Point Park that could be accessed by using the boardwalk under the bridge. How much will be available is still a question as final plans for a restaurant on property that abuts Live Oak Point Park are unsettled. We are also curious if the county could purchase a business or two along Tamiami Trail next to Sunseeker to build a parking lot.
Commissioners agreed to take up the discussion again March 8 when Commissioner Bill Truex will have an opportunity to give his opinion. If commissioners stay on the track they appeared to be on last week, Truex could be a deciding future vote on whether the county will be on board to fund a parking lot.
Sunseeker has been a good public/private partner and, as Tiseo pointed out, is building a quality product. We can imagine a public parking lot would be needed to accommodate visitors, some who may just want to walk the boardwalk. We prefer keeping Live Oak Park off limits, however.
Image Credits: Sun Coast Media Group