The controversial move is surprisingly popular with island residents.

SIESTA KEY — Before imposing paid parking at Siesta Key beaches, the Sarasota County Commission needs more time to evaluate the potential move, officials said this week.

The commission will hold a special workshop sometime this year to discuss implementing paid parking at Siesta Key beaches, a move county officials believe would encourage carpooling to unclog roads and free up parking at the crowded tourist destination. The commission, which first considered charging to park last year, said the historically notorious notion is surprisingly popular among Siesta Key residents.

A survey of 700 residents conducted last year by the Siesta Key Association found 70 percent support paid parking on the key and the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the idea, as long as there is a method for key residents to continue to receive free parking, such as with resident decals.

"This is new and unique to Sarasota County, the fact that we're even considering charging for parking there," Commissioner Charles Hines said at the board’s meeting this week. "In the past, we would all be thrown out of office for even talking about it, but now I think times have changed."

At the future workshop, which has yet to be scheduled, commissioners will consider implementing paid parking, a potential toll to access Siesta Key, expanded trolley routes to provide a remote park and ride service, bicycle sharing program, water taxi service, creating either a surface parking lot or parking garage at a county-owned property located at 6647 Midnight Pass Road and conducting a traffic and parking planning study — which could cost between $40,000 and $100,000 — county officials said.

Possible remote locations for a potential park and ride program include: Westfield Siesta Key Mall, Westfield Sarasota Square and Sarasota Pavilion, formerly known as Gulf Gate Mall, Carolyn Brown, the county’s director of Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources said. Each location would charge the county for spaces, Brown said, adding the program could be a success if it’s reliable.

“It would really depend on how efficient the service would be,” Brown said on the program's potential success. “If someone could rely on being able to leave when they want to and be picked up when they want to and it was a reasonable price ... it could work very well.”

Currently, there are 976 parking spaces at Siesta Beach and an additional 300 spaces at Turtle Beach that usually fill up before midday during holidays and winter season, county officials said.

“Charging for parking on Siesta Beach or implementing a toll may help encourage beach goers to car pool or use alternative transportation, which will help alleviate congestion on Siesta Key,” Brown said.

Of similar jurisdictions, only Manatee County also has free parking, according to Brown’s analysis. Charlotte, Collier, Lee and Pinellas counties and the cities of Clearwater, Sanibel and St. Pete Beach all charge a wide array of different hourly, daily and annual fees. Some use smartphone apps, some use pay stations. Some include resident fees in their property taxes and others limit where the permits can even be used.