County staff formally notifies Benderson Development that its Siesta Promenade application is on hold as staff awaits FDOT comments

County staff also has sought a formal response from FDOT on the latest proposals for a road swap that would involve the area planned for the mixed-use development

A 2005 aerial map shows the Pine Shores Trailer Park on the site where Benderson Development proposes to build Siesta Promenade. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Sarasota County staff has informed the director of development for Benderson Development Co. that while staff is awaiting a new set of comments from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), the company’s Critical Area Plan (CAP) application for Siesta Promenade is on hold, The Sarasota News Leaderlearned this week.

As the News Leaderreported on April 27, county Planner Todd Dary sent letters to Todd Mathes of Benderson Development on April 17 saying that the CAP application material the firm delivered to the county in March was incomplete, but the responses to county staff’s February comments about Benderson’s rezoning application were complete.

Yet, FDOT had not provided county staff its latest assessment of traffic analyses that Benderson provided on March 14 regarding Siesta Promenade. Neither Dary letter said that the county’s Transportation Planning Division was waiting on that FDOT material.

The News Leaderasked on April 30 whether county Planning and Development Services Department staff had revised the letters and sent new versions to Mathes. Media Relations Officer Drew Winchester replied on May 2, providing the News Leadera copy of an interoffice memo that, he added, was sent to Mathes last week.

The April 27 memo says that Benderson’s CAP application for the approximately 23.84-acre Siesta Promenade site — at the northwest corner of the U.S. 41/Stickney Point Road intersection — “is on hold at this time” and explains the situation with FDOT.

The memo went from Douglas Sines, a technical specialist in the Transportation Planning Division, through the manager of that division — Paula Wiggins — to Dary. Sines was the staff member whose comments about the need for further transportation analysis details were included in Feb. 1 county letters to Mathes.

Image courtesy Sarasota County

Additionally, Winchester told the News Leaderon May 2 that Benderson Development cannot hold a neighborhood workshop on its latest plans for Siesta Promenade until after the CAP application has been deemed complete.

In January 2017, the County Commission agreed to allow Benderson Development to pursue a CAP designation for the proposed mixed-use project on the site of a former mobile home park. Commissioners pointed out at the time that, under the guidelines for a CAP application, staff would be able to require much more extensive analyses — including material about how the development could affect traffic — than staff otherwise could seek.

Residents and business owners — including many on Siesta Key — have continued to oppose Benderson’s plans for 414 dwelling units, a 130-room hotel and 140,000 square feet of retail and other commercial space at the heavily congested intersection of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road. During the height of this year’s tourist season, residents regularly posted photos on Facebook showing long lines of vehicles headed west on Stickney Point Road, past the proposed Siesta Promenade site.

An aerial map shows the intersection of Avenue B and C with Stickney Point Road. Image from Google Maps

Traffic worries associated with the project have been exacerbated, the News Leaderhas been told, by Benderson’s continuing call for FDOT to erect a traffic signal at the intersection of Avenue B and C and Stickney Point Road. FDOT staff also has expressed reservations about that proposal, especially in light of traffic stacking from Stickney Point Road onto U.S. 41 during tourist season.

Yet another issue that has sparked worry among residents and business owners in the area is the prospective road swap the County Commission has been pursuing with FDOT.

In an effort to speed up needed improvements to River Road in South County, Sarasota County staff last year began discussions with FDOT representatives about the potential of FDOT’s taking over authority for River Road and the county’s assuming responsibility for Siesta Drive, Midnight Pass Road and Stickney Point Road west of U.S. 41, primarily on Siesta Key.

If the road swap is completed before the County Commission makes a final decision about Siesta Promenade, will FDOT be allowed to have any say about traffic issues related to Siesta Promenade? people have asked.

Paula Wiggins, the county’s Transportation Planning Division manager, recently told the News Leaderthat FDOT “would be able to weigh in” on any transportation plans that would affect the intersection at U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road.

Drivers attempt to turn westbound from U.S. 41 onto Stickney Point Road on April 6. Contributed photo

Assistant County Administrator Mark Cunningham reported to the County Commission on April 24 that, the previous day, staff had asked L.K. Nandam, FDOT’s District One secretary, to provide the county a formal response to a letter Cunningham sent FDOT on April 6 regarding proposed terms of the road swap.

Cunningham added on April 24 that after staff receives that formal reply, it will prepare an agenda item for the commissioners. Then they can provide whatever direction to county staff that they deem appropriate at that time.