County staff sends Benderson Development pages of comments citing insufficiencies in the firm’s latest Siesta Promenade applications

Among the issues, staff points to lack of details about heights of specific buildings and about traffic patterns in the development

A rendering shows a three-story building adjacent to the Pine Shores Estates neighborhood, with taller buildings closer to the middle of the project. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Benderson Development Co. has been asked, figuratively speaking, to fill in a number of blanks in the latest materials it filed with Sarasota County regarding its proposed Siesta Promenade project, The Sarasota News Leader has learned.

On July 25, county Planner Todd Dary sent Todd Mathes, director of development for Benderson, two letters detailing numerous insufficiencies in the documents the county received from the firm in late June. Benderson had revised its plans for the mixed-use development at the northwest corner of the intersection of U.S 41 and Stickney Point Road.

Among the issues Dary’s letters cited are the lack of figures showing maximum building heights and setbacks; no clear plan showing road width and turning radii for traffic patterns within the development; the fact that the material does not indicate which portions of rights of way of public streets the firm intends to be vacated; and insufficient data in the company’s updated traffic analysis. The latter was discussed with Benderson staff on June 26, according to one of Dary’s letters. Shannon Rodden in the county’s Transportation Planning Division wrote that the transportation analysis should address “all [Florida Department of Transportation] and Sarasota County comments” provided during that meeting.

In a section regarding county Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department requirements, one letter said Benderson “should provide a private shuttle service to [Siesta Public Beach, Turtle Beach Park, Crescent Beach and Point of Rocks Beach] “and/or work with [Sarasota County Area Transit] to increase the frequency of trips to the beaches and/or look into expanding the Siesta Key Breeze Trolley service to the project site.”

A graphic shows the site planned for Siesta Promenade and potential access points to it. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The free open-air circulator began service on the island on March 20; county Administrator Tom Harmer and SCAT Director Rocky Burke have vowed to find the funding to ensure its continuing operation.

The documents county staff received about Siesta Promenade on June 28 showed a reduction from 506 to 415 residential dwelling units and a hotel with 130 rooms, instead of the 150 originally planned. The firm still proposed 140,000 square feet of retail and office space.

Benderson has sought a Critical Area Plan (CAP) designation for the project so it can pursue a density of up to 25 residential dwelling units per acre. That exceeds the 13 allowed in Commercial General zoning districts. The site itself — where a mobile home park once stood — is zoned for 9 units per acre. The development site is approximately 24 acres.

The company also indicated in the June 28 materials that it still plans to construct condominium towers as tall as 85 feet, though — as county staff noted in the July 25 letters to Mathes — no details were provided about which buildings it would like to construct at that height.


Todd Mathes, director of development for Benderson Development, holds up a rendering of a residential building for Siesta Promenade during the June 2, 2016 SKA meeting. File photo

In a June 2, 2016 presentation to members and guests of the Siesta Key Association, Mathes unveiled a version of plans that he pointed out had been modified from the firm’s original proposal, dating to 2014. The new concept, he stressed, would encompass 40,000 fewer square feet than Paradise Plaza on Bay Road in Sarasota. He also talked of the “huge demand in the whole area for residential product.”

On Jan. 25, the County Commission voted 4-1 to allow Benderson to continue pursuit of the CAP designation for Siesta Promenade. However, it specified a number of analyses — including those regarding traffic patterns at 16 intersections near the project site — that the firm would have to undertake as part of its application process. Commissioner Nancy Detert cast the “No” vote, saying, “I’d frankly like to stop this process, and I don’t know how to do it.”

Detert joined the board in November 2016.

In response to questions from the News Leader this week, county Media Relations Officer Jason Bartolone wrote in an Aug. 1 email that staff is awaiting updated materials after providing the letters to Benderson. He added that after the documents have been resubmitted, “staff will perform another completeness review. That process typically takes 30-45 days, but we expect the next review to be no longer than 30 days.”

Bartolone continued, “Then, after the material has been deemed complete, formal review will commence. We anticipate the first public hearing [by the Planning Commission] to occur approximately 60 days after the beginning of the formal review, and the [County Commission] hearing to occur approximately 45 days after that.”


County staff cites apparent inaccuracies with facets of the graphics on the right of this exhibit in the June application for the rezoning. Image courtesy Sarasota County

One letter Dary sent Mathes on July focuses on Benderson’s request to rezone the property for the development; the other discusses issues relative just to the Critical Area Plan application.

The four-page letter involving the rezoning petition includes nine repetitions of the notice, “INCOMPLETE” [emphasis in the document]. The first paragraph says, “After review of [the materials submitted in June], Sarasota County finds this application INCOMPLETE.”

Todd Dary. Rachel Hackney photo

Documentation of the specific insufficiencies are detailed by department. For example, Planning Services staff — represented by Dary — noted that the Site Data Table Benderson provided should include the following information:

  • Acreage of the project.
  • The total number of dwelling units, including the hotel rooms.
  • Density.
  • Commercial square footage.
  • Office square footage.

Dary also asked for details about the locations and dimensions of the landscape buffers between Siesta Promenade and all the adjacent properties and streets, along with the locations and dimensions of the sidewalks and other pedestrian paths within the development.

For another example, Dary noted that one section of the application indicates a distance of 29 feet between the edge of the pavement of Glencoe Avenue and the Siesta Promenade property line; however, “the actual dimension appears to be 18 or 19 feet.”

Dary adds, “The graphic depictions and dimensions of ‘single family house to 3 story building’ and ‘single family house to edge of pavement’ are also inaccurate.”

Regarding the “Roadway Vacation Plan,” Dary wrote that the concept Benderson provided “includes portions of public streets including Brentwood Avenue, Sunset Boulevard Street, and Crestwood Avenue. A plan is required that clearly indicates what portion of these rights-of-way are intended to be vacated and how alternative public access is to be provided. The plan must include a schedule showing how the vacation process relates to the rezoning/CAP process.”

A graphic submitted in June shows the residential units shaded in yellow, with the commercial space in white. Image courtesy Sarasota County
A section of a July 25 county letter to Benderson Development cites specific concerns relative to the preceding graphic. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Furthermore, Dary noted, the development concept plan “depicts the re-alignment of Crestwood Avenue. Please provide and label buffer along Crestwood Avenue. The re-alignment of [the street] and the vacation of existing public streets require a street vacation be processed. Please coordinate with [the county’s] Real Property [Division].”

Under the Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department comments, county staff member Mike Sosadeeter wrote, for example, “There appears to be a swimming pool on site in the residential area. Applicant needs to provide more description of this amenity, including, but not limited to” its proposed size, capacity for users and complementary features, such as a splash pad and shaded seating areas.

County staffer Kristen Hellman focused on the landscaping, pointing out that the 10-foot-wide buffers separating the project from the nearby streets that intersect with Tamiami Trail and Stickney Point Road have to be labeled on the development concept plan.

Under the section with comments from the county’s Air and Water Quality Division, staff member Joe Kraus noted that the change in the arrangement of the buildings in the revised development concept plan will have a different impact on stormwater management for the area than the plan Benderson submitted to the county in August 2016. Yet, Kraus continued, the updated stormwater information that staff needs is not displayed on the concept plan, and no revised supplement has been submitted. “Submit revised plan,” Kraus added.

The Fire Department reviewer also asked that the plan show the locations of fire hydrants.