City Commission approves change in land use classification from commercial to multi-residential for 4.5-acre site on Beneva Road near Fruitville intersection

Rezoning and site plan would have to undergo public hearings before a project for the property could be approved

A map shows the property (outlined in red) at 105 S. Beneva Road. Image from the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office

He had had no contact about concerns raised since Feb. 21, the agent for Tenth Way Corp. told the Sarasota City Commission this week. Therefore, Donald Neu added, he was surprised to learn that residents had requested the board conduct a second reading that night instead of that afternoon on the proposed Comprehensive Plan amendment he was seeking.

On Feb. 21, the commissioners voted 4-1 — with Commissioner Susan Chapman in the minority — to amend the city’s Future Land Use Map in its Comprehensive Plan to change the designation from Community Commercial to Multiple Family-Medium Density for an approximately 4.5-acre parcel located at 105 S. Beneva Road, as Neu had requested.

On March 6, City Auditor and Clerk Pam Nadalini informed the commissioners about the request to move the second reading to the evening session, which would begin at 6 p.m.

Four people had signed up to talk about the proposed amendment that afternoon, City Attorney Robert Fournier said, so the board could let them go ahead and speak.

Ultimately, the commissioners agreed to the agenda adjustment. Nonetheless, after listening to concerns of the six speakers — with much of the focus on environmental issues and traffic congestion — the board repeated its 4-1 vote of Feb. 21.

The land is adjacent to a commercial center that houses Nellie’s Deli. Image from Google Maps

As Fournier pointed out that night, the future land use change, if approved, “does not authorize any development on the property.” As Neu himself said in response to a question from Commissioner Suzanne Atwell, if the designation of the property were not modified, the parcel could host up to 120,000 square feet of retail use. “No doubt it would be more impactful” to the environment, Neu noted, than the multi-family housing project his client is considering.

“I think a lot of things can be dealt with down the road [with] the site plan,” Atwell pointed out in making the motion to approve the future land use reclassification of the property.

Vice Mayor Shelli Freeland Eddie and Commissioner Liz Alpert concurred with her.

When Neu appears before the Planning Board and the City Commission to obtain the necessary rezoning for a residential development, Freeland Eddie added, plenty of opportunity will be afforded for neighbors of the site to voice their concerns.

Vice Mayor Shelli Freeland Eddie. File photo

Moreover, she said, “I live in the community and I’m familiar with the congestion and the traffic.” However, she continued, she also is aware of the city’s need for affordable housing and for dwelling units in areas where people can walk to amenities. For example, she noted, the city-owned Bobby Jones Golf Course is a short distance west of the property.

“I think Vice Mayor Eddie said it very well,” Alpert added.

During the board’s afternoon session, Freeland Eddie asked Neu whether Tenth Way Corp. would make dwelling units in its project affordable.
“To make good use of the land,” he said, “I think the only issue was height.” Without tall buildings, he continued, he did not believe the property had enough space — working around the environmental challenges, including grand oaks — to make a project viable. “But we don’t know that until we do our formal design.”

Freeland Eddie told him she was not concerned about height but about affordable housing.

“We fully intend to be very reasonably priced,” Neu responded.

However, Chapman pointed out, “The fact that [this site] has been marketed as a shopping center for a period of years and hasn’t worked” indicated that a project with less density would be appropriate there.

Chapman also opposed the prospect of high-rise condominium towers on the property.

One speaker that afternoon — Norm Dumaine — talked of the potential of buildings standing 95 and 110 feet tall, which he called incompatible with the surrounding area.

The property

The current owner of the site is Tenth Way Corp.

According to state Division of Corporations records, the registered agent for Tenth Way Corp. is G. David Walters of 1717 10th Way in Sarasota. The firm dates to 1974, those records show.

Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office records show the land was valued at $80,300 in 2016.

The property is adjacent to a commercial center that houses Nellie’s Deli, and a Walgreens is just west of that complex.

Public concerns

(From left) Norm Dumaine, Harry Dunn, James Murphy and Kim Giaccardo appear before the City Commission. News Leader photo

Among the four speakers that afternoon who addressed the board, Kim Giaccardo and James Murphy both talked about the wildlife that inhabits the property, including gopher tortoises. “This is a very sensitive piece of land,” Giaccardo told the commissioners, noting that it also has wetlands, as well as grand oaks.

Murphy explained that his research had found that 2,500 species of endangered birds use the site as a stopover on their annual migrations. Moreover, he said, the gopher tortoises that live there dig burrows that are up to 52 feet long and as deep as 25 feet. Those burrows provide habitat for another 360 species, he said, including rabbits, mice, foxes, armadillos, lizards and frogs.

That evening, Michele Jerman and Happy Dunn — both residents of the nearby Glen Oaks Estates — talked of the congestion on Fruitville Road in the vicinity of the property. “I oppose any high-rise development [near] the corner of Beneva and Fruitville,” Jerman said.

Donald Neu. News Leader photo

“Allowing a seven-story building,” Dunn added, “would be way out of character for the neighborhood.”

She also concurred with Jerman on the traffic issue, calling the counts of vehicles “very heavy and disruptive.”

During his remarks that evening, Neu pointed out that a traffic analysis had shown that a residential development on the property would lead to 539 fewer vehicle trips each day than a commercial use.

“Public workshops will be held,” he added. “We want to produce a compatible and walkable [community].”

Alluding to Freeland Eddie’s earlier question about affordable dwelling units, Neu continued, “We anticipate this being some workforce housing. … Height and density affect affordability.”