County staff calls for ‘more consistent policy language’ in regard to Siesta hotel projects’ proposals for amending a county land-use policy specific to the barrier islands

Long Range Planning Division representative cites similarities and differences among hotel plans’ treatment of residential density

The approximately 2-acre Wells Fargo bank site, where a fourth hotel on Siesta Key is planned, is near the intersection of Midnight Pass Road and Beach Road. Image from Google Maps

For the first time, The Sarasota News Leader has learned, Sarasota County Planning and Development Services staff has called for “more consistent policy language” than applicants have provided in proposals submitted to the county over the past year for four Siesta Key hotel projects.

A representative of the county’s Long Range Planning Division stressed in a recent document, “Understand, based on the timing of taking each of the four proposals through the public hearing process, staff may be asking the agents to amend their language for internal consistency as each project moves forward in time.”

In other words, the staff member was pointing out, if one of the hotel projects and its proposed amendment to the county’s Future Land Use Policy 2.9.1 were to win final County Commission approval, that could dictate the standards for the others.

Following an April 1 review of the latest Siesta Key plans — for a 100-room boutique hotel on the former Wells Fargo bank site — the representative of the Long Range Planning Division wrote a detailed account of the competing Comprehensive Plan amendments. That came in the form of an attachment to a document including the comments of the county’s Development Review Coordination group, after it assessed all the facets of the preliminary application.

The Development Review Coordination (DRC) committee comprises representatives of each county department or division that is involved in land-use issues. The county website explains, “The DRC provides technical assistance intended to guide and help applicants navigate the Sarasota County’s Comprehensive Plan, Sarasota County Code of Ordinances, and streamline review processes.”

These are the county’s DRC members, as of Jan. 4. Image courtesy Sarasota County

“At this point,” the Long Range Planning comments began, “each hotel proposal desires to amend Future Land Use Policy [FLU] 2.9.1 to gain higher densities/intensities than are currently allowed by policy. Each is also proposing changes to the UDC [Unified Development Code] to support higher densities and intensities than are currently permitted.”

The UDC comprises all the county’s land-use and zoning regulations.

“In terms of Future Land Use Policy 2.9.1, the document continued, “two of the projects propose to amend the policy in a more ‘site specific’ manner, while the other proposals would apply to all CG/SKOD properties no matter the location.

“CG” stands for Commercial General zoning, while the SKOD is the Siesta Key Overlay District, which contains all of the zoning regulations specific to the barrier island.

Then the DRC document provided details about the four approaches, noting that two of them were submitted by the same agent, Weiqi Lin, a former long-time member of the county’s Environmental Permitting staff who opened his own consulting firm a couple of years ago — Port and Coastal Consultants in Sarasota.

Lin is representing the owners of the former Wells Fargo site, located at 5810 Midnight Pass Road, and Siesta Key Beach Resort and Suites, which stands at the intersection of Calle Miramar and Ocean Boulevard in Siesta Village.

The attachment to the DRC form points out that the plans for the hotel on the Wells Fargo parcel call for lands zoned CG/SKOD to be “redeveloped to a new resort/hotel/motel which has twice the density and intensity of zoning regulations without violating [Future Land Use Policy 2.9.1].”

These are the proposed amendments to Future Land Use Policy 2.9.1 and a section of the UDC, as detailed in materials submitted to county staff in regard to the hotel that would stand on the former Wells Fargo bank site. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The proposal related to the planned redevelopment of the Siesta Key Beach Resort and Suites calls for “lands zoned CG/SKOD with an existing Transient Accommodation use (resort/hotel/motel)” with 40 or more rooms before March 13, 1989, “and still in operation as the same use” as of the date the amendment to Future Land Use (FLU) Policy 2.9.1 would take effect, to “be redeveloped to a new resort/hotel/motel which exceeds the density and intensity restrictions of zoning regulations as of that date without violating this policy.”

The third project entails plans for an eight-story, 170-room hotel between Calle Miramar and Beach Road — on the edge of Siesta Village. Its proposed amendment to FLU 2.9.1 would allow CG/SKOD lands to be “redeveloped to contain transient accommodations which exceed the density and intensity restrictions of the zoning regulations as of that date without violating this policy.”

Finally, the application submitted last year for a 120-room, seven-story hotel on Old Stickney Point Road calls for an amendment to FLU 2.9.1 that would apply “to lands south of Stickney Point Road which are zoned CG and CI [Commercial Intensive] as of that date and consistently so thereafter, (the ‘South Bridge Area’) under the Siesta Key Community Plan) …” It would allow such lands to be redeveloped “to contain transient accommodations which exceed the density restrictions of the zoning regulations existing as of that date without violating this policy.”

The Long Range Planning Division representative then called for Lin of Port and Coastal Consultants to consider revising the proposed amendment to FLU 2.9.1 for the 100-room boutique hotel “to be more site specific, since the proposal is to double the intensity and density of CG/SKOD at that particular location.”

The county staff member pointed out, “This would be somewhat similar to the same Agent’s proposal for Hotel #3 [Siesta Key Beach Resort and Suites] or the proposal for Hotel #1 (South Bridge) …” Alternatively, the person wrote, “Consider using the language proposed by the Agent for Hotel #2 [between Calle Miramar and Beach Road] as it is overarching and is almost the same … minus the language calling [for] doubling the intensity and density.”

The companion UDC amendments

Along with its proposed Comprehensive Plan amendment, the project team handling the plans for the eight-story, 170-room hotel between Calle Miramar and Beach Road is seeking a UDC amendment that would eliminate any residential density considerations for hotels in the unincorporated areas of the county.

This building is located at 220 Calle Miramar, one of the four parcels planned for the eight-story, 170-room hotel project just on the edge of Siesta Village. Image from Google Maps

However, attorney William Merrill III, a partner with the Icard Merrill firm in Sarasota, told participants in the January Neighborhood Workshop on that proposal that Siesta Key would be the only barrier island where the amendment would apply, based on the team’s review.

Another Icard Merrill attorney on that team — Matthew Brockway — handled the preliminary application for the project. His suggested modifications of the UDC would allow transient accommodations to be considered a non-residential use “for all purposes.” The only areas where they would not apply, he proposed, would be in the Boutique Resort Redevelopment/Planned Development District zone and in the Nokomis Center Revitalization Plan U.S. 41 Corridor.

In regard to plans for the redevelopment of Siesta Key Beach Resort and Suites, the proposed UDC amendment mimics the language in the project team’s proposed Comprehensive Plan modification. The UDC language would say that “any existing Transient Accommodation use (resort/hotel/motel … with 40+ units before March 13, 1989, and still in operation as the same use as of [the date the amendment goes into effect] … may be redeveloped to a new resort/hotel/motel which exceeds the density and intensity restrictions of zoning regulations existing as of that date.”

The proposed UDC amendment for the hotel project on the former Wells Fargo site mirrors the proposed modification to FLU 2.9.1. It says lands zoned CG/SKOD “may be redeveloped to a new resort/hotel/motel which has twice the density and intensity of current zoning regulations.”

This graphic shows the portion of Siesta Beach Resort and Suites on Calle Miramar. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The latest document submitted to county staff regarding the Siesta Key Beach Resort project calls for the UDC to allow, by right, a 35-foot structural height above two levels of parking.

The CG zoning regulations countywide limit height to 35 feet from base flood elevation, a term the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) uses to ensure any new construction is elevated well above a floodplain.

The Wells Fargo site plans call for the same height measurement to be allowed.

Finally, the application for the hotel planned by Siesta businessman Gary Kompothecras on Old Stickney Point Road includes a proposed UDC amendment saying that no hotel room within transient accommodations in the “South Bridge Area” of Siesta Key could contain a kitchen, as defined by Section 124-305 of the UDC.

Moreover, the new UDC language would add that “in calculating the maximum number of hotel rooms allowed within an individual transient accommodation use” on property zoned CG/SKOD within that “South Bridge Area,” each hotel room without a kitchen would be counted as one-quarter dwelling unit, instead of half a dwelling unit.

As of this week, the county’s Public Records staff told the News Leader, none of the project teams had filed new materials in response to DRC comments on their proposals.

Other DRC comments on the Wells Fargo site project

Along with the focus on the Comprehensive Plan and UDC amendments, the county’s Long Range Planning staff member addressed other issues in the latest materials regarding the redevelopment of Siesta Key Beach Resort.

The staffer emphasized, “Provide a Comprehensive Plan Policy Consistency Analysis as required. Be sure to address ALL applicable chapters of the Comp Plan, not just the Future Land Use Chapter. For example, Chapter 6 — Coastal Disaster Management contains numerous applicable policies with regards to emergency management, evacuation, public safety, and the location of future hotels on barrier islands. Other chapters to examine,” the staffer noted, are those related to housing “(neighborhood impacts/compatibility)” and economic development.

The staff member also pointed out that the project team must “[a]ddress compatibility of the proposed hotel with existing land use patterns in the immediate vicinity as part of the formal application, as consistency with land use patterns is a major component of Future Land Use Policy 2.9.1.”

Finally, the staffer called for “a summary of expected points of beach access that could be utilized by the transient visitors. This has been a concern expressed at each neighborhood workshop [held] for the other hotel proposals …”

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