Dec. 21 workshop via Zoom scheduled to present Benderson Development’s proposals for changes in county policies and regulations to allow high-rise hotels on Siesta Key

Registration required through county website

This is the proposed Binding Development Concept Plan showing the site where Benderson Development plans a high-rise hotel in Siesta Village. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Four days before Christmas, a planner with the Kimley-Horn consulting firm in Sarasota will host a county-required Neighborhood Workshop on Benderson Development Co.’s proposed Comprehensive Plan amendments to facilitate high-rise hotel construction on Siesta Key, a county calendar shows.

The event, which will be conducted via Zoom, will begin at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 21. Those who wish to participate in it must register, the workshop application says. To do so, visit this webpage.

The calendar maintained by the staff of the county’s Planning and Development Services Department says the workshop is scheduled to end at 7 p.m.

Siesta Key resident Lourdes Ramirez, who has won two legal challenges this year against the county over high-rise hotels on the barrier island, alerted her supporters to the event details in a Dec. 13 newsletter.

“It is not surprising yet unfortunate,” she wrote, “that Benderson Development decided to hold a public workshop on proposed changes to the Comprehensive Plan and their planned mega-size hotel for Siesta Key on the Thursday before Christmas week. Most people will not be able to attend this Zoom workshop due to travel for the holidays.”

“This is just the early stages of the process,” she added, “but public records show that the development process is going through pretty quickly.”

During their regular meeting on Nov. 28, the Sarasota County commissioners voted 3-1 to allow the Planning Division staff to process the Benderson Comprehensive Plan proposals outside of the normal cycle for such work. The amendments, in county terms, have been “privately initiated,” as compared to public amendments proposed by the commissioners themselves or county staff.

This is Benderson’s proposed amendment to Future Land Use Policy 2.9.1 in the county’s Comprehensive Plan. That policy was the focus of two legal challenges that the county lost this year. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The commission majority did not agree to allow the Planning Division to process two other privately initiated Comprehensive Plan amendments related to hotel development on the barrier island. One of those came from the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, while the other originated with the project team behind a planned 112-room hotel on 2.15 acres standing at 5810 Midnight Pass Road on Siesta Key. That hotel won unanimous County Commission approval in October 2022, but the two legal challenges have put its construction on hold.

The formal Neighborhood Workshop Request Form that Philip DiMaria of Kimley-Horn submitted to county staff on behalf of Benderson explains that two affiliates of the company “are the master developers of an assemblage of three parcels … of approximately 0.97-acres (‘Site’) located generally to the east of Ocean Boulevard, south of Canal Road, and west of Calle Menorca. The Applicant is proposing a Comprehensive Plan Text Amendment, Unified Development Code amendments, as well as a Special Exception to the Commercial General Zoning District with Siesta Key Village Overlay District (CG/SKOD) for the development of a Boutique Hotel on Siesta Key in Sarasota County.”

“CG/SKOD” stands for property zoned Commercial General in the Siesta Key Overlay District zoning regulations.

Although Benderson also owns property on the west side of Ocean Boulevard in the same vicinity, the focus of the workshop will be commercial plazas that long have been part of Siesta Village. Their eastern border is Calle Menorca, a map shows.

A Site Data box include with the workshop form says that Benderson is proposing a 147-room hotel that would stand up to 85 in height, with six habitable floors over parking levels.

The project is to encompass retail space and a restaurant, as well, the box notes. The total square footage, the box shows, would be approximately 136,900 square feet. The box identifies that as “nonresidential,” in keeping with Benderson’s proposal for the Comprehensive Plan amendment to eliminate the counting of hotel and motel rooms for residential density purposes.

Further, plans call for just a 2-foot building setback from Ocean Boulevard and expansion of the sidewalk on that street.