Department notified company twice in a week
The Florida Department of Transportation has warned Benderson Development Co. twice in one week that it cannot close lanes on Stickney Point Road to undertake work that appears to be associated with the company’s Siesta Promenade project.
The Sarasota News Leader learned about the state department’s actions this week after a Siesta Key resident complained about worse traffic congestion than usual on Stickney Point Road, on the western approach to the barrier island.
The mixed-use Siesta Promenade development won County Commission approval in December 2018. It has been designed to include 414 apartments/condominiums, a 130-room hotel, 133,000 square feet of retail space, and 7,000 square feet of office space. It would be constructed on approximately 25 acres in the northwest quadrant of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road.
To allow for access into and out of the property, Benderson’s consultant, Kimley-Horn of Sarasota, had called for numerous adjustments to the traffic flow on Stickney Point Road.
The project has been on hold for at least two reasons. First, months after the County Commission vote, Benderson was able to purchase two parcels in the adjacent Pine Shores Estates neighborhood, which the company wants to add into the overall site plan for Siesta Promenade.
The County Commission ultimately will have to conduct a hearing on the change.
Second, a south Siesta Key resident has a challenge underway in Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal, seeking to prevent the erection of a traffic signal at the Avenue B and C intersection with Stickney Point Road. That stoplight must be in place before Siesta Promenade can be built, the County Commission agreed in 2018.
The Siesta plaintiff, James P. Wallace III, has contended that the traffic signal, in conjunction with the drawbridge on Stickney Point Road, will lead to such long lines of traffic heading on and off the Key that it will be nearly impossible for him and his south island neighbors to reach the mainland for medical emergencies, for doctors’ appointments, or for the transaction of business, especially during the height of tourist season.
A News Leader check of the case docket this week found that the court has given the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and a representative of the Benderson Development affiliate formally identified as the Siesta Promenade developer until April 14 to file their answers to Wallace’s brief.
When the News Leader learned of the Stickney Point Road lane closure this week, it contacted both FDOT staff and Sarasota County Transportation staff in an effort to learn details of the situation.
In a March 23 email, Adam Rose, communications specialist for FDOT’s District One, responded with answers from the department. The work underway on Stickney Point Road was not an FDOT undertaking; Benderson Development was responsible for it, Rose pointed out.
“The schedule that is being followed is one that was made by the developer and not the department,” the FDOT statement continued.
“The department reached out to the developer last week and made the following statement, ‘Effectively immediately, the permittee will not be taking any lanes until after season, at which point they will resume with the remaining items of work.’ ~ March 15, 2022.”
If lane closures were implemented on March 22 — as the News Leader had told Rose, then “[T]hey were not at the direction of the department. Our local teams reached out again yesterday to reiterate the same statement,” Rose added.
“[U]nfortunately,” Rose continued, “with this not being our project, we do not have any information further than this.”
Staff in the Transportation Division of the Sarasota County Public Works Department referred the News Leader to FDOT.
However, subsequent to receiving the FDOT statement, the News Leader filed a public records request, seeking copies of any permits that county staff had issued Benderson Development for the roadwork.
On March 24, Public Records Specialist Bethany Higgins told the News Leader in an email, “Staff from Land Development Services noted: ‘Regarding the points of access to the Siesta Promenade Project, to date, there are no [Right of Way] Use permits. Nothing has been permitted at this time because everything is still under review.’”
The News Leader tried multiple times to contact Benderson Development’s director of development, Todd Mathes, as well as representatives of the Kimley-Horn consulting firm, to learn exactly what the company was doing on Stickney Point Road. No responses were provided prior to the deadline for publication of this issue.