Jan. 11 Neighborhood Workshop planned on proposal for 170-room hotel between Calle Miramar and Beach Road on Siesta Key

Registration available through county website

A graphic shows the four parcels slated for the hotel project, between Calle Miramar and Beach Road. Image courtesy Sarasota County

At 6 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 11, the project team proposing a 170-room hotel on four parcels between Beach Road and Calle Miramar on Siesta Key will conduct the formal Neighborhood Workshop that Sarasota County Planning and Development Services Department staff is requiring as part of the application process.

The event will be conducted via Zoom, according to the Planning and Development calendar on the county’s website.

To register, go to this link: https://kimley-horn.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_nfYWbIPAR6GSZfNK5b-eSw

The formal application for the project was stamped as received by county staff on Dec. 22, 2020, The Sarasota News Leader learned. The preliminary application was filed in May 2020.

The site proposed for the hotel encompasses 41,656 square feet  — 0.96 acres — the document notes. Offices, multi-family apartments and commercial parking spaces stand on the parcels in the northeast quadrant of the intersection of Ocean Boulevard and Beach Road, and the southwest quadrant of the intersection of Calle Miramar and Calle Menorca, the application notes.

The agent for the owner and land lessee is William Merrill III of the Icard Merrill law firm in Sarasota. The property owner is Louise Khaghan of New York City, while the long-time land lessee is Robert T. Anderson Jr. manager of SKH1 LLC, the application says. Anderson is a RE/MAX real estate agent in Sarasota.

The project team also is seeking changes in county regulations to eliminate residential density limitations for transient accommodations — the term county staff uses to refers to hotel and motel rooms — on the barrier islands within the county’s jurisdiction. County zoning stipulations count each hotel room without a kitchen as one-half a dwelling unit. The four parcels designated for the hotel are zoned Commercial General (CG) within the Siesta Key Overlay District (SKOD) regulations; in CG/SCKOD zoning, the maximum number of dwelling units allowed per acre is 13. Thus, 26 hotel rooms per acre would be allowed.

As the News Leader previously has reported, the project team will seek an amendment to Future Land Use Policy 2.9.1 of the county’s Comprehensive Plan, as well as a text amendment to the Unified Development Code (UDC), which contains all the county zoning and land-development regulations.

This is the proposed amendment to Future Land Use Policy 2.9.1. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The preliminary application explained, “Treating Transient Accommodations as a non-residential or commercial use is consistent with the true nature of the use. After all, from a land use, planning, and zoning perspective, hotels are a commercial use critical to tourism and our local economy. To that end,” the document continued, “Transient Accommodations are only permitted (either as Permitted Uses or by Special Exception) in certain commercial [the document’s emphasis] zoning districts. … Compared with the current ‘residential density’ approach to Transient Accommodations,” the proposed changes in county regulations “will result in simpler application of the UDC to Transient Accommodations,” the preliminary application said.

The amendments to the UDC and the Comprehensive Plan, it added, would rely on “existing height, bulk, setback and other commercial development standards and requirements. This approach also results in a more efficient use of land.”

To pursue the project as designed, the team will need County Commission approval of Special Exceptions for exceeding the 35-foot height restriction permitted in CG/SKOD, as well. Additionally, a Special Exception must be granted for the transient accommodations plans.

The project calls for an eight-story structure — five levels of hotel over three levels of parking, with the first parking level below what is referred to as “base flood elevation,” or BFE. That term is used in regard to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) restrictions for construction in flood zones.

The hotel would be approximately 80 feet above base flood elevation, “more or less,” the application says. Its design is being planned to “compliment and be consistent with the style of Sarasota and Siesta Key,” the document adds, with features reflecting the renowned Sarasota School of Architecture.

The proposal calls for the “main building” to include a restaurant, a bar and shops.

This is the proposed Binding Development Concept Plan for the hotel, included in the December 2020 application to the county. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Another section of the application points out that, according to the FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Map, “the project lies within Special Flood Hazard Area (SHFA) Zone VE, with a base flood elevation of 14 feet, per the North American Vertical Datum of 1988 (NAVD88). This Zone VE flood elevation is associated with the 1% annual chance tidal storm surge identified by FEMA studies. With on-site elevations generally ranging from 3 feet to 5 feet in elevation (NAVD88), the site is inundated in the 1% annual chance event. It is the intent of the applicant to consider the storm surge elevations when determining finished flood elevations for the habitable portions of the Hotel.”

On Nov. 11, 2020, as Tropical Storm Eta was pouring rain on the county, the area around Siesta Key Beach Resort and Suites in Siesta Village is flooded. The hotel is just north of the site planned for the new hotel on Calle Miramar. Contributed photo

Compatibility and height considerations

“Siesta Key has limited accommodations of this nature and the Hotel will enhance and be true to the underlying character of Siesta Key, and Siesta Key Village, in particular,” the application points out. “The height … is compatible with the taller buildings in this neighborhood, including the taller Beach Terrace (17 stories) and Terrace East (12 stories),” the application adds.

“Multi-story multi-family uses are located to the Property’s east, many of which are utilized as Short Term Rentals (as defined in UDC Section 124-301; also known as ‘Vacation Rentals’),” the application continues. “A cursory search of www.vrbo.com and www.airbnb.com reveal that Numerous Short Term Rentals are located adjacent and in close proximity to the Property,” it adds.

Referencing the Comprehensive Plan, the application also notes, “This Special Exception Formal Application, the accompanying Exhibits and Binding Development Concept Plan, and other evidence and testimony to be presented at the public hearings before the Sarasota County Planning Commission and Sarasota County Board of County Commissioners will demonstrate that approval of the requested Special Exception to permit Transient Accommodations and a height increase will promote the public interest, health, safety, and general welfare …”

The primary access to the property and the hotel would be from Calle Miramar. The site is just south of the Siesta Key Beach Resort and Suites, which stands at the intersection of Calle Miramar and Ocean Boulevard. The application also points out, “With respect to traffic … [s]ufficient room will be provided within the parking structure to accommodate vehicle queuing and stacking and valet operations. Traffic on Calle Miramar and surrounding streets will not be adversely affected. Furthermore,” the application continues, “vehicular access to and from the Property and Beach Road will be prohibited by a non-ingress/egress easement.”

In September, when tourism typically is at one of its lowest levels on Siesta, vehicles are stacked up on Beach Road as they approach the Ocean Boulevard entrance to Siesta Village. Beach Access 5 is in the lower portion of the photo. Contributed photo
In late December 2020, with plenty of holiday visitors and residents on Siesta Key, a long line of traffic approaches Siesta Village from Beach Road. Contributed photo

Nonetheless, opponents of the proposal cite traffic congestion in Siesta Village and in the vicinity of the intersection of Beach Road and Ocean Boulevard, even during periods outside the height of tourist season.

A representative of the county’s Transportation Planning Division, who commented on the preliminary application, noted that the proposed project is expected to generate more than 100 vehicle trips during the afternoon peak driving hours. “Therefore, a Traffic Impact Analysis is required,” the county staff member wrote.

The other project team members are architect Mark Sultana of DSDG Architects in Sarasota; and three representatives of the Kimley-Horn consulting firm: transportation engineer Christopher Hatton of Tampa; civil engineer Bill Conerly of Sarasota; and planner Kelley Klepper of Sarasota.