Special Exceptions being sought for transient accommodations and extra height in commercial districts
Slightly more than two years after the Sarasota County Commission approved an amendment to Siesta Key’s zoning regulations to facilitate the proposed project, a preliminary application has been submitted to county staff for a 120-room hotel that would stand 83 feet above base flood elevation on two parcels on Old Stickney Point Road.
The developer is Dr. Gary Kompothecras, the long-time Siesta Key resident known for his 1-800-ASK-GARY legal and medical referral service.
The seven-story building would be constructed on 1.17 acres, comprising the property at 1260 and 1266 Old Stickney Point Road, according to the preliminary application. That land is being used as a commercial parking lot, the document says.
The site already is zoned Commercial General (CG) under the Siesta Key Overlay District (SKOD) zoning regulations.
Previously, Kompothecras owned a storage unit facility on one of those parcels, while, decades ago, the second parcel was home to Fandango Café.
Kompothecras is seeking a Special Exception for transient accommodations and a Special Exception to exceed the maximum 35-foot building height allowed above base flood elevation in the CG/SKOD regulations, according to the preliminary application submitted to staff in late April, which The Sarasota News Leader obtained via a public records request.
“CG/SKOD allows a structure up to 85 feet in height above BFE [base flood elevation] by Special Exception,” the document points out.
Recent projects on the Key have included design details indicating that the Federal Emergency Management Agency requires the first habitable floor to be between 18 and 19 feet NAVD — above ground level. NAVD is a term that applies to base elevation for construction to prevent damage from 100-year storm events.
The lower level of the hotel Kompothecras plans would provide 60 parking spaces, the preliminary application says, with the other 72 required spots to be included in a parking garage proposed at 1237 Stickney Point Road.
In late August 2019, Kompothecras also purchased the former Bank of America property next to CB’s Saltwater Outfitters, paying $2.5 million for it. He has talked publicly about his plans for a parking garage and commercial space on that site.
The primary access to the hotel would be from Old Stickney Point Road, the preliminary application says, with two other accesses from Peacock Road.
“Connection to central water and sewer is available” on the site, the preliminary application adds.
An underground vault will be constructed to handle stormwater, the application says. No wetlands are on the property, the document points out.
As noted in the preliminary application filed by Robert “Bo” Medred of Genesis Planning & Development in Bradenton, the hotel would stand in the southwest quadrant of Old Stickney Point Road and Peacock Road.
The only other member of the project team listed in the documents is Ty Gremaux of the Kimley-Horn engineering and design firm in Sarasota.
As of midday on July 16, the project team had not filed formal applications with county staff for the hotel and parking garage plans, county Media Relations Officer Drew Winchester told the News Leader.
On May 21, the county’s Development Review Committee reviewed the preliminary applications for the hotel and the proposed parking garage, as shown in documents the News Leader received through its public records request.
The DRC comprises county staff members who deal with planning and land development issues; it includes representatives of the Planning and Development Services and Public Utilities departments, as well as the Transportation Planning and Stormwater divisions. A county webpage explains, “Pre-application meetings are required for all types of amendments and development applications including zoning map amendments (rezoning), special exceptions, comprehensive plan amendments, developments of regional impact (DRI) and developments of critical concern (DOCC), planned development districts, transfer of development rights, and any petition that will be reviewed by the Design Administrator.”
One DRC note said, “Please describe how hotel visitors will get to and from Siesta Key beaches — walk, bike, local transit, personal vehicle? The preference is that the hotel would provide and/or promote non-personal vehicle forms of mobility to the beaches since personal vehicles add to the already crowded beach parking lots.”
The parking garage details
As for the parking garage: A separate preliminary application says that four-story structure officially will stand on a 0.58-acre site north of the intersection of Old Stickney Point Road and Sabal Drive. That land is zoned Commercial Intensive (CI).
A Special Exception also will be needed for that project, as the garage has been designed to stand 47 feet above base flood elevation, according to the preliminary application. A Special Exception also will be needed, the document says, to enable the structure to be set back only about 4 feet from both Stickney Point and Old Stickney Point roads.
The zoning change Kompothecras won in April 2018 — on a split County Commission vote — allows for structures taller than 35 feet to be as close as 2 feet to the street, “if the building is demonstrated to be compatible with surrounding properties and designed for the pedestrian scale through its height and mass and the incorporation of creative design elements …”
Previously, the SKOD zoning regulations called for a minimum front setback of 25 feet for any structure taller than 35 feet on commercially zoned properties.
Kompothecras initially sought the zoning change to facilitate the design of the hotel. He told the commissioners during the April 2018 public hearing that people had encouraged him to construct a hotel on Old Stickney Point Road after Siesta Public Beach first was named the No. 1 beach in the United States by Dr. Stephen Leatherman — known as Dr. Beach — in 2011, Kompothecras indicated. In 2017, Leatherman again accorded the beach that honor.
Commissioners Alan Maio, Paul Caragiulo and Michael Moran voted to approve the SKOD amendment. However, Maio reiterated a point that he had previously made in public: “A petitioner had better not bring me a [request for a] Special Exception that’s 60, 70, 85, whatever your imagination lets you say — 300-foot [tall hotel] — and 2 feet from the front sidewalk. You will start out with a ‘No’ vote right here.”
The preliminary application for Kompothecras’ garage says it would have approximately 7,448 square feet of retail space, along with 90 spaces for the general public and the 72 spaces for hotel guests. “Access to the site will be from both Stickney Point Road and Old Stickney Point Road,” the document notes.
However, when the county’s Development Review Committee reviewed the preliminary application on May 21, county records show, a member of that group pointed out that access to the parking garage from Stickney Point Road would be restricted to exits. If ingress were allowed from that road, the DRC member wrote, then the “stacking of vehicles on the sidewalk and the roadway [because of] activity at the ticket dispenser” could result. Further, that person added, “[V]ehicles crossing Stickney Point Road at the median opening may block the northeast bound traffic on Stickney Point Road, and there is no turn-around provided for vehicles to exit the parking garage if it is full or a motorist decides not to park in the garage.”
That DRC member also asked for more details to be provided to county staff about the layout within the garage, including how traffic would operate within the facility and how pedestrians would be able to move around in the garage.
Moreover, the person pointed out, “An operational traffic analysis is required if the parking garage is developed in conjunction with the [hotel]. Operational details for the garage and hotel will be covered in one traffic impact study.”
Yet another DRC member wrote, “The proposed binding site plan does not show space for landscaping or for the required trees pursuant to the Trees Code. Please include the required space [needed] for the required plantings.”