County staff advising the public that the Oct. 11 boundary hearing on the project will not address anything but the area planned for the development
Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) staff has warned about deficiencies in traffic studies prepared for the proposed Siesta Promenade project at the intersection of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road, including what an engineer cited as “much lower traffic volumes than what we believe will be generated,” The Sarasota News Leader has learned.
On behalf of Benderson Development — which is planning the mixed-use project — a consulting firm has notified Sarasota County Transportation Planning Division staff that it has revised access to the approximately 24-acre site to include a traffic signal on Stickney Point Road at the Glencoe Avenue intersection, instead of the Avenue B and C intersection. It also is calling for no signalized access from U.S. 41. However, the Sept. 19 letter from Kimley-Horn says, “Site access is still being reviewed by FDOT.”
Residents of the Pine Shores Neighborhood — for whom Glencoe Avenue is a primary access point — have protested any plan to route traffic through their neighborhood.
In the meantime, Sarasota County staff is preparing for the Oct. 11 “boundary hearing” for the mixed-use Benderson Development project, pointing out to interested residents that the agenda item will not focus on issues such as transportation, traffic circulation and neighborhood compatibility. “Boundary” refers to the actual perimeter of the area where the project will be located, county staff has explained.
Although Benderson employees have continued to revise the concept for the development, it has been designed to encompass a mix of hotel rooms, dwelling units and retail space, including a “high-end” grocery story, as Todd Mathes, Benderson’s director of development, has pointed out. The updated traffic study Kimley-Horn provided county transportation planning staff, dated Sept. 19, cites 506 multi-family residential units, 150 hotel rooms and 140,000 square feet of “neighborhood retail space.”
Mathes also has said that the latter would comprise mostly services, such as a barber and a dry cleaner.
However, Mathes told Siesta Sand in late September that a potential revision of the proposal could include about 400 residential units and two smaller hotels instead of the original 85-foot hotel. The total room count for the hotels would be higher than originally planned, Mathes said.
The boundary hearing is set for the morning of Oct. 11. It is the first item following the Open to the Public comment period and the board’s vote on its Consent Agenda of routine items.
The session will be held at the County Administration Center in downtown Sarasota.
The latest traffic concerns
On Sept. 12, FDOT District One Access Management Engineer Nathan Kautz sent an email to Adam T. Gibson, a professional engineer with Kimley-Horn, regarding concerns about the latest traffic study material the firm had provided, the News Leader learned. Kautz wrote, “After beginning the review of the submitted study, we found that Kimley-Horn has not satisfactorily provided all the information originally requested. I have listed a few, but not all, of the comments FDOT has regarding your study, below:
“• The site plan will not work in its current configuration.
“• The signal timings used are not acceptable and will cause undue delay on U.S. 41.
“• All proposed and necessary modification to the roadway has not been shown.
“• The Peak Hour Factors used are incorrect.
“• Are you proposing any median closures?
“• You are listing some final volumes that are lower than our background counts.
“• There has been no A.M. analysis of the intersections.”
Subsequently, Kimley-Horn sent a revised transportation impact analysis to Sarasota County transportation planning staff, FDOT email exchanges show.
In a letter with the documents, dated Sept. 19, Kimley-Horn Project Manager Christopher C. Hatton indicated that the source the firm used to predict the additional traffic Siesta Promenade would generate is a nationally recognized handbook used for such work. Replying to an earlier county concern that the traffic counts might be too old to satisfy county requirements, Hatton wrote that Kimley-Horn employees believe their March 2015 analyses meet the county’s stipulation.
The latest analysis also says that the intersections and roadways in the project area “are expected to operate at acceptable [level of service] with the build-out year (2020) total traffic,” with the following improvements:
- Extension of the existing westbound merge lane to create a continuous westbound right-turn lane along Stickney Point Road from U.S. 41 to Glencoe Avenue.
- Installation of a traffic signal at the Stickney Point Road/Glencoe intersection.
- Construction of a 315-foot westbound left-turn lane at the intersection of Stickney Point Road and Glencoe Avenue.
- Extension of the eastbound left-turn lane from 210 feet to 315 feet at the Stickney Point Road/Glencoe intersection.
- Signal timing adjustments at the intersection of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road.
“Level of service” refers to drivers’ perception of traffic flow, with “A” describing the highest quality and “F” the lowest, an FDOT manual says. “‘C’ and ‘D’ represent generally acceptable moderate to heavy traffic flows or operating conditions,” the FDOT document notes.
Additionally, the September Kimley-Horn submission to the county says the following access configurations have been proposed since its representatives met with FDOT and county staff this summer:
- The westernmost driveway along Stickney Point Road is expected to align with Avenue B and C and is proposed as a right-turn in/right-turn out only driveway.
- The center project driveway along Stickney Point Road is planned as a right-turn in/right-turn out only access point.
- The easternmost driveway along Stickney Point Road is proposed as a right-turn in only driveway.
- The driveway along U.S. 41 is planned as a right-turn in/right-turn out only access point. Additionally, that driveway will be located as far north as possible to provide as much distance as possible between that intersection and the U.S. 41/Stickney Point Road intersection.
In regard to trip generation: The material says that approximately 26% of traffic associated with Siesta Promenade is expected to be coming from or going to areas north of the site on U.S. 41; another 26% is predicted to be coming from or heading to areas south on U.S. 41; approximately 40% of traffic is expected to travel to or from areas east of Siesta Promenade on Stickney Point Road; and about 8% is predicted to head to or come from areas west of the development on Stickney Point Road.
The material also notes that in a review of the Five Year Work Program for the county and FDOT’s District One — which encompasses the county — Kimley-Horn found that no projects to improve traffic circulation in the area of Siesta Promenade are scheduled for funding.
The boundary hearing
In an Oct. 6 email to various news media representatives, county spokesman Jason Bartolone provided the text of an email that the county’s Planning and Development Services staff sent to members of the public who have inquired about the proposal for Siesta Promenade. “We hope it clarifies any confusion,” Bartolone added.
That Planning and Development Services note explains, “As background, the applicant has requested to utilize the county’s Critical Area Planning (CAP) program to consider an allowance for a ‘mixed-use’ (a development [comprising] both residential and non-residential uses) development with densities (a measure of residential housing units per acre) greater than 13 residential housing units per acre (up to a maximum of 25 residential housing units per acre).
“The CAP process includes a first step before proceeding with evaluating the specifics of such a request. This first step requires consideration of the ‘Boundary,’ or area, that will be the subject of the proposed development. …
“Issues such as transportation, traffic circulation, environmental protection, utilities, drainage, community services, recreation and open space, neighborhood compatibility and urban design are not addressed during the boundary hearing. Rather, the issues are addressed during the subsequent review, evaluation and public hearings associated with the Critical Area Plan for the development. Other site-specific approvals such as changing the property’s zoning designation or additional building heights could also be sought at that time.
“Understandably, this deliberative, step-wise planning process can be confusing. To assist, below are hyperlinks that may be of interest to you on how this program works, what the upcoming steps may be, and how you can continue to stay involved and share your input. The following hyperlinks will take you to a couple of key resources on Sarasota County’s web site:
“• Critical Area Planning Webpage (with information on the overall program and examples of adopted Critical Area Plans);
“• Critical Area Planning Overview; and
The email also points out that any person with further questions may contact Planning and Development Services staff at 861-5140 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.