Leader of neighborhood group rallying supporters to fight proposed changes to Siesta Promenade plans

Parallel parking on perimeter of development, next to Pine Shores Estates, primary cause of concern

Sura Kochman, the leader of the organization that, for years, has fought the developmental intensity of Siesta Promenade, is working to rally supporters to attend the July 20 Sarasota County Planning Commission hearing on proposed changes to the design of that mixed-use project.

Among those modifications is the inclusion of parallel parking spaces on the perimeter of the development, which is adjacent to the Pine Shores Estates neighborhood.

The Sarasota County Planning staff report written for the public hearing — which The Sarasota News Leader obtained this week through a public records request — does reference Future Land Use Policy 1.2.17 in the county’s Comprehensive plan, which guides growth in the county. That policy calls for mitigating “potential incompatibilities between land uses due to the density, intensity, character or type of use proposed …”

Then the report says, “The addition of on-street parking may be found incompatible with the adjacent neighborhoods due to increased cut-through traffic in a concentrated area.”

Representatives of Benderson Development, which is the developer of Siesta Promenade, have described the parallel parking spaces as a traffic-calming measure.

Kochman of the Pine Shores Neighborhood Alliance was among numerous residents who decried the parallel parking plans when Philip DiMaria, a planner and project planner for the Kimley-Horn consulting firm in Sarasota, conducted the required county Neighborhood Workshop on the requested changes to Siesta Promenade. That was held via Zoom on May 1.

As designed, Siesta Promenade will include 414 apartments/condominiums, a 130-room hotel (under county guidelines, each hotel room counts as two dwelling units), 133,000 square feet of retail space and 7,000 square feet of office space on approximately 24 acres in the northwest quadrant of the intersection of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road.

Along with applying for the rezoning of two single-family home parcels in Pine Shores, so they can be incorporated into the project, Benderson Development has revised the Binding Development Concept Plan that the Sarasota County Commission approved on Dec. 12, 2018. That plan shows a realignment of the residential buildings, with all of them next to Glencoe Avenue, the same street where the parallel parking spaces have been proposed.

A table in the county staff report for the Planning Commission hearing that addresses facets of the Siesta Promenade plans approved in 2018 in comparison with the new plans, describes the building realignment thus: “The proposed addition of the two parcels will allow multi-family structures to further line the border of the existing single-family neighborhoods to the west.”

On July 10, the Siesta Key Condominium Council — which represents about 7,000 condominiums in approximately 90 complexes on Siesta Key — sent out an advisory to its members about the July 20 hearing. Leaders of the Council pointed out that their organization has opposed Siesta Promenade “from the start on the basis of traffic loading in an already serious situation.”

Opponents of the development have stressed that the U.S. 41/Stickney Point Road intersection not only is one of the busiest in the county, as it is one of two accesses to Siesta Key and that barrier island’s beaches, but also because of the fact that so many accidents have occurred at that location over the years.

In 2016, Keith Slater, a traffic services program engineer with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), sent a formal letter to Paula Wiggins, manager of the Sarasota County Transportation Planning Division, stressing that the U.S. 41/Stickney Point Road intersection is on the county’s “High Crash Segments” list and that “over the past five years there has been a constant increase in crashes within this segment.”

Slater continued, “Crashes have increased on average 30 percent per year with an astonishing 175 percent total increase between 2010 and 2014. Having reviewed the crash data for this area, it became very clear why coordination efforts for this area are so vital.”

Additionally, during the height of tourist season, traffic heading to Siesta Key routinely backs up east of the intersection, with drivers heading west on Stickney Point Road having to wait through multiple cycles of the traffic signal to be able to cross U.S. 41 .

One other factor is FDOT’s drawbridge on Stickney Point Road, between Siesta Key and U.S. 41. It opens on a regular schedule, which exacerbates the seasonal traffic congestion, opponents of Siesta Promenade have emphasized.

The July 20 Planning Commission hearing will be held in the County Commission Chambers of the Administration Center standing at 1660 Ringling Blvd. in downtown Sarasota. The session will begin at 5 p.m.

Kochman is hoping that each person who wishes to make remarks during the hearing will be accorded 5 minutes. However, the time may be reduced to 3 minutes, she pointed out, based on the number of people who sign up to address the board.

The County Commission is scheduled to consider the application during a hearing on Aug. 30 in the same location. That board meeting will begin at 9 a.m. The County Commission is not bound by the vote of the Planning Commission, as the members of the latter board serve solely in an advisory capacity.

As noted in the Condominium Council email, Kochman is reminding supporters that if the County Commission ultimately denies the changes Benderson Development has proposed for Siesta Promenade, the Binding Development Concept Plan approved in 2018 will remain in effect.

Points to consider in addressing the planning commissioners

The following are points that Kochman made in the Condominium Council alert, especially as a guide for comments that individuals may wish to make to the Planning Commission:

  • The parallel parking spaces along Glencoe Avenue were not a traffic-calming option provided on a ballot a couple of years ago on which Pine Shores residents could vote, in conjunction with the planning for construction of Siesta Promenade. “This concept came solely from the applicant, not from any direction of Sarasota County staff,” Kochman stressed. “Please CLICK HERE  to see the attachment.”

The county staff report for the July 20 Planning Commission hearing does include the following stipulation: Twenty feet of pavement must be maintained [on Glencoe], “and any sight distance issues with on-street parking shall be addressed during the Site and Development plan review.” The latter phrase refers to the process that takes place after a land-use application wins County Commission approval. Members of county staff work with representatives of the developer on the final details necessary to ensure that the various aspects of a project comply with all county regulations and policies. That work takes place outside public view.

A chart included in the staff report notes that Glencoe Avenue is only 20 feet wide, with two lanes of traffic.

  • “The neighborhood was promised a [20-foot-wide] landscaped buffer including a sidewalk along Glencoe and Crestwood [avenues],” Kochman wrote. “Parallel parking spots along the entire perimeter of the project on the neighborhood side [does not] constitute a buffer. … [T]he site plan shows the buffer on the project side of the parallel parking. The current site plan does not show the perimeter sidewalk.” (The stipulation for the landscaped buffer, Kochman continued, was Item No. 7 in the ordinance that the County Commission approved in December 2018.)

The staff report for the July 20 hearing points out, “As shown on the Binding [Development Concept Plan], a perimeter buffer of 20-feet with an opacity of 60% will be provided along Glencoe Avenue and Crestwood Avenue.”

  • “The intrusion and encroachment of parallel parking on the neighborhood streets is in direct conflict with the requirement of [Stipulation No. 15 in the December 2018 ordinance],” Kochman wrote. That stipulation called for deterring Siesta Promenade traffic in Pine Shores Estates, in an effort to preserve the neighborhood environment. That provision is consistent with the county Comprehensive Plan Transportation Objective 1.6.1: “Existing neighborhood environments, their cohesion, and integrity, shall be specifically considered in the development of the 2045 Future Thoroughfare Plan, and in individual multi-modal transportation projects.”

Stipulation No. 15 in the approved plans for Siesta Promenade said, in part, “To preserve existing neighborhood environments, their cohesion, and integrity, traffic calming measures shall be evaluated on Glencoe Avenue, Crestwood Avenue, Brentwood Avenue, Beechwood Avenue, Hollywood Boulevard and Constitution Boulevard to deter traffic intrusion into the adjacent neighborhood.

  • As the applicant CANNOT count parallel street parking on neighborhood streets to meet [its county requirement for the number of parking spaces], and NO REQUEST from the neighborhood for said parking was made, there is no reason for it to be included,” Kochman emphasized. “If the applicant cannot support guest or valet parking on [its] own site, there should be a revamp of [the] site plan to accommodate such needs,” she added, especially since Benderson is adding 0.78 acres to the site, thanks to the acquisition of the two single-family home parcels. That purchase triggered the rezoning request, she noted.

The county Planning staff report for the Planning Commission meeting says that the parallel parking “will be public parking and will not count towards parking requirements for the Siesta Promenade project.”

  • “The addition of parallel parking on neighborhood streets [will provide] further incentive for motorists to access the neighborhood and will exacerbate the traffic intrusion that will be caused by the project,” Kochman wrote. “Additional noise, and constant turnover of vehicular traffic is a given.
  • “Parking will spill over onto the streets that intersect with Glencoe and Crestwood,” she continued, “and residents will find overflow vehicles parked on their front lawns.
  • “The inclusion of the aforementioned parking will likely require the addition of [cut-through sidewalks] into the project, and the subsequent need for lighting. These two details will arise during the site development discussions with county staff when it is too late for public input. Again, negating the purpose of the original landscaped buffer — to protect the existing neighborhood.”

Kochman pointed out that public comments may be sent to planner@scgov.net. However, she encouraged opponents of the changes in the plans to email each member of the Planning Commission. “That way, the communication gets directly to them,” she added, instead of being put into a file for distribution to the board members.

The Planning Commission members’ email addresses are as follows, she wrote:

Kochman concluded her comments by writing, “Thank you and I hope to see you at the meeting. Our neighborhood integrity is at risk.”

Further details about the new application

The two single-family home parcels proposed for inclusion in the Siesta Promenade Binding Development Concept Plan “will be included within the affordable housing requirement for Siesta Promenade,” the county staff report for the July 20 hearing points out.

The 2018 ordinance included Stipulation No. 6, which said, “At a minimum, 15% of the dwelling units constructed in excess of 13 dwelling units per acre within the boundary of the Siesta Promenade Critical Area Plan shall be Affordable.” (“Critical Area Plan” refers to the type of planning mechanism that Benderson Development used to create the project. However, unlike other critical area plans in the county, the one for Siesta Promenade includes only the project area, not any of the surrounding properties.)

The staff report for the July 20 hearing also explains of the new proposal, “The maximum required affordable units is 25, based on 479 residential units requested (414 [multi-family] units and 65 hotel units). The affordable housing units shall be provided for families at or

below 80% of Area Median Income (AMI).” The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sets the AMI annually for each Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) in the United States. This year, the AMI for the North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton MSA is $98,700 for a family of four.

Another section of the staff report includes details of the 2018 Binding Development Concept Plan in regard to access to the site: “Seven access points, with three located along Stickney Point Road (one with a traffic signal with full vehicle movement and two with only right turns allowed), two access points onto Glencoe Avenue, and two access points on the proposed extension of Crestwood Avenue.

The staff report for July 20 cites only one access-related change in the 2023 Binding Development Concept Plan: “A roundabout will be constructed by Benderson Development at the location where Glencoe Avenue intersects with Hazelwood Street and Birchwood Street.

“The old plan had an access entry point in this location that will now be closed off,” the staff report notes.