May 10 Neighborhood Workshop planned on redevelopment of Siesta Beach Resort in Siesta Village

Registration available through county website for 6 p.m. event

A graphic in the Neighborhood Workshop application shows the area around the project site; owners of those parcels have been sent formal notices about the May 10 event. Image courtesy Sarasota County

At 6 p.m. on Monday, May 10, representatives of the owners of the Siesta Key Beach Resort and Suites will conduct a formal Sarasota County Neighborhood Workshop on a proposal to redevelop the hotel from 55 rooms to 170 rooms.

The event has been scheduled for two hours, the county website notes.

The county’s Planning and Development Services Department calendar identifies the subject of the workshop as the “Calle Miramar & Ocean Siesta Key Hotel.” The resort has two addresses, as noted in the preliminary application filed with county staff last year: 5311 Ocean Blvd. and 215 Calle Miramar.

Interested persons may register to participate in the event.

The calendar webpage also provides a link to a document that Weiqi Lin of Port and Coastal Consultants in Sarasota submitted to county staff on May 10. A long-time member of the county’s Environmental Permitting staff, Lin founded his own firm after leaving county employment a few years ago.

Although the workshop documents reprise details about the hotel project that Lin outlined in the preliminary application, one new facet of the project has been included.

Like the proposal for a 100-room boutique hotel on the 5810 Midnight Pass Road site of the former Wells Fargo Bank, this new material says the project team will seek county approval to calculate the 35-foot height of the redeveloped hotel above the required two levels of parking.

This graphic in the application shows the portion of Siesta Beach Resort and Suites on Calle Miramar. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The Siesta Key Beach Resort and Suites stands on 1.0475 acres zoned Commercial General (CG) within the Siesta Key Overlay District (SKOD) zoning regulations; 35 feet is the maximum height allowed for construction on such a site, without County Commission approval of a Special Exception. The 35 feet is calculated above “base flood elevation,” which refers to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) guidelines for building within a flood zone.

The owner of the Siesta Key Resort and Suites is SKRS LLC, whose registered agent is Dave Balot; the manager of the company is Michael Holderness.

Balot is the principal of another limited liability company, ABC SUB2, which is proposing the new hotel on the former Wells Fargo parcel. The application for that undertaking also calls for the 35-foot height of the structure to be calculated above two levels of parking.

The Siesta Beach Resorts Neighborhood Workshop application that county staff received on May 10 says of SKRS LLC, “The owners are community activists, who own properties and homes on Siesta Key and a native who has loved and protected our waters since a child. This proposal is a redevelopment, and is a community and environmentally friendly proposal that will help preserve the community and neighborhood values by not seeking a height increase above 35 feet allowed through a Special Exception; and by preserving the land use patterns on Siesta Key, by maintaining what the community has.”

The document also repeats the following from the preliminary application: “Today, the existing hotel is near the end of its economic life and has functional obsolescence. [Redeveloping] it into a modern new resort hotel is what the community prefers.”

Poolside rooms are across the street from the main building at Siesta Beach Resort. File photo

The hotel originally was built in 1955, the Neighborhood Workshop application notes. That structure would be demolished to make way for the new facilities.

Concerns already raised about the project
Mark Spiegel, president of a nonprofit organization founded last summer called the Siesta Key Coalition, told The Sarasota News Leader this week that he takes issue with SKRS LLC’s shift to the stance that 35 feet above parking should be allowed by right for new construction in CG parcels under the SKOD regulations.

The Coalition was organized to oppose increased residential density and intensity of use that new hotel projects would mean for the Key. Along with the plans for Siesta Beach Resorts and the proposed boutique hotel on the former Wells Fargo property, an eight-story, 170-room hotel has been proposed on Calle Miramar, just down the street from Siesta Beach Resorts. A fourth project calls for an 83-foot-tall, 120-room hotel on Old Stickney Point Road with a parking garage across the street, located between Old Stickney Point Road and Stickney Point Road.

This is one of the banners on the Siesta Key Coalition website. Image from the website

As of this week, the Siesta Key Coalition website notes that a total of 52 homeowner/condominium associations have joined its efforts, representing more than 4,400 households on Siesta Key. The Siesta Key Association, the Siesta Key Condominium Council and the Corner Properties of Midnight Pass Committee also are Coalition members, the website says.

In an April 26 email to the News Leader, Spiegel pointed to what he called Siesta Beach Resorts owner Balot’s “false logic” in indicating that the 35-foot standard for height merely mimics the SKOD provisions for Residential Multi-Family 3 (RMF-3) construction standards, which are used in building condominium complexes.

Section 6.6.3 of the Sarasota County Code explains, “To reduce the impervious area typically associated with required surface parking, an increase in the maximum building height in the RMF District is allowed if in-structure parking is provided as follows: a. A maximum of two levels of in-structure parking shall be permitted to count toward additional building height in excess of the maximum building height requirement for the district.”

Siesta Key Coalition members have begun posting signs on the island to raise awareness about the proposed hotel projects. Image courtesy Siesta Key Coalition

“[W]e strongly disagree with [Balot’s] logic,” Spiegel told the News Leader, for the following reasons:

  • “Residential condos are a different (less intense) use than transient accommodations, so [this is not an] apples to apples [comparison].” (County policies and regulations refer to hotels and motels as “transient accommodations.”)
  • RMF-3 is a different zoning class than CG, so the Balot team members are welcome to down-zone, Spiegel says, but not to choose restrictions from different zoning classes.
  • RM-3 does allow for 35 feet over two stories of parking, but RMF-3 is also limited to 18 units per acre. Balot is seeking 52 units per acre, or double the allowed CG density of 26 units per acre for hotels if none of the rooms has a kitchen.
  • Two stories of parking are taller than base flood elevation (BFE) at the Siesta Key Beach Resort and the Wells Fargo locations (parking garages are typically 10 to 12 feet per floor).

Section 6.6.3.b. of the County Code does say, “Each parking story shall not exceed 12 feet in height, measured from predevelopment existing grade to the ceiling of the parking level and with a clear height of [10 feet 6 inches] from the parking level ground floor to the lowest structural member above the parking level floor.”

Finally, Spiegel pointed out, “This would set a precedent [for all the county’s barrier islands] (county-wide for that matter) on all CG height allowances.”

Other facets of the hotel redevelopment proposal

The Siesta Key Beach Resorts and Suites Neighborhood Workshop document also points to requests for changes in the county’s Comprehensive Plan and its Unified Development Code (UDC) in regard to density calculations for hotel rooms.

(The UDC contains all of the county’s land-use and zoning regulations.)

This graphic in the Neighborhood Workshop application shows the concept plan for the first through third floors of the redeveloped Siesta Key Beach Resort and Suites. Image courtesy Sarasota County

As the News Leader reported last October, the proposal calls for an amendment to county Comprehensive Plan Future Land Use Policy 2.9.1, which pertains to the barrier islands in the unincorporated portions of the county. That amendment would allow an existing resort/hotel/motel with 40 or more units in place before March 13, 1989 to be redeveloped to a level that “exceeds the density and intensity restrictions of zoning regulations existing as of that date without violating this policy.”

The UDC text amendment would say that “any existing Transient Accommodation use (resort/hotel/motel … with 40+ units before March 13, 1989, and still in operation as the same use as of [the date the amendment goes into effect] … may be redeveloped to a new resort/hotel/motel which exceeds the density and intensity restrictions of zoning regulations existing as of that date.”