Structure would be seven stories, with about 163 rooms
On behalf of the same RE/MAX Realtor who was identified as the developer in the plans that the Sarasota County Commission approved in October 2021, Sarasota attorney William Merrill III has submitted to county staff a request for a “pre-application conference” to discuss a new proposal for a hotel on four parcels between Calle Miramar and Beach Road, on the edge of Siesta Village.
Merrill noted that Realtor Robert Anderson Jr. is interested in constructing a hotel up to 80 feet “above Design Flood Elevation,” a term that refers to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regulations regarding construction in floodplains, such as Siesta Village. The pre-application conference, Merrill wrote, would involve petitions for Special Exceptions for the extra height and for inclusion of hotel and motel rooms on property zoned Commercial General (CG) in the Siesta Key Overlay District zoning regulations.
The maximum height of CG buildings in that overlay district is 35 feet above flood elevation.
Merrill explained that Anderson is the lessee of the four parcels slated again for the project. His goal is to win County Commission approval of the Special Exceptions “to permit the construction, development, and operation of a 7-story hotel consisting of 4.5 levels of habitable space and 2.5 levels of parking together with rooftop amenities. The hotel,” Merrill added, “will include a restaurant [and] bar …” As with the prior proposal, Merrill continued, the primary access to the hotel would be from Calle Miramar.
A Statistics box included with the letter shows that the maximum number of rooms would be approximately 163. The previous plans called for 170. Additionally, that box with the Oct. 10 letter says that about 125,000 square feet of nonresidential space would be included in the building, along with 191 parking spaces. The latter figure is 11 more than required by county regulations, the box notes.
Further, while the amount of existing impervious space on the four parcels comprises approximately 41,817 square feet, the new project would have about 36,481 square feet of impervious space. The existing impervious areas would be removed, the box says.
The Oct. 10 letter, sent to Matt Osterhoudt, director of the county’s Planning and Development Services Department, also noted Anderson’s “joint request” with affiliates of Benderson Development Co. of University Park, which The Sarasota News Leader described in its Oct. 20 issue. That proposal is for an amendment to the Comprehensive Plan, which guides growth in the community, to eliminate the counting of hotel and motel rooms for residential density purposes on the barrier islands.
The Benderson affiliates also have proposed companion modifications for the Unified Development Code (UDC), which contains all of the county’s land-use and zoning regulations.
The primary focus of the Comprehensive Plan amendment in the Oct. 2 letter that Philip DiMaria of the Kimley-Horn consulting firm in Sarasota sent to Osterhoudt is Future Land Use Policy 2.9.1. That limits residential density and intensity on the barrier islands to the levels in place as of March 13, 1989.
That policy also was the focal point in two complaints that Siesta resident Lourdes Ramirez filed after the County Commission seated on Oct. 27, 2021 approved the eight-story, 170-room hotel for the same property that Merrill identified in his Oct. 10 letter to Osterhoudt, a copy of which the News Leaderreceived through a public records request.
In fact, as a member of the project team that previously advocated for the Calle Miramar hotel, Merrill worked with senior county Planning and Development Services staff to gain the commission’s approval — on a 3-2 vote — to amend the UDC to eliminate any consideration of residential density in regard to “transient accommodations” in most of the unincorporated areas of the county. That term is what county staff uses to refer to hotel and motel rooms.
As a representative of Realtor Anderson and the owners of the parcels where the Calle Miramar hotel would stand, Merrill stressed in 2021 that transient accommodations are commercial in nature; therefore, they should not be considered dwellings or dwelling units.
After the County Commission approved the ordinance amending the UDC, opponents of the hotel project pointed to the fact that it takes a supermajority of the County Commission — four of five votes — to amend the Comprehensive Plan, but only three of five votes to amend the UDC.
In August, Ramirez won a 12th Judicial Circuit Court case that opposed the approval of the UDC amendment on Oct. 27, 2021. Four months earlier — in April — a state administrative law judge issued a Final Order in Ramirez’s favor in a Florida Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) challenge. In the latter case, Ramirez argued that the County Commission’s approval of the UDC amendment was inconsistent with Future Land Use Policy 2.9.1 in the Comprehensive Plan.
At the end of attorney Merrill’s Oct. 10 letter to Osterhoudt, he again noted developer Anderson’s association with Benderson Development in its proposal for the Comprehensive Plan and UDC amendments. Merrill wrote, “[Anderson] has also joined in a request to amend certain Goals, Objectives, Policies, and Definitions of the Sarasota County Comprehensive Plan … related to future development of lands having the BI [Barrier Island] Future land use designation. The proposed amendments would provide for appropriate redevelopment activities within the SKOD [Siesta Key Overlay District] and are consistent with the best planning practices and implemented by similarly situated jurisdictions. Among other things, the proposed text amendments would permit (1) the redevelopment of properties within commercial zone districts within the SKOD in lands having the BI future land use designation to allow Transient Accommodations, i.e. hotel uses, and (2) provide that Transient Accommodations are considered a non-residential use throughout Sarasota County and are treated as such. However, where a Special Exception is currently required, the Board of County Commissioners will continue to have the right to approve Transient Accommodations through the existing Special Exception process.”