Proposed new City of Sarasota zoning text amendment filed for Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Application prepared by city staff calls for office zoning district specific to the Gardens

A graphic included with the zoning text amendment application shows that Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is the only area in the city to which the amendment would apply. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

With the City of Sarasota gradually allowing advisory board meetings to resume, along with sessions of its Development Review Committee, David L. Smith, manager of long-range planning for the city, has filed a proposed new zoning text amendment for Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.

Submitted on June 5, the application calls for a new office zoning district specific to Selby Gardens — MSBG.

“The intent and purpose of the MSBG district is to permit the use of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens and accessory uses,” the application says. “This zoning district provides a means by which the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens may grow in a sensitive and coherent manner that preserves the quality of life and integrity of the surrounding neighborhoods while maintaining the Garden’s prestige as a world-class botanical garden.”

The subsequent Notice of Filing Development Application issued by the Office of the City Auditor and Clerk points out that any owner of property within 500 feet of the Gardens, or a representative of a registered neighborhood association within the same radius, will be notified of any public hearings scheduled “as this application proceeds through the Development Review Process.”

This is a section of one zoning table to which the MSBG district would be added. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

Additionally, the MSBG district would be added to a table that lists the primary uses allowed in the office zones, and “Botanical Gardens” would be included under Institutional Use Categories in that table. The corresponding note says, “Activities consistent with similar cultural institutions include, but are not limited to, event facility, greenhouses, dock facilities, plant/gift shops, offices, snack bars, parking garages, and restaurant are permitted as an accessory use to the Botanical Gardens primary use. Accessory restaurant uses are limited to ten percent of the total developed floor area on site; exclusive of parking areas; larger amounts of restaurant space [are] prohibited. Accessory restaurants shall not provide catering or kitchen facilities for offsite events.”

Further, it notes, “Accessory restaurants shall be designed to minimize and mitigate noise impacts on adjacent residential property. Sound from outdoor dining areas shall be directed away from residential uses.”

Among residents’ complaints about Selby Gardens’ previous master plan proposal — which the majority of the City Commission voted against last year — was the fact that a restaurant on the site, which would be open to the general public and operate into the night, would be disruptive to neighbors because of associated noise and traffic.

In late January, when the Gardens released its revised master plan, it announced that it would reduce the size of the new restaurant from 185 seats to a maximum of 110. Further, the new plan called for the hours of operation to mirror the Gardens’ hours.

This illustration, released by Selby Gardens early this year, shows a scene within the proposed new ground-floor restaurant. Image courtesy Selby Gardens

Yet another change proposed in the new application calls for the addition of the MSBG category to a table providing details about the types of residential structures allowed in office zones.

Under the Height section, the application seeks inclusion of the following language: “The height limits in the MSBG zone are intended to provide for transition between the Downtown and Commercial US 41 and the neighboring areas.”

The maximum non-residential height for the MSBG district would be 40 feet, another table says.

Another big concern residents expressed about the previous master plan was the 75-foot height of a proposed parking garage on the Selby Gardens campus.

In the Gardens’ revised master plan, the parking structure’s overall height was reduced by 40%.

Noise and parking considerations

The application also calls for a number of special development standards for the MSBG district.

Under the heading of Noise, for example, the zoning text amendment says the following:

(i) Noise from mechanical equipment located within 100 feet of residentially zoned property shall not exceed 65 dBC measured at the property line of the residentially zoned property.

“(ii) Restaurants and other commercial uses shall be designed to minimize and mitigate noise impacts on adjacent residential property. Sound from outdoor seating and waiting areas shall be directed away from nearby or adjacent residential uses with solid walls.

“(iii) Outdoor amplified music shall not exceed 60 dBC as measured at the property line of an MSBG zoned property.

“(iv) No fireworks or fireworks displays are permitted.”

This is a rendering of the new Selby Gardens building proposed at the intersection of U.S. 41 and Mound Street. Image courtesy of Selby Gardens

An article by Malinda Zellman on the website explains that “dBC” refers to a specific type of filter used to measure sound levels. “Unlike dBA,” Zellman writes, dBC measurements “suit low and high frequency sound levels. … C-weighting occurs for peak measurements and in noise measurement for the entertainment industry, as in a live stage event or in running a movie theater business where bass noise transmissions can become problematic.”

In researching decibel levels, The Sarasota News Leader found that normal conversation produces an average of 60 decibels.

Another section of the proposed MSBG zoning text amendment, which deals with parking, calls for one space for each 200 square feet of floor area for nonresidential buildings. However, it offers the following Alternative parking ratio:

“a. The Development Services Director, after consultation with the City Engineer, shall be authorized to approve alternative ratios for providing off‐street parking spaces in accordance with this section.

“b. Where the landowner believes that required parking ratios of this section are too high, data submitted by the landowner may be used to determine a different or lesser ratio for a specific proposed use. Such data may include site studies from similar uses, generally accepted engineering standards … or independent engineering calculations based on the nature of the proposed use. The Development Services Director, in coordination with the City Engineer, shall evaluate such submittals to determine an acceptable ratio for the proposed use.

“c. An attested copy of an approved alternative parking ratio shall be recorded in the official records of Sarasota County on forms approved by the City Attorney. An alternative parking ratio may be amended by following the same procedure required for the original approval. The landowner shall provide proof of recordation prior to approval of the certificate of occupancy.”

Yet another section deals with specifications for windows. That calls for the first story of any portion of a building facing a street, except a parking garage, to include a minimum of 30% glass, with the combined area above the first story having a minimum of 25% glass.

It also notes, “The reduction or elimination of the amount of window area above the first story shall be permitted provided a vegetative façade is used on the exterior wall of the building, such as vertical trellises, landscaped or raised planter beds placed in front of wall, or other similar method.”