Residents express ire over plans for parallel parking spaces on Glencoe Avenue in Pine Shores Estates, next to Siesta Promenade site

Benderson Development representatives say the design will serve as a traffic-calming measure

No parallel parking on Glencoe Avenue in Pine Shores Estates!

That was the plea from almost all of the attendees who spoke during a May 1 Neighborhood Workshop conducted on the latest plans for the Siesta Promenade mixed-use project that will stand adjacent to  Pine Shores Estates.

Philip DiMaria, representative of the Kimley-Horn consulting firm in Sarasota, who was acting on behalf of the developer — Benderson Development of University Park — maintained that the parking spaces will serve as a traffic-calming measure for the neighborhood.

However, DiMaria found no takers for that assertion.

In fact, Sura Kochman, who led the Pine Shores Neighborhood Alliance for years in an effort to win Benderson’s agreement to decrease the intensity and density of the Siesta Promenade design, made it clear that the residents would continue fighting the proposal.

Kochman told the other workshop attendees that she had commented earlier to DiMaria, “Take away the parallel parking, and we will all go quietly into the night, and you won’t have any aggravations.” She added on May 1, “We’re not going to go away, and we have more people that are angry now than we ever did before on this matter. The neighborhood feels betrayed. … I have heard it from so manypeople.”

Siesta Promenade, in one form or another, was proposed for years on about 24 acres in the northwest quadrant of the intersection of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road. Finally, on Dec. 12, 2018, the Sarasota County Commission — on split votes — approved a Development Concept Plan for the project that included 414 apartments/condominiums; a 130-room hotel; 133,000 square feet of retail space; and 7,000 square feet of office space.

Because Benderson wants to incorporate another 0.78 acres into the project site — the area of two parcels where single-family homes in Pine Shores have stood next to the Siesta Promenade site — county staff required the company to conduct a new Neighborhood Workshop. Benderson also will have to seek county Planning Commission and County Commission approval.

During the May 1 event, Kochman stressed that when the County Commission approved the plans for the development, No. 16 of the stipulations said, “Prior to any Construction Authorization of the Siesta Promenade development, the Owner (with public involvement) shall identify traffic calming measures that will best preserve existing neighborhood environments, their cohesion and integrity to mitigate the development’s transportation impacts on surrounding neighborhoods. The traffic calming measures identified shall be included in the first construction plans for the subject property and approved in advance by the County Engineer.”

Yet, DiMaria, a project manager in planning for Kimley-Horn, maintained multiple times during the May 1 workshop that the parallel parking spaces are ”going to slow down traffic and allow for some better access and circulation around the [project] site and improve circulation for the neighborhood, as well.”

In many other locations — in Sarasota, in other parts of the state and across the United States — “on-street parking is used as a method to slow down traffic,” DiMaria explained. “We’ve seen it used to great success.”

Drivers are more cautious, he pointed out, knowing that other motorists could be pulling in and out of the spaces.

Todd Mathes, director of development for Benderson Development, estimated that about 35 spaces could be created along Glencoe. The property for the spaces would encompass the grassy right of way on Glencoe and potentially part of the privately owned Siesta Promenade land, he said.

“You’re creating a hazard,” Galina Crites told DiMaria, noting that that would be the only reason people might slow down on Glencoe. Moreover, Crites said, “Who wants to look at a parking lot like that? It’s destroying the look of the neighborhood.”

The landscaping buffer in the 2018 plans, she noted, was designed “to try to make [the view of Siesta Promenade] look at least a little bit nicer.”

Glencoe Avenue resident Diana Rodak talked about the fact that the 2018 landscaping and buffering provisions “made me feel in my heart that this thing [Siesta Promenade] was going to be a pretty good idea.” Referring to the parallel parking proposal, she added, “It was never, ever, ever, ever discussed or brought up … To me, that is so dishonest of you guys. … I’m highly, highly, highly disrespectful of you as planners and builders …”

Two versions of the traffic-calming process

DiMaria told the workshop participants that Kimley-Horn staff “held a couple of traffic-calming workshops [in 2021],” and Pine Shores residents were asked to vote on which methods they wanted to see implemented in the neighborhood. “The results came back inconclusive,” he continued. “They did not meet the [Sarasota County] threshold for selecting specific traffic-calming items.”

Therefore, DiMaria added, Kimley-Horn representatives working on behalf of Benderson Development collaborated with county staff to implement traffic-calming methods they felt would be appropriate.

For example, he said, a mini roundabout is planned at the intersection of Glencoe Avenue with Hazelwood and Birchwood streets; a raised crosswalk will be installed on Crestwood Avenue at the site of Pine Shores Presbyterian Church; “speed cushions” will be placed on part of Beechwood Avenue; an all-way stop sign will be erected at the intersection of Glencoe and Crestwood avenues; and three speed feedback signs will be installed in the neighborhood. The latter flash drivers’ speeds, encouraging them not to exceed the limit.

Finally, he said, the decision was made to include the on-street parking spaces. “They provide a really good barrier between a sidewalk and a travel lane.”

Those spaces also will be convenient for Pine Shores residents who wish to shop or dine in Siesta Promenade, he noted.

When DiMaria called on her during the May 1 workshop, Kochman of the Pine Shores Alliance said, “I’d like to give an accurate representation of what really happened regarding traffic calming.”

After the two workshops on that issue took place in 2021, she pointed out, ballots went out to the neighbors so they could select the measures they wanted. She characterized the inclusion of some property owners and exclusion of others as “a very odd representation of who should be voting on this …”

Of the 200 ballots, Kochman continued, 100 went to addresses of homes whose owners live out of the area or to owners of dwellings that are being rented as short-term vacation properties through Airbnb and “So [the survey] was destined to fail.”

After that failure, she said, she contacted county staff and set up a meeting that included Spencer Anderson, director of Public Works; Donald DeBerry, senior transportation manager in Public Works; Patrick Lui, coordinator of the county’s Bicycle, Pedestrian and Trails Program; and Paula Wiggins, manager of the Transportation Planning Division.

“In that meeting,” Kochman explained, “we had extensive conversations about what could be done.” As a result, she said, Anderson directed DeBerry to work directly with her.

She emphasized, “There was no conversation with Kimley-Horn — whatsoever.”

Pine Shores was broken into quadrants, she continued, and then groups of about 10 neighbors were contacted in each of specific area to vote on traffic-calming measures for that area.

“All of a sudden,” Kochman added, “this [parallel parking] plan comes up. This was not in our group’s discussion. There was nothing about parallel parking.”

The county staff report provided to the commissioners for the Dec. 12, 2018 public hearing on Siesta Promenade cited Transportation Policy 1.6.1 in the county’s Comprehensive Plan — which guides growth, Kochman continued. The report said that, to be consistent with that policy, Benderson had to make efforts “to deter traffic intrusion into the adjacent neighborhood.”

In planning parallel parking spaces adjacent to the neighborhood, she told DiMaria and other project team members, “You have decided [what will be done], not county staff.”

Kochman added that she recently had exchanged emails with Wiggins in Transportation Planning after learning of the new proposal. Wiggins told her, Kochman continued, that county staff did not recommend parallel parking spaces on Glencoe. “So do not try to sell this as any [county] idea,” Kochman stressed. “This is only Kimley-Horn and Benderson’s idea.”

Neal Schleifer, who lives on Siesta Key, told DiMaria, “The traffic on [U.S.] 41 and Stickney [Point Road] will be so egregious that people will look for shortcuts.” That factor alone, Schleifer indicated, would increase transportation problems in Pine Shores.

At one point, Mathes of Benderson pointed out that the Development Concept Plan that the County Commission approved in 2018 includes a driveway from Glencoe Avenue into Siesta Promenade. The new plan eliminates that, he added, having noted that that driveway was “basically across from Sura’s house.”

Kochman disputed the latter statement, telling everyone that the ingress/egress was planned at the intersection in Pine Shores where Kimley-Horn has proposed the mini roundabout. She also characterized Mathes’ implication that Benderson could keep the access point after all as “a veiled threat,” telling Mathes, “That was not a kind thing to say.”

Later, Mathes told her, “I wasn’t trying to be unkind.”

With the new plans for parallel parking, Mathes maintained that he believes Pine Shores residents will experience less traffic associated with Siesta Promenade.

Why insist on the parallel parking spaces?

Given demand for parking at developments all over the county, Kochman acknowledged, “You always need more [spaces].”

She speculated that people who would use the parallel spaces likely would enter one of the six, 40-foot-tall residential buildings lined up along Glencoe Avenue, or they would go to the hotel or dine in one of the restaurants.

Moreover, she continued, “They’re going to want to have cut-throughs” in the landscaping buffer next to the parallel spaces. Yet, she said, the latter type of change would be made during what county staff calls the “site and development” process, which takes place after a project has won County Commission approval. During that process, the development team works with county staff on a multitude of final details before construction can begin. That work does not take place in a public setting.

Further, Kochman said, new street lights likely will be included for pedestrians using the sidewalk on the Pine Shores side of Siesta Promenade and drivers using the parallel spaces. Plans for adding such lighting also would occur during the site and development process, she added.

In advance of the December 2018 approval of Siesta Promenade, Mathes of Benderson Development told Pine Shores residents multiple times, “ ‘We want to be a good neighbor,’ ” Kochman reminded the project team and the approximately 41 workshop attendees. Yet, she emphasized to DiMaria and Mathes, “You are intruding in the neighborhood. Nobody wants this. Nobody.”

She asked Mathes, “Why are you reneging on the promises of neighborhood protections?”

Later, she suggested the possibility that the parallel spaces would be used for valet parking for the hotel and/or the restaurants. “I’ve been wracking my brain,” she added, trying to figure out why the spaces were included in the new proposal, “when it makes absolutely no sense.”

Catherine Luckner, president of the nonprofit Siesta Key Association, asked DiMaria whether it is correct that county regulations require a certain number of parking spaces to serve specific types of uses, such as restaurants.

He replied that that is correct.

She then asked him whether the project team would eliminate the parallel parking spaces because of Pine Shores residents’ remarks that night and in online discussions.

He responded, again, that the spaces will serve a traffic-calming purpose.

Yet other speakers joined Kochman in emphasizing their opposition to the proposal.

Patricia Tan pointed out, “A large number of our residents will be looking at parked cars instead of a landscape buffer, which is what they certainly expected,” as shown in the 2018 plan. “We’re more likely to have pedestrian-related deaths,” she added, also asserting that the parallel parking spaces will encourage people to drive through Pine Shores, instead of heading back to Stickney Point Road or U.S. 41.

Lesli Tauber told DiMaria, “There’s hundreds more of us” opposed to the parallel parking plans.

The very last speaker during the workshop — Robert Luckner, husband of Catherine Luckner and also a director of the Siesta Key Association — asked the project team, “After all you’ve heard tonight” about the parallel spaces, “why on earth wouldn’t you drop [the proposal],” since it is not a county requirement?

Luckner added, “ ‘Me thinks you doth protest too much,’ ” modifying a line of dialogue in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. “There must be some other reason you want it.”

‘Slightly erroneous concept plans’

On one other workshop note: The Sarasota News Leader previously reported on two new Development Concept Plans for Siesta Promenade — the first, dated March 9; the second, March 29. Yet, on May 1, DiMaria presented yet another Development Concept Plan. That was dated April 10, as shown on the document the News Leader requested from the county’s Planning Division staff.

At one point during the workshop, Pine Shores resident Walter Rodak asked about information that was included in the Data Site Table in both the March plans. DiMaria replied that “slightly erroneous concept plans” had been circulating in the community.

1 thought on “Residents express ire over plans for parallel parking spaces on Glencoe Avenue in Pine Shores Estates, next to Siesta Promenade site”

  1. I live in Gulf Gate and even now when I get to McDonalds on 41 South I can from time to time find myself being stopped for 2 or 3 red lights at the intersection; I can spend 20 minutes getting home to Gulf Gate Estates. As a resident since 1974, I have observed the saturation of traffic in our county. I know I live more than 750 feet from Pine Shores so I am not supposed to be concerned. I am. I think Gulf Gate will also become a short cut! We have heard from Siesta Key and others that are concerned. I respect your concern and activism for historic Pine Shores.

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