Restrooms, kitchen, lifeguard facilities and roof on list for review
City of Sarasota staff is working to ensure concessions will continue to be available at the Lido Pavilion, and it also is considering “modest restoration plans within the current [building] footprint,” City Manager Tom Barwin has reported.
Representatives of architectural firms on contract to the city will tour the facilities, he wrote in a Feb. 27 memo to the City Commission and senior city staff. “[They will] give us cost estimates for their services to prioritize repairs …”
(Sarasota County commissioners refer to the county’s list of companies with ongoing contracts for services as “the library.”)
For example, Barwin noted in the memo, the Lido Pavilion restrooms need to be upgraded, kitchen improvements may be necessary, and the lifeguard facilities and roof will be examined.
The city has $1,250,000 set aside for projects at the Lido Pavilion, Barwin told the city commissioners in late 2017.
City Parks and Recreation Director Jerry Fogle explained during a Nov. 20, 2017 commission meeting that a 2007 city referendum made that funding possible.
Barwin’s outline of the steps staff is taking came in the wake of the commission’s Feb. 19 vote to terminate a lease with a Sarasota company, Lido Beach Redevelopment Partners LLC, which had sought to renovate the Lido Pavilion; expand the restaurant; and add a tiki bar, a splash pad, two playgrounds, new shade structures and 21 parking spaces.
During the Nov. 20, 2017 City Commission meeting, Fogle pointed out that if the board did not approve the lease, he would seek the go-ahead for renovations at least to the restrooms. “I think right now our residents need much, much better and deserve better than what we have out there” Fogle said. “[The restrooms] are in dire need of … major renovation. … I can’t tell you what that is going to cost.”
The 4-1 vote on Feb. 19 to terminate the lease — with Commissioner Willie Shaw in the minority — followed months of growing community agitation over the proposals presented by Troy Syprett and Gavin Meshad of Lido Beach Redevelopment Partners. After the lease was approved on two votes in late 2017, the groundswell of opposition — as evidenced by nearly 5,600 signatures on a petition as of Feb. 19 — had the City Commission at one point considering scheduling a day-long Saturday hearing on two applications Syprett and Meshad had submitted to city staff; the commission had to approve those applications before the company could proceed with the work Syprett and Meshad had envisioned.
Ultimately, in January, William Merrill III, the Sarasota attorney for Lido Redevelopment Partners, advised City Attorney Robert Fournier of his clients’ interest in terminating the lease. However, Merrill asked that the commission reimburse the company for its out-of-pocket expenses over the three years it worked with city staff on its plans. Fournier reminded the commissioners on Feb. 19 that the city initiated the process for renovations at the Lido Pavilion and Pool.
During their regular meeting on March 4, the commissioners unanimously approved a budget amendment calling for the $206,225 reimbursement to come out of the city’s General Fund. The figure is based on an itemized list Lido Beach Redevelopment Partners had provided to Fournier; he subtracted about $20,000 for expenses he deemed inappropriate.
The General Fund is made up largely of property tax revenue. It pays for the operations of many city departments and initiatives.
Among other points in his Feb. 27 memo, Barwin reported that the current concessionaire at the Lido Pavilion — Seabreeze Concession — had agreed to a six-month extension of its city permit while staff prepares “a Request For Proposals to solicit a new concessionaire agreement.”
Seabreeze has held the contract since 2011, city Senior Communications Manager Jan Thornburg replied to a Sarasota News Leader question on March 5. Prior to 2011, she pointed out, Sarasota County was responsible for the concession lease and operations.
Florida Division of Corporations records show that the registered agent for Seabreeze is Darlene R. Ruth of Bradenton. She listed the company’s principal address as 400 Ben Franklin Drive, which is the location of the Lido Pavilion.
On Feb. 7, Warren T. LaBonte, owner of Siesta Beach Concessions, which has a contract with Sarasota County to operate the concessions at Siesta Public Beach Park, emailed the city commissioners, expressing an interest in bidding on the Lido Pavilion concession. Mayor Liz Alpert responded to him, saying she was passing along the information to Barwin and other senior staff.
A venting problem and FEMA concerns
Additionally, Barwin noted in his Feb. 27 memo, staff is researching the steps necessary to repair the venting and hood system in the concession area, “which has become a public health and safety concern.’
Asked for details about that problem, Thornburg told the News Leader, “The system works to dissipate heat and grease from the area, so if it’s not working properly it potentially could become a public health and safety hazard. A local firm will be on-site to inspect the system very soon and provide a report.”
“Contingency plans are being contemplated for a food truck vendor if the venting/hood system cannot be repaired for a reasonable fee and, if necessary, for a period during any building renovations,” Barwin noted in the Feb. 27 memo.
Further, Barwin wrote in the memo, “A fresh appraisal is being secured to guide our compliance with [Federal Emergency Management Agency] FEMA regulations for any future renovations.”
FEMA has strict guidelines about how much money can be spent on improvements to a building that does not comply with current floodplain regulations. If the work will cost more than 50% of the market value of the structure before the start of the improvements, then the building has to be elevated to at lest the 100-year flood elevation.
The Lido Pavilion stands at ground level just off Lido Beach, putting it in potential harm’s way in the event of storm surge.
The FEMA regulations became another point of concern of community activists opposed to the Lido Beach Redevelopment Partners’ plans.