More complaints aired during formal Neighborhood Workshop on Dec. 15
The second — and formal — Neighborhood Workshop about a proposed seven-story hotel and five-story parking garage in the Old Stickney Point Road/Stickney Point Road area of Siesta Key might best be described by referencing a British pop song from the ’60s: Second verse, same as the first.
Some of the participants on Dec. 15 did focus on aspects of the project that were not explored in depth during the first event, which was held on Dec. 2. Nonetheless, the complaints aired mirrored those of the earlier session. Residents on Siesta Key once again made it clear to representatives of Dr. Gary Kompothecras, the Siesta Key chiropractor known for his 1-800-ASK-GARY medical and legal referral service, that they are adamantly opposed to the plans.
“The project that you are seeking is just too big for this area,” Rob Sax, a resident of the 38-unit Marina Del Sol condominium complex on Old Stickney Point Road told attorney Charles D. Bailey III of the Williams Parker firm in Sarasota and Robert “Bo” Medred of Genesis Planning & Development in Bradenton.
As he did on Dec. 2, Sax stressed the fact that Old Stickney Point Road, where the 120-room hotel would be located, is a dead-end street. Marina Del Sol, Sax noted, would be “downstream of the hotel.”
Old Stickney Point Road is the only means of ingress and egress for Marina Del Sol residents, as well as homeowners on Peacock Road, which would be the hotel’s eastern border, Sax added.
The homeowners who will be affected by the increased traffic flow, Sax continued, “are not going to be quiet about this project, and you know that.”
“We don’t deny that Old Stickney Point Road could use some improvement in the amenities that it offers,” Sax told Bailey and Medred. Therefore, Sax suggested that they convey the suggestion to Kompothecras that the residents of the neighborhood could support “a more modest plan.”
As The Sarasota News Leader reported after the Dec. 2 Neighborhood Workshop, the hotel would stand on a 1.17-acre site, while the parking garage would be built on the 0.58-acre property where a Bank of America branch was located for many years.
Along with the parking garage and the hotel, Kompothecras’ team has proposed an amendment to the county’s Future Land Use Policy 2.9.1, which would double the density for hotels in what Kompothecras calls the “South Bridge Area” of Siesta Key, referencing the drawbridge on Stickney Point Road. A companion text amendment would modify Section 124-305 of the county’s Unified Development Code, which contains all the zoning and land development regulations.
The county allows each hotel room without a kitchen on Siesta Key property with commercial zoning to count as one-half a dwelling unit. Kompothecras wants to change that to one-fourth unit.
“It’s somewhat unusual for residential density to be applied to hotel rooms,” Bailey pointed out during the Dec. 2 workshop. “The City of Sarasota does not do that,” nor do most other jurisdictions, he added.
The Dec. 15 Neighborhood Workshop was required by county staff because the public notice advertised in a newspaper for the Dec. 2 event did not contain the date. Thus, to comply with county planning regulations, Bailey explained on Dec. 2, the Dec. 15 event was a necessity before formal county staff review of the Kompothecras proposals could begin.
The first speaker on Dec. 15 was Mark Spiegel, leader of an organization called the Siesta Key Coalition. It was established in early summer to represent homeowners opposed to a 170-room hotel project proposed for four parcels located between Beach Road and Calle Miramar, close to the intersection of Beach Road and Ocean Boulevard in Siesta Village.
Spiegel asked Bailey and Medred how many floors the hotel would need if the project team did not seek a Special Exception from the County Commission to increase the allowed density on the site. (Since the property is zoned Commercial General — CG — in the Siesta Key Overlay District — SKOD — about 30 rooms could be built for the hotel, Bailey acknowledged on Dec. 2.)
“It depends on the design,” Bailey told Spiegel on Dec. 15, “but three or four stories, probably.”
“Did Dr. Gary ever consider actually submitting a plan that complies with the [county’s Future Land Use policy for the barrier islands]?” Spiegel asked.
“An economic analysis was done with consultants from the hospitality industry,” Bailey said. Such a project was “not financially feasible.”
Spiegel then referred to language in Article 5, Section 124-43 of the Unified Development Code (UDC). That section includes the following findings of fact the County Commission must make to grant a Special Exception:
- “The proposed use, singularly or in combination with other Special Exceptions, must not be detrimental to the health, safety, morals, order, comfort, convenience, or appearance of the neighborhood or other adjacent uses by reason of any one or more of the following: the number, area, location, height, orientation, intensity or relation to the neighborhood or other adjacent uses;
- “The proposed use must be adequately buffered to effectively separate traffic, visual impact and noise from existing or intended nearby uses;
- “The subject parcel must be adequate in shape and size to accommodate the proposed use;
- “The ingress and egress to the subject parcel and internal circulation must not adversely affect traffic flow, safety or control; and
- “The subject parcel is adequate to accommodate the height and mass of any proposed structure(s).”
Those standards appear to be in question in regard to the Kompothecras project, Spiegel pointed out.
Another speaker, long-time community activist Lourdes Ramirez, who also lives on the Key, took issue with a couple of statements Bailey made about the permitted density on the hotel site.
“We’re a pretty intelligent crowd out here,” she said. What Kompothecras is proposing, she said, is “four times what is allowed on that parcel.”
“So I find it kind of offensive,” she told Bailey, “that you … try to make it sound like it’s still going to be 26 units per acre.”
“We’re not being cutesy or trying to hide anything from anybody,” Bailey responded, adding that he merely had been referencing county metrics for counting hotel rooms.
Another speaker asked about an item scheduled for the County Commission on its Jan. 26, 2021 agenda, which is related to the proposed change in the Future Land Use policy for the project.
Bailey explained that the team has to have approval of the County Commission for staff to consider a proposed Comprehensive Plan amendment outside the normal cycle for addressing such action. “No formal action will be taken by the County Commission” on the applications for the garage and the hotel on Jan. 26, 2021, Bailey stressed.
Parking spaces for the public
Yet another issue that arose on Dec. 15 pertained to the 103 spaces that would be set aside for the general public in the parking garage.
Siesta Key Association (SKA) President Catherine Luckner first raised questions about that facet of the plans.
Without all those spaces, she said, she did not believe the garage would have to comprise five stories.
Mason Tush, whose family owns CB’s Saltwater Outfitters on Stickney Point Road, plus the neighboring Daiquiri Deck site, followed up on that line of questioning.
Medred of Genesis Planning & Development had noted that 72 spaces would be needed for the hotel, which would be used for valet parking, while 20 would be allocated to the approximately 6,900 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor of the garage.
Without the spaces for the general public, Tush told Medred and attorney Bailey, “You might only need two floors. … Why should we … support a garage that’s five stories high that’s going to tower over the surrounding area when you don’t need the extra parking?”
When the team began working on the proposal, Medred replied, “There was a lot of input that we received about needing additional parking out on Siesta Key. That was kind of the mindset we had.”
Medred added, “We actually can be an asset to those businesses on Old Stickney Point Road …”
“In fairness,” Tush told Medred, “I built the Daiquiri Deck to [County Code stipulations],” including providing the required patron parking spaces. “The businesses don’t really need the extra parking,” Tush added, because of the two paid parking lots on Old Stickney Point Road.
If the garage contains those extra spaces, Tush continued, people will pay to park there for the day and walk over to Crescent Beach, which can be reached from Beach Access 12, across Midnight Pass Road from Old Stickney Point Road. “Crescent Beach is not a public beach,” Tush stressed. “It is a private beach.” He was referring to state regulations that designate the area of shoreline below the Mean High Water Line (MHWL) as public beach. Anything landward of that line is considered private property, and a number of condominium complexes stand on Crescent Beach.
Because he works every day at his family’s business, Tush said, and observes what takes place in the area, he knows the members of the general public using the garage spaces would head to Crescent Beach.
Diane Erne, vice president of the Siesta Key Condominium Council, was among other speakers who also addressed concerns about crowding on the beach, thanks to hotel guests and the general public’s ability to park in the garage.
“There’s ongoing conflict with many of the condos on the Key,” she said, because of what she described as the county’s “very narrow beach access points.”
“Once people are on the beach,” Erne continued, “they don’t always follow a straight line. They tend to fan out to the right and left of the access point,” and, frequently, they end up landward of the MHWL. “It’s a security problem” for the condominium complexes, she pointed out.
“All very good points,” Bailey acknowledged. However, he continued, guests at the hotel will be able to use a valet service to keep their vehicles in the garage. Then they can use bicycles provided by the hotel, or they can walk, or they can ride the Siesta Key Breeze trolley to reach Siesta Public Beach, for example, which he described as being “like a linear park.”
“Siesta Key is small,” Frank Jurenka, president of the Siesta Key Condominium Council, told Bailey and Medred. The hotel, he continued, would be designed for “people from outside Sarasota County …”
According to his math, Jurenka continued, the 120 rooms in the hotel and 103 public parking spaces in the garage would mean nearly 450 more beachgoers. “Why else would they come to Siesta Key?” he asked, if not to go to the beach. Yet, Jurenka asked, “Where are they going to go to the beach?”
Bailey reiterated the comments he made to Erne. Some guests may end up at Beach Access 13, Bailey also noted, which is located near Point of Rocks.
“Maybe Gary [Kompothecras] could open up the beach in front of his mansion” near Point of Rocks, Marina Del Sol resident Sax told Bailey.