Leader of opposition to proposed plans stresses concern about traffic on neighborhood roads and other issues
Editor’s note: This article was updated early in the afternoon of Oct. 19 to correct information about the potential of a “Continuous Flow Intersection” at U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road. FDOT has not received a formal request to analyze that intersection for CFI construction.
Sarasota County Transportation Planning staff expects the proposed Siesta Promenade mixed-use project at the northwest intersection of Stickney Point Road and U.S. 41 to generate 8,379 new vehicle trips per day.
That information is part of a county Development Review Committee (DRC) report The Sarasota News Leader obtained this week from county Planning and Development Services Department staff.
Just during the afternoon peak drive time, 781 more vehicles would be expected in the vicinity of the development, the report notes.
The DRC report is the latest material released by staff as the county’s Planning Commission prepares for the first public hearing on Siesta Promenade. That is scheduled for the evening of Nov. 15. The County Commission has set aside a full day for its public hearing: Dec. 12.
County Media Relations Specialist Brianne Grant told the News Leader in an Oct. 15 email that planning staff is continuing to work on its recommendations for the Planning Commission meeting.
In the most recent materials it filed with the county, Benderson Development says it wants to construct 414 multi-family units and a 130-room hotel, plus 140,000 square feet of office/retail space on approximately 24 acres on the site of a former mobile home park at the northwest corner of the U.S. 41/Stickney Point Road intersection.
The company does not expect the build-out of the project to be completed until 2024 — if Siesta Promenade, as proposed, wins County Commission approval. Therefore, the DRC report says, staff also looked at the levels of service on roadway segments in the vicinity of the intersection of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road. The DRC report explains that on Oct. 11, 2016, the County Commission approved a scope of work for the Critical Area Plan (CAP) designation Benderson is seeking for Siesta Promenade. (Approval of that CAP petition would allow the company a maximum of 25 dwelling units per acre, instead of the 9 units per acre allowed under the current zoning. With standard Commercial General zoning, no more than 13 dwelling units per acre would be permitted.)
The scope of work included a number of intersections, as well as roadway segments.
The 2024 total traffic conditions indicate that those roadway segments “are operating at or above the adopted level of service standard,” the Transportation Planning comments note in the DRC review of the CAP application. (“Level of service” refers to a driver’s perception about how smoothly traffic is flowing in a given area, with A being the best level.)
“However,” the CAP report continues, “the intersections of US 41 and Constitution Boulevard, US 41 and SR 72 [Stickney Point Road], and US 41 and Beneva Road are expected to operate below the adopted level of service standard [with traffic generated by Siesta Promenade].”
The adopted level of service standard for the intersections of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road, Gulf Gate Drive, Constitution Boulevard, Upper Glencoe Avenue, Beechwood Avenue, Crestwood Avenue, Baywood Drive and Beneva Road are D, the CAP report points out.
The adopted level of service for the intersection of Stickney Point Road and Midnight Pass Road also is a D, the report says.
The DRC report does point out that certain intersection improvements would be needed. Among them would be construction of additional westbound, southbound and northbound left-turn lanes at the intersection of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road. The report also suggests modifying the westbound approach at U.S. 41 and Constitution Boulevard from a shared left-turn/through lane and a right-turn lane to an exclusive left-turn lane and a shared through/right-turn lane.
However, the report explains that even though Kimley-Horn proposed the additional left-turn lanes “at all approaches of the intersection of US 41 and [Stickney Point Road],” those improvements are not feasible because of right of way limitations and the county’s plan to add bicycle lanes on U.S. 41 south of Stickney Point Road. “Acquiring [right of way] would require extensive business takings per the Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT’s) response to [Kimley-Horn], dated June 1, 2018,” the report points out.
Kimley-Horn also recommended signal re-timing for two of the intersections within the study area, along the U.S. 41 corridor, the report continues, but FDOT staff already has said the department would not conduct re-timing specifically for a project; FDOT undertakes re-timing initiatives on a periodic basis.
The ‘Continuous Flow Intersection’ suggestion
Yet another suggestion “to mitigate the [roadway] deficiencies,” the DRC report on the CAP application says, “is a Continuous Flow Intersection (CFI) interchange.”
In response to News Leader questions about a CFI, Brian R. Rick, public information specialist with FDOT’s District 1, said such a traffic improvement has not been sought for the U.S. 41/Stickney Point Road intersection. “No formal request has been made,” he wrote in an Oct. 19 email to the News Leader, “so therefore we are not conducting any analysis on the feasibility of a CFI at this location.”
If a formal request were made for such an interchange at Stickney Point Road and U.S. 41, he said, an analysis would take “a long time. … It does not happen overnight.”
The CFI option “is judged on a case by case basis,” he emphasized in the Oct. 19 email.
A CFI “is a very unique type of intersection,” he explained this week. The first one in Florida is under construction in Fort Myers, he said, with completion slated for 2019.
A CFI provides separate left-turn lanes that allow for a much better flow of traffic. Its primary benefits, he pointed out, are “congestion reduction and a significant safety improvement.” The only types of vehicle crashes in such intersections occur with someone “blowing a light,” he noted.
According to an FDOT video Rick provided the News Leader, three traffic signals are incorporated into the design, one at each crossover point for left-turning traffic and one at the main intersection.
Rick cautioned that constructing a CFI “is not something that we can do anywhere. … It requires a lot of room to operate.”
However, he wrote in the Oct. 19 email, “The issue of room all depends on specific location.”
Utah has more than one CFI, he noted on Oct. 19, adding that FDOT does not have any details about them other than “that they are operating well.”
Effects on Pine Shores
In addressing the expected traffic issues of Siesta Promenade, the DRC report on Benderson’s rezoning application for the property also calls for the elimination of a stipulation associated with an earlier project. That prohibited through traffic from U.S. 41 to Lower Crestwood Avenue.
Sura Kochman, leader of the Pine Shores Neighborhood Alliance, has pointed to that consideration as just one of residents’ worries over the project as proposed. Pine Shores Estates is adjacent to the Siesta Promenade site.
In an Oct. 16 email blast to members of the news media, Kochman wrote that deleting that stipulation, along with allowing four proposed access points from the project through the Pine Shores neighborhood, would violate Future Land Use Policy 2.3.7 of the county’s Comprehensive Plan. That policy says, “In established residential areas, incompatible land uses shall be discouraged if traffic is generated on abutting local streets in amounts that would substantially and adversely affect traffic flow, traffic control and public safety.”
She told the News Leader this week that, as she has continued to question facets of the project, she has set up a new website and a Facebook page.
Both have been raising awareness about the Benderson proposal, she said, drawing more and more attention.
In her Oct. 16 email blast, Kochman also pointed out that in the county DRC comments on the rezoning report, the speed limits on Pine Shores Estates roads are incorrect. A table shows them at 30 mph, but they are 25 mph, Kochman wrote. The county’s Traffic Advisory Council had recommended the change, based on residents’ complaints about traffic problems, and the County Commission approved that change on Nov. 22, 2016.
The report also calls for Benderson — with public involvement — to “identify traffic calming measures that will preserve existing neighborhood environments, their cohesion and integrity to mitigate the development’s transportation impacts on surrounding neighborhoods.” Those traffic calming measures must be included it the construction plans, the report notes.
As for the four access points to Siesta Promenade along Stickney Point Road, the rezoning report says that Benderson is proposing to close the median opening at Stickney Point Road and Glencoe Avenue, though FDOT must approve that. Further, the report points out that behalf of Benderson, Kimley-Horn has recommended the installation of a traffic signal at the intersection of Stickney Point Road and Avenue B and C; that also is subject to FDOT approval.
The rezoning report also explains that Benderson has submitted an application that asks the County Commission to vacate part of the right of way for Crestwood Avenue, so Benderson can realign the existing roadway to the north. Benderson says that would make access from Siesta Promenade to and from U.S. 41 safer than the current alignment.
Additionally, the report calls for Benderson to fill in sidewalk gaps at two locations:
- Hazelwood Street from Glencoe Avenue to Beechwood Avenue.
- Southwood Street from Hollywood Boulevard to Phillippi Estate Park, via Wildwood Avenue.
That work would have to be done prior to or during the construction of Siesta Promenade, the report says.
On one other note, Kochman pointed out that county Zoning Administrator Donna Thompson cited county regulations calling for buildings taller than 35 feet to be set back at least 25 feet from the street, or half the height of the building, whichever is greater. Several of the proposed buildings are taller than 35 feet in Benderson’s site plan, including the 80-foot-tall proposed hotel.
Thompson’s comment referenced Section 6.10.3 of the Zoning Code. “Setback data needs to be revised for Buildings 1-6,” she added. “Building 6 is on a corner and must be [set back 25 feet] from both Glencoe Avenue and Stickney Point Road.”
Kochman wondered in her email what effect those changes would have on the site plan Benderson has submitted, which includes 20-foot setbacks.