Event planned to focus solely on analyses people want to see the county require as part of Benderson Development’s application for a Critical Area Plan
At 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 19, Sarasota County staff will host a neighborhood workshop at Pine Shores Presbyterian Church that has been designed to focus solely on the scope of work to be required of Benderson Development for its Siesta Promenade proposal, the county has announced.
The church is located at 6116 Crestwood Ave. in Sarasota. The session will be held in the sanctuary.
Since the project was discussed during an Oct. 11 County Commission “boundary hearing,” county staff has expanded the buffer area around the site to a 0.75-mile radius, a new document shows. That means some property owners on south Siesta Key also will receive notifications by mail about any meetings or public hearings related to the project. The original notification area involved only owners of property within 750 feet of the site, which is located at the northwest corner of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road.
Late this spring, Benderson unveiled its most recent proposal for a mixed-use development on the approximately 24-acre area that previously was the site of a mobile home park. Not only residents of Pine Shores Estates — which abuts the project area — but also those on Siesta Key and in other nearby neighborhoods have protested the plans. The proposal for Siesta Promenade calls for between 400 and slightly fewer than 600 new dwelling units — including one or two hotels — plus approximately 140,000 square feet of commercial space. The potential for the project to exacerbate transportation woes at and near the intersection of Stickney Point Road and U.S. 41 has been at the heart of the complaints.
Benderson is seeking county approval of a Critical Area Plan (CAP) designation for the project, which would allow the firm to plan residential density up to 25 units per acre and building height up to 85 feet. The County Commission voted on Oct. 10 to continue the boundary hearing until after staff has gathered more information about the range of studies and breadth of information Benderson would have to provide about the project’s potential effects on the surrounding area.
In response to a recent Sarasota News Leader request for an update on that process, Allen Parsons, the county’s Planning Division manager, replied in a Nov. 30 email: “[Benderson] will be responding to county staff direction with regard to elements that will be addressed as part of the review of the proposed development …”
After the Dec. 19 workshop, he continued, “we should be able to indicate a likely timeframe for the item to get back to the [County Commission].”
The News Leader has learned that the county’s Planning Commission likely could hold a public hearing on Siesta Promenade as early as February or March 2017.
Pine Shores leadership is encouraging as many residents as possible to attend the Dec. 19 workshop, in spite of the fact that it will be held less than a week before Christmas.
Scope of work
A Nov. 30 document on a county Planning and Development Services webpage already points to numerous transportation issues that must be addressed in conjunction with the Siesta Promenade proposal. The pertinent section of the staff report says, “An analysis needs to be completed to determine how best to provide pedestrian, bicycle, public transit and/or private mass transit/shuttle access to parks, beaches, and other leisure facilities and activities both on and off-site [within 0.75 to 1 mile of the development] for the [approximately] 1,150 future residents and 150 unit hotel guests.”
(The document cites the data Benderson provided when it filed its formal application with the county in August. That says the site will have 581 dwelling units: 501 apartments and condominiums in multi-family structures and one hotel with 150 rooms.)
The document adds, “Residents and visitors need to have convenient, affordable, and safe multi-modal access” to and from recreational and leisure opportunities; otherwise, they will be expected to utilize their private vehicles, “adding to the vehicular traffic on Stickney Point Road, U.S. 41 and neighborhood streets in the immediate area of the proposed project.”
It points out that the potential impacts of new median closures on the current retail and residential uses served by Avenue A and Avenue B and C need to be evaluated, as well. Furthermore, the document says, “The analysis shall evaluate placement of traffic calming devices along impacted local roadways,” including Glencoe, Crestwood and Brentwood avenues.
The document adds, “The transportation impact study shall include detailed analysis” of the segment of U.S. 41 from Constitution Boulevard to Beneva Road and the section of State Road 72 (Stickney Point Road) between Midnight Pass Road and Gateway Avenue.
The intersections the study will focus on include those at U.S. 41 and Constitution Boulevard, U.S. 41 and Beechwood Avenue, U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road, Midnight Pass Road and Stickney Point Road, U.S. 41 and Gulf Gate Drive, U.S. 41 and Beneva Road, Stickney Point Road and Glencoe Avenue, and Stickney Point Road and Gulf Gate Mall.
To download a copy of the proposed scope of work, visit https://www.scgov.net/PlanningServices/Pages/CorridorPlans.aspx or visit www.scgov.net/PlanningServices/Pages/Workshops.aspx.
Growing concerns on Siesta Key
The Bay Island Siesta Association in November joined the Siesta Key Association (SKA) in writing to the County Commission to express concerns about the potential for Siesta Promenade to produce significantly more traffic problems for the island.
Writing on Nov. 7, Bay Island Siesta Association President Gary Q. Yee pointed out that his organization represents “290 property owners on Bay Island and that portion of Siesta Key that lies within the city limits of Sarasota.”
He added, “Our members access our neighborhood via the second Gateway to Siesta Key, Siesta Drive. As you are aware our Gateway (Siesta Drive) has seen a tremendous increase in traffic and experienced gridlock at times especially with the Siesta Key Bridge raising and lowering. What was once a seasonal issue has grown to be an almost [year-round] challenge to get to and leave our neighborhood safely.”
Yet, if Siesta Promenade is built as proposed, Yee continued, Bay Island residents expect Siesta Drive will see even more traffic, as people avoid Stickney Point Road.
He pointed out that Siesta has only two means of vehicular access: Siesta Drive and Stickney Point Road. He then asked whether the commissioners “have taken the increased traffic across the Siesta Drive Gateway into consideration in their discussions with Benderson on the Siesta Promenade project.”
In concluding his letter, Yee wrote, “I can appreciate the commissioners’ role of balancing growth and livability in what has become a major tourist destination and also a great community [in which to reside]. I trust the commissioners will make the right decisions for our community.”
In its letter earlier this fall, the SKA asked the County Commission for a comprehensive access management plan related to Siesta Promenade, if the County Commission agrees to allow the project to go forward as proposed.
That plan, the SKA directors said in their Oct. 6 letter, should include provisions to ensure Siesta Key residents and property owners have access to the barrier island without having to contend with an overburdened Stickney Point Road.