Siesta Seen

Residents voice lingering anger over County Commission’s April 2018 vote regarding commercial construction street setbacks; Neighborhood Workshop notice error necessitates second session on proposed hotel and parking garage; ‘South Bridge Area’ blight characterization disputed; Peacock Road home sale among top county transactions so far this year; Cosentino cites COVID-19 infection in missing court deadline to request oral arguments in North Beach Road case; and Condominium Council to host virtual meeting in January

Siesta residents pack the County Commission Chambers for the April 11, 2018 public hearing on the proposed amendment to the street setback section of the Siesta Key Overlay District. Photo contributed by Libby Sloan

The Dec. 2 Neighborhood Workshop regarding Dr. Gary Kompothecras’ proposed hotel and parking garage on south Siesta Key was designed to enable people to learn more about the proposed project and to ask questions.

However, more than a few of the participants took the opportunity to express dismay about the plans.

Among them, Richard Oberdorf, who lives in the Marina Del Sol condominium complex close to the proposed hotel site, talked about the four-hour public hearing the County Commission conducted in April 2018 on a petition to provide more flexibility to developers on south Siesta Key when it comes to street setbacks for new commercial structures.

Kompothecras began lobbying for that change a year earlier, winning commissioners’ interest in seeing the issue pursued.

As county staff explained during the 2018 hearing, the Siesta Key Overlay District (SKOD) zoning regulations required any structure taller than 35 feet on a parcel designated with commercial zoning to be a minimum of 25 feet from the street. In accord with the SKOD’s provisions, a structure standing 85 feet tall would have to have a street setback equal to half that height, staff noted.

Kompothecras and other business owners wanted to see the SKOD amended to give the County Commission flexibility to reduce the street setback to 2 feet for any new structures erected “within the commercial enclave south of Stickney Point Road (identified as the ‘South Bridge Area’ …”

By a 3-2 vote, the commissioners approved the amendment. Commissioner Alan Maio, who represented all of Siesta Key at that time, joined the majority in that decision. (Last year, after the commission approved new district boundaries, Commissioner Christian Ziegler became the representative for residents on the northern part of the Key.)

The underlined language constitutes the amendment approved on April 11, 2018. Image courtesy Sarasota County

During the Dec. 2 Neighborhood Workshop, Oberdorf told Kompothecras’ attorney, Charles D. Bailey III of the Williams Parker firm, that he was among the contingent of island residents who packed the Commission Chambers in April 2018 for the public hearing. The commissioners, Oberdorf pointed out, “changed [the setback provision] … without any plan in front of them. Why they would do that, I have no idea.”

Oberdorf added, “The meeting was well attended by residents that spoke out against [the proposed amendment].” In fact, Oberdorf emphasized, the only people who spoke in favor of it were commercial property owners.

“The residents and voters were shocked when the commissioners voted to make that change,” Oberdorf said. “Now the developers are coming back to the well for more changes? It should not even be a discussion.”

When Oberdorf started to veer into a complaint about actions Kompothecras had taken to modify the Crescent Club on Midnight Pass Road, which Kompothecras purchased a couple of years ago, Bailey steered him back to the matters at hand. “Everybody’s here for the [hotel and parking garage applications],” Bailey pointed out.

Dr. Gary Kompothecras addresses the County Commission on April 11, 2018. File photo

Further, Bailey explained that the appropriate venue for residents to state their opposition to the new proposals would be the public hearings the Planning Commission and County Commission eventually will conduct on them.

“Oh, man,” Oberdorf replied.

Another Marina Del Sol resident, Rob Durham, told Bailey and Robert “Bo” Medred of Genesis Planning & Development in Bradenton that he also attended that public hearing on the street setbacks in April 2018.

“I thought the way that was run was bizarre,” Durham added, “because it didn’t seem like anybody wanted to hear what the public had to say. It seemed like [Kompothecras] had this thing greased pretty well.”

Proper notice necessary

At the outset of the Dec. 2 Neighborhood Workshop on Dr. Gary Kompothecras’ proposed hotel and parking garage on the southern part of Siesta, attorney Charles D. Bailey III had a bit of a “housekeeping chore,” if you will.

In accord with Sarasota County land development regulations, Bailey explained, the project team has to advertise a notice of the Neighborhood Workshop in a newspaper of general circulation. Further, Bailey said, that ad has to appear at least seven days prior to the workshop.

Additionally, he continued, 10 days before the workshop, a notice of the event has to be mailed out to all the owners of property within a 750-foot radius of the site of the proposed project that will be the focus of the workshop.

Charles Bailey III. Photo from the Williams Parker website

Although Kompothecras’ project team did publish an advertisement in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that complied with the county timeline, Bailey said, the notice did not include the Dec. 2 date. On the other hand, all the notices that went into the mail did have the Dec. 2 date on them, he added.

It was not until Nov. 28, he noted, that the Herald-Tribune carried a copy of the formal notice with the date. The project team also advertised the Dec. 2 event in the Observer, Bailey said; that notice appeared on Nov. 27.

Still, he acknowledged, neither of those dates complied with the county seven-day timeline for sufficient notice.

“Because we had mailed [notices] to more than 800 of our neighbors,” he continued, “we wanted to push ahead and have this workshop …” The project team members agreed, he pointed out, that that would be the proper, courteous action.

Nonetheless, Bailey continued, in light of the newspaper notice issue, a second Neighborhood Workshop had been scheduled for 6 p.m. on Dec. 15. It would be a webinar, he and Robert “Bo” Medred of Genesis Planning & Development in Bradenton, told the Dec. 2 workshop participants. (See the related article in this issue.)

Because the Dec. 2 event was conducted via Zoom, Bailey and Medred explained, it was limited to 100 people; it could not accommodate all those who wanted to participate. The webinar will not have such a limitation, they added.

Blight in the ‘South Bridge Area’?

One other point of contention that arose during the Dec. 2 Neighborhood Workshop on Gary Kompothecras’ proposal for the parking garage and hotel on the southern part of the Key brought a sharp retort from the very first resident to offer comments that evening.

In explaining some of the history behind the plans for the new structures, Kompothecras’ land-use attorney, Charles D. Bailey III of the Williams Parker firm in Sarasota, mentioned the Siesta Key Community Plan that the County Commission approved in the late 1990s. That plan was a precursor to the adoption of zoning regulations specific to Siesta Key, Bailey noted.

The Community Plan, he continued, identified the South Bridge Area “as being blighted.”

The building that once housed Fandango Cafe stands on part of the acreage zoned Commercial General on Old Stickney Point Road where Dr. Gary Kompothecras proposes to construct a hotel. File photo

After the Stickney Point Road drawbridge was built, Bailey explained, Stickney Point Road became the main access to the southern part of the barrier island. The parallel route that previously served in that capacity became known as Old Stickney Point Road, Bailey added.

The transportation shift, he pointed out, created an enclave with a “mish-mash of [Commercial General] and [Commercial Intensive] properties” along Old Stickney Point Road.

Commercial General and Commercial Intensive are two of the county’s zoning districts.

Therefore, Bailey said, the Siesta Key Community Plan put an emphasis on enhancing the “South Bridge area,” including the recommendation that commercial structures stand closer to the street.

Lourdes Ramirez, who long has advocated against intensification of property uses on Siesta Key, told Bailey, “I think everyone will recognize that there’s not anywhere on Siesta Key that’s blighted.” If the South Bridge Area “was listed as blighted in the 1990s,” Ramirez added, “it’s definitely not blighted today.”

Old Stickney Point Road has a number of commercial properties as well as residential areas. File photo

Bailey responded that he was referring to old structures that had been demolished on Old Stickney Point Road to make way for the proposed 120-room hotel. One of them served as a self-storage building, he noted, while the other was home to a variety of bars and restaurants over the years. It often is referred to as the site of Fandango Café, he added, as that was one of those establishments.

Further, Bailey continued, the Bank of America branch that stood on the site of the planned parking garage had been vacant for a long time before Kompothecras acquired it.

“That’s what I meant by ‘blighted,’” Bailey told Ramirez.

Sarasota County Property Appraiser Office records show that Kompothecras paid $2,526,100 for the Bank of America property in late August 2019. The Property Appraiser’s Office put the market value of the 25,350-square-foot site at $1,538,700 that year.

The bank branch closed on Oct. 16, 2018, the News Leader reported in early November 2018.

And in other news from the Old Stickney Point Road area …

On Nov. 13, the owners of the home located at 6701 Peacock Road sold it to a corporation based in Geneva, Switzerland, for $7,825,000, according to the Sarasota County Clerk of Circuit Court and County Comptroller.

Peacock Road is the eastern border for Dr. Gary Kompothecras’ planned hotel project.

The sellers were Willis E. and Elizabeth Hartman and Hartman Oil Co., which is based in Wichita, Kan.

An aerial map shows the property located at 6701 Peacock Road, outlined in purple. Image courtesy Sarasota County Property Appraiser Bill Furst

The buyer officially is Siesta Peacock Corp., the deed shows. The Florida Division of Corporations identifies the principal of that company as Walter Stresemann of Geneva. The articles of incorporation were filed with the state in early October, the Division of Corporations records note.

The Peacock Road parcel, which is located on Little Sarasota Bay, encompasses 56,453 square feet; the house on the property was built in 2008, the Property Appraiser’s Office records say. With two stories, the five-bedroom, five-bathroom home has 7,489 square feet of living area.

The property also has a boat dock, the Property Appraiser’s Office records say.

The taxable value of the parcel this year is $4,628,300.

The Hartmans bought the property in April 2011 for $4.9 million, the Property Appraiser’s Office record notes.

From January through October, Sarasota Magazine reported, the top prices for homes sold in the county were $10.5 million for the parcel located at 7712 Sanderling Road on Siesta; $7.9 million for the property located at 15 Lighthouse Point Drive on Longboat Key; and $7.25 million for the parcel located at 1219 Westway Drive on Lido Shores.

Another house on Peacock Road — standing at 6629 Peacock — went for $6.95 million, the magazine says.

Cosentino files late request for oral arguments in appeal

Thirty seconds before midnight on Dec. 4, Siesta resident Mike Cosentino filed with Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal a Motion for Emergency Relief and Motion for Oral Argument in his North Beach Road lawsuit against Sarasota County.

Cosentino had missed by one day the court’s deadline for requesting oral arguments in the case, he acknowledged.

Nonetheless, he continued, “This appeal covers several matters of great public importance that were not fully explained in the submitted briefs. Further, the inaccuracies of both law and fact in Apellees’ Answer Briefs were too numerous to be adequately refuted in Cosentino’s Reply Brief. Therefore, this Court would likely benefit from the requested Oral Argument.”

Mike Cosentino addresses the county commissioners on June 3. File Leader image

The appellees in the case are Sarasota County and property owners on North Beach Road who sought the vacation of a 372-foot-long segment of the road in May 2016. The County Commission’s approval of that petition was the focus of Cosentino’s original complaint against Sarasota County in June 2016.

Cosentino offered 13 other facts as the basis for his plea for the court to agree to oral arguments, even though he missed the deadline. Among them, he pointed out that he tested positive for COVID-19 on Oct. 26 and again on Nov. 2, Nov. 10, Nov. 18, and Nov. 24. Finally, he added, on Nov. 30, he tested negative for the novel coronavirus.

Additionally, on Nov. 11, he wrote, his “saturated oxygen level was measured as being below normal, due to Covid-19,” and it has remained below normal “since that time.”

Further, he told the court, he “has experienced health related issues, including cognitive impairment, seen in similar Covid cases known as ‘long haulers.’ This has adversely affected his ability to properly and timely fulfill his obligations related to this appeal, including the timely filing of this Motion for Oral Argument.”

He also stressed, “This motion is not interposed to gain undue advantage or for the purpose of delay, but simply accounts for Cosentino’s unforeseen medical condition and inadvertent oversight, by a single day, of the 10 day deadline for the filing of this Motion for Oral Argument.”

Finally, he wrote, “Opposing parties will not be adversely affected by the granting of this motion, as the requested Oral Argument gives all parties equal opportunity to present arguments of their positions set forth in their respective Briefs.”

As of the News Leader’s publication deadline this week, the Court of Appeal had not responded to Cosentino’s motion.

Condo Council to conduct virtual membership meetings

In a Nov. 20 email blast, the members board of directors of the Siesta Key Condominium Council (SKCC) announced that they have cancelled membership meetings for the remainder of this year because of the coronavirus pandemic “and difficulty arranging a meeting where the SKCC can guarantee, so to speak, the condition of the attendees at the Siesta Key Chapel.”

Condominium owners gather at Siesta Key Chapel for the Feb. 18 Siesta Key Condominium Council meeting. File photo

The Chapel traditionally is where the Condominium Council conducts its sessions for members.

Then the email blast pointed out that the board members have planned to hold a meeting via Zoom on Tuesday, Jan. 12, at 3 p.m. The session will focus on changes in state law that affect condominium associations, the release added. Sarasota attorney Dan Lobeck, who has expertise in those issues, will make the presentation. The email blast pointed out, “He has been our speaker on this subject for many years.”

“We anticipate sending out an info package well ahead of the meeting and will solicit questions from the membership that will be submitted ahead of time,” the email blast noted.

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