Potential for a new hotel on Siesta Key sparks exchanges at SKA meeting; ‘no hotel’ petition drive continuing online; SKA program packs the Parish Hall; SKA experiencing online membership renewal problems; no significant island crime trends reported; and Reopen Beach Road supporters officially warned about signs
Lively debate ensued at the Jan. 12 Siesta Key Association (SKA) meeting when a resident of the Marina Del Sol condominium complex on Old Stickney Point Road brought up the County Commission vote last week to authorize staff to begin work on a proposed Comprehensive Plan Amendment that could lead to a new hotel on Siesta Key.
“Are you people involved with this?” Ed Kroninger asked the SKA board members, noting that he had attended the Jan. 10 commission meeting when the matter was discussed.
“We are following it,” SKA Director Harold Ashby replied.
(Ashby was standing in for Acting President Bob Stein, who was unable to attend the session.)
“We’re very much against it,” Kroninger added of the potential for a hotel on Old Stickney Point Road.
The proposed Comprehensive Plan amendment involves Future Land Use Policy 2.9.1, as explained during a Dec. 7, 2016 workshop on the initiative. The new language would modify the policy to say, “The intensity and density of future development on the Barrier Islands of Sarasota shall not exceed that allowed by zoning ordinances and regulations existing as of March 13, 1989, except that with respect to i.) lands zoned CG as of that date being redeveloped to provide transient accommodations, or ii.) lands zoned [Residential Multi-Family] as of that date and consistently so thereafter, a non-conforming duplex whose density exceeds the density restrictions of the zoning regulations and restrictions may be rebuilt within the footprint of the structure, or a non-conforming multi-family structure may be demolished and a duplex rebuilt in its place within the prior footprint of the multi-family structure without violating this policy.” [The proposed new language is underlined.]
Robert “Bo” Medred of Genesis Planning & Development in Sarasota and Charles D. Bailey III of the Williams Parker law firm had scheduled the December 2016 workshop to discuss the proposal on behalf of their client, Siesta Acquisitions LLC. (According to the Florida Division of Corporations website, the manager of that entity is Dr. Gary Kompothecras; he is a chiropractor best known for his “1-800-Ask-Gary” advertising for medical referrals to his chain of clinics.)
“We had no idea there was a meeting,” Kroninger told the SKA board members, noting that a Siesta Sand newspaper article said few people showed up on Dec. 7, 2016.
“We feel we have enough transient accommodations right now on the island,” he said.
One of the Commercial General (CG) areas where a hotel potentially could be built if the amendment ultimately won county approval encompasses about 12 acres on Old Stickney Point Road; it includes the site of the former Fandango Café as well as a self-storage building.
Old Stickney Point Road is just two lanes, and it already is quite congested, Kroninger continued, with a new Daiquiri Deck Raw Bar restaurant and coffee shop opening later this year. (That project fronts on Stickney Point Road, though the coffee shop will have an entrance on Old Stickney Point Road.)
Kroninger said he and other Marina Del Sol residents have heard that the hotel proposal would entail a minimum of six stories at the intersection of Old Stickney Point Road and Peacock Road.
During the Jan. 10 County Commission meeting, only Commissioner Nancy Detert voted against allowing the process for vetting the amendment to go forward, Kroninger pointed out. Referring to Kompothecras, he added, “People with a lot of money can get a lot of things done.”
As for the site where the Fandango building stands, he continued, “That property is a piece of garbage.”
Ashby then told Kroninger that the SKA board has not voted on a position on the Comprehensive Plan amendment.
SKA Director Joe Volpe noted that he was one of the few members of the public who attended the Dec. 7, 2016 workshop. He took the opportunity to invite Medred and Bailey to make a presentation to the SKA, he said, but, thus far, they have not asked to appear at one of the organization’s sessions.
“How can we possibly come to an intelligent conclusion?” Volpe added, referring to the lack of details offered about the potential hotel project.
“They’re moving along on this thing,” Kroninger responded. Just the other day, he said, he saw surveyors on Old Stickney Point Road.
Former County Commissioner Nora Patterson — a Key resident who stepped down from the board in 2014 because of term limits — pointed out that the Comprehensive Plan, as written, was designed to prevent an increase in intensity or density on the barrier islands. Although she was not familiar with the proposed amendment, she said, if it were not approved, a developer would have to purchase older structures and then replace them with a hotel or motel.
After Kroninger pointed out that he had heard the new hotel could be as tall as 85 feet, if the amendment were approved, Siesta resident Bob Waechter replied, “There’s so much misinformation about this.” (He also was one of the attendees at the Dec. 7, 2016 workshop.)
Adding that he lives on Peacock Road, Waechter said, “We have no idea what the height is. … They haven’t gotten that far in the plans.”
It was ironic, Waechter continued, that an exception to the Comprehensive Plan had to be approved to allow the Marina Del Sol condos to be constructed. “And the neighborhood worked relentlessly to help get the Comprehensive Plan and the zoning changed so your home could be built,” he told Kroninger.
“That’s because you didn’t want Bob’s Boathouse there,” Kroninger fired back, referring to a restaurant featuring live music that was the focus of numerous noise complaints before it closed. A later version of the business operated for less than a year on U.S. 41 South, on Phillippi Creek.
“You’re right,” Waechter replied to Kroninger. “I don’t want another Bob’s Boathouse, another Daiquiri Deck, another Fandango’s on that site.”
Then Waechter told the board members, “I’m cautioning the Siesta Key Association: Take a wait and see.” If the amendment is approved, Waechter added, and a resulting hotel proposal proves “as bad as Ed thinks, I’ll be fighting with you against it.”
“This is very helpful,” Ashby said of the discussion.
(See the related story in this issue.)
The ‘no hotel’ petition
Just after the news broke late last year that a proposed Comprehensive Plan amendment could lead to a new hotel on Siesta Key, Lourdes Ramirez of Siesta Key Community created an online petition drive to stop the initiative.
The heading on the ipetitions webpage is “NO to Massive Mega Hotel on Siesta Key.”
As of Jan. 16, The Sarasota News Leader found that 510 people had signed the petition; the page says 1,000 is the goal. A “Highlight” on the site, submitted on Jan. 2, notes that the 500 mark had been reached.
Among the 212 comments, one on Jan. 4 from a Sarasota resident said, “enough traffic, enough people, enough development; we don’t need more mega hotels.”
Another one, posted on Jan. 3, stated, “No more greed.”
Charles D. Bailey III of the Williams Parker law firm in Sarasota — a member of the team seeking the Comprehensive Plan amendment — emphasized to the News Leader at a Dec. 7, 2016 workshop that no high-rise hotel was planned. Instead, he pointed out, a boutique hotel would be the goal.
Standing room only
So many people showed up at the Jan. 12 Siesta Key Association meeting to hear the latest news about the Lido Renourishment Project that SKA Director Bob Miller had to go scouting for more chairs.
The session was held in the Parish Hall at St. Boniface Episcopal Church, which is a fairly capacious room. Still, more people kept coming through the door, and volunteers kept setting up folding chairs until no more were to be found.
When SKA Director Harold Ashby called on Miller to report on membership matters, someone responded that Miller was still out on his endeavor.
Former SKA Director Russell James, who was among the attendees, joked that when he was on the board, the SKA was lucky to have 12 people in the audience, “so this is very encouraging.”
In the end, only a few people remained on their feet at the rear of the room. (See the related stories in this issue.)
And speaking of SKA membership matters …
Siesta Key Association (SKA) Director Joe Volpe announced during the organization’s Jan. 12 session that the SKA will hold its annual breakfast meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 4, in the Community Center at St. Boniface.
Each SKA member is entitled to two tickets to the event, he added; however, because of limited space, reservations are necessary. They may be made by calling 364-4880 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
In related news, after SKA Director Bob Miller returned from his search for more chairs, he explained that people who thought their membership renewals had gone through should check their credit card statements. Unfortunately, he continued, the online renewal process has “ended up being a nightmare for us, quite frankly.”
In just one day, he said, 120 renewals out of 280 transactions were rejected by credit card companies. Part of that probably was a matter of people having received new cards with the electronic chip system embedded in them, Miller added.
Anyone who finds their membership did not renew automatically simply can sign up as a new member, and the SKA will make sure to correct its records so that person does not end up with double memberships, he told the audience.
An email blast went out to members earlier this month, he said, to explain the situation.
“You always can mail a check in,” Miller pointed out. “We’ve had a lot of calls on this already.”
No real crime trends
Break-ins at a few unoccupied units on Moonmist Circle in Polynesian Gardens were reported on Dec. 24 and Dec. 25, 2016, Sgt. Jason Mruczek of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office told about 80 people at the Jan. 12 meeting of the Siesta Key Association (SKA).
The Sheriff’s Office’s Forensics Unit did collect some evidence that detectives hope will help them arrest the perpetrators, Mruczek added.
As for the Dec. 26, 2016 “Santa Stumble” pub crawl in Siesta Village: “There weren’t any major problems; a couple of arrests,” Mruczek added. The event went well overall, he noted, “considering how many people were out there.”
The Santa Stumble was sponsored by the Siesta Key Oyster Bar, Gilligan’s Island Grill, the Daiquiri Deck and Pizza Pi.
When Mruczek asked for questions during the SKA meeting, no one posed any — an uncommon occurrence of late.
“I’m sure in February and March there will be more in the report,” SKA Director Harold Ashby joked, referring to the two months that traditionally are the busiest on the Key.
Reopen Beach Road signs
During the Jan. 10 County Commission meeting, Siesta resident Mike Cosentino complained that a county Code Enforcement officer had threatened island businesses with fines if they did not remove signs supporting his effort to overturn the commission’s May 11, 2016 vote to abandon a 357-foot-long segment of North Beach Road.
When the News Leader inquired about that Code Enforcement action, county spokesman Drew Winchester replied on Jan. 11 that Officer Susan Stahley, who works on Siesta Key, had provided details of Florida Statute 162 to businesses with those signs.
Section 162.06 says that if a violation of a local government code is found, “the inspector shall notify the violator and give him or hear a reasonable time to correct the violation. Should the violation continue beyond the time specified for correction, the code inspector shall notify an enforcement board and request a hearing.”
In Sarasota County, violations are heard by a Special Magistrate.
The ordinance also explains that if an inspector notifies an enforcement board that a violation has not been corrected by the set time — or if a repeat violation has occurred — the enforcement board “may order the violator to pay a fine in an amount specified in this section for each day the violation continues past the date set by the enforcement board for compliance, or, in the case of a repeat violation, for each day the repeat violation continues, beginning with the date the repeat violation is found to have occurred by the code inspector.!
A fine may not exceed $250 per day for a first violation, the statute continues, and it “shall not exceed $500 per day for a repeat violation ….”
A May 2016 report to the County Commission regarding the county’s Code Enforcement operations explained that officers have focused on issuing courtesy notices about violations before handing out official Notices of Violation, in an effort to resolve situations without having to initiate the formal process that leads to a hearing before a Special Magistrate.