Siesta Seen

Condo Council preparing for continuation of public hearing on zoning setbacks; Breeze anniversary celebration rescheduled; Planning Commission set to hear application regarding redevelopment of Siesta Key Palms Hotel; and a new ice cream shop is planned for Davidson Plaza

The building that housed Fandango Cafe (left) stands next to a self-storage business on Old Stickney Point Road. Both parcels are zoned Commercial General,and both are owned by companies Dr. Gary Kompothecras manages. File photo

In preparation for the continued County Commission public hearing on April 11 regarding street setbacks for commercial buildings on Siesta Key, the Siesta Key Condominium Council (SKCC) and a group of concerned island residents and condo owners worked on their own proposals.

A March 23 email blast from the SKCC says the goal was to “develop an approach to counter the proposed change” in the Siesta Key Overlay District (SKOD) zoning regulations to allow tall buildings to be built just 2 feet from the sidewalk.
“The SKCC has been actively participating in this effort based on the belief that the Condo Community is against any zoning code change that increases the intensity of building on the Key and specifically in this case, the codes re: setback,” the email blast points out.
The group developed two alternatives to the change proposed by Sarasota attorney Charles D. Bailey III on behalf of Clayton and Diane Thompson, the owners of Clayton’s Siesta Grille, the email blast continues. “One alternative simply addresses the ambiguity issue raised by the Commissioners [during a Jan. 30 public hearing] and retains the basis of the current code. The other alternative addresses a second concern raised by the Commissioners and does give some ground,” the email blast adds.

That second option would allow 2-foot setbacks for structures with lower heights. “This second alternative also gives some flexibility to the structure designer,” the email blast says, noting that that was another issue the commissioners discussed on Jan. 30.

Option A says that in the three commercial zoning districts on Siesta Key, the minimum street setback “shall be two feet for buildings or structures no exceeding 35 ft in height.”

Option B says that in those three zoning districts, the minimum setback “shall be two feet for buildings or structures not exceeding 35 feet in height. If a special exception is granted in any of those districts for structures or buildings exceeding 35 ft in height, the minimum street yard setback shall be two feet plus one additional foot for every additional foot in height above 35 feet.” Thus, a 36-foot structure would have a minimum setback of 3 feet from the street.

That option adds that if a building is taller than 66 feet, the minimum setback should be one-half the height of the structure.

The Siesta Key Condominium Council worked with residents and property owners to draw up these options for the proposed SKOD amendment. Image courtesy Condo Council

Under county zoning regulations, no building may be taller than 85 feet on any of the barrier islands.
The alternatives were presented to the county’s Zoning Administration staff about three weeks ago, the email blast points out. At that time, the email blast adds, the proposed revision of Bailey’s proposal — on which Bailey was to have worked with the zoning staff — had not been completed. However, the email blast continues, “Late last week [Bailey] submitted a substantially revised amendment that fully retained the original request to allow tall buildings with just 2 feet of setback but restricted the request … to the area in which two adjacent properties [are] located on Old Stickney Point Road.” Those properties are owned by entities managed by Dr. Gary Kompothecras, who is known for his 1-800-ASK-GARY advertising for his chiropractic offices, the email blast adds.

Kompothecras has been working on a plan to construct a boutique hotel on the Key, Bailey told attendees at a neighborhood workshop in December 2016. Bailey acknowledged during the Jan. 30 County Commission hearing that the location for that project would be Old Stickney Point Road.

The latest SKOD amendment Bailey has proposed says that in the Commercial General and Commercial Intensive zoning districts in the SKOD “within the commercial enclave south of Stickney Point Road (identified as the “South Bridge Area” under the Siesta Key Community Plan) for buildings over 35 feet in height approved by special exception, the minimum street yard setback shall be twenty-five feet, except that the County Commission may, in approving such a special exception, authorize the minimum street yard setback to be reduced to no less than two feet if the building is demonstrated to be compatible with surrounding properties and designed for the pedestrian scale through its height and mass and the incorporation of creative design elements, which may include [façade elements such as a prominent building entrance; roof elements, such as an articulated roof line; and creative site design elements, such as public art or accent landscaping, that exceed requirements of county regulations].” The underlining indicates that the language would be new in the SKOD zoning regulations.

A draft provided to the News Leader on April 2 shows attorney Charles Bailey’s proposed changes to the setback section of the SKOD ordinance, on behalf of his clients. Image courtesy Sarasota County

County Media Relations Officer Jason Bartolone told The Sarasota News Leader in an April 2 email that Bailey’s draft still was under review by the Office of the County Attorney as of that day. The packet containing the materials the County Commission will consider on April 11 was expected to be released on the evening of April 5, after the News Leader was published.
The reason for the new proposed zoning change’s focus on a “‘carved-out’” area of the island, the SKCC email blast adds, “is to reduce the [number] and intensity of the efforts against the change by reducing the area involved.” Nonetheless, the email blast continues, the SKCC and its collaborators believe “that this approach if approved will open other Commercially Zoned properties for easier conversion to the same by setting a precedent.”

Thus, the email blast says, “It now appears that the best way to move forward with challenging the setback code change” is to attend the County Commission meeting on April 11 at the County Administration Center in downtown Sarasota “and make suitable presentations supported by a large attendance of Siesta Key residents/property owners and voters.”

Mark Smith. File photo

Mark Smith, the Siesta architect who is immediate past chair of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, told the News Leader in an April 4 telephone interview that he was disappointed the Condo Council had not decided to pursue Option B. Smith was one of the island business owners who addressed the County Commission during the Open to the Public comment period on July 12, 2017, urging the board to allow for more flexibility in the commercial structure setbacks.

“The intent of the Siesta Key Overlay District was to keep the commercial district pedestrian-friendly,” with buildings close to the sidewalk, he told the commissioners last summer.

Because of parking restrictions in the SKOD, Smith pointed out to the News Leader this week, “It’s impossible to build an 85-foot building 2 feet from the sidewalk.”

Yet, that is exactly the type of scenario opponents of the Thompsons’ petition have described as a potential result if the County Commission approves the SKOD change.

Moreover, Smith continued, “You can’t just put a parking garage anywhere.”

The SKCC’s Option B has a lot of merit, he said. The best alternative, Smith added, would be to allow the first 35 feet of a taller structure to be 2 feet from the sidewalk and then “step back” the higher floors so they are further from the sidewalk. For example, he noted, with a 50-foot-tall building, the 15 feet above the initial 35 feet would be more removed from the street. That would allow for the desired daylight plane, he said, “and we can keep the connectivity of the retail to the sidewalk. … I think the Condo Council has a solution that works.”

Smith pointed out, “The current ordinance doesn’t allow buildings to be stepped back.”

Smith bemoaned what he characterized as “hysteria” over the prospect of the County Commission making any change to the SKOD setbacks, adding that the reaction “is so disproportional to the problem.”

After all, Smith said, “We’re a long way from Miami Beach.”

The public hearing is scheduled for the afternoon session of the board meeting, which will begin at 1:30 p.m.

The SKCC email blast also says that the organization will be seeking assistance to pay for another bus to transport opponents of the SKOD proposal to the commission meeting. The nonprofit provided a bus in late January, which carried a large contingent of Siesta residents.

Smith said he originally had not planned to attend the April 11 hearing, but he probably will go so he can try once again to make a case for the need for flexibility in the ordinance.

The public hearing is scheduled for the afternoon session of the board meeting, which will begin at 1:30 p.m.

The email blast adds that the SKCC will be seeking assistance to pay for another bus to transport opponents of the SKOD proposal to the commission meeting. The nonprofit provided a bus in late January, which carried a large contingent of Siesta residents.
“Plan on attending [the meeting] and supporting the preservation of the Siesta Key ambience and character,” the email message concludes.

Celebrate the trolley’s anniversary

Commissioner Alan Maio (third from left) prepares to cut the ribbon to officially launch the trolley service on March 20, 2017. With him are (from left) Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce Chair Mark Smith, County Commissioner Mike Moran, then-SCAT Director Rocky Burke and Assistant County Administrator Mark Cunningham. File photo

A prediction for severe weather, which did not materialize that morning, after all, delayed Sarasota County’s plans for a March 20 ceremony marking the first anniversary of the free Siesta Key Breeze trolley. This week, Sarasota County Transit (SCAT) staff announced that the celebration has been rescheduled for 2 p.m. on April 9.

Once again, the hope is that on the day of the event, the 250,000th rider of the Breeze will be recognized with the award of a gift basket to which members of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce have contributed.

The event is to be held, as originally planned, at the gazebo, which is located at the four-way stop in Siesta Village.

Furthermore, SCAT is pointing out that the trolley is running until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.

Siesta Key Palms Hotel on Planning Commission agenda

The county staff report includes the binding concept plan for the redevelopment of the Siesta Key Palms Hotel. Image courtesy Sarasota County

In October 2017, the company that owns the Siesta Key Palms Hotel and Resort at 1800 Stickney Point Road filed an application with the county, seeking not only redevelopment of the property but also the reactivation of a zoning district that was moved to the county’s “Inactive” list in 2003. That district is Tourist Resort Redevelopment (TRR).

On the evening of April 5, the county’s Planning Commission was scheduled to consider the application from Sarasotaville of Siesta Key. (The meeting occurred after the News Leader’s deadline for the April 6 issue.)

The staff report for the Planning Commission hearing explains that some refinement of the proposal has taken place over the past few months. The new zoning district, for example, would be the Boutique Resort Redevelopment/Planned Development (BRR/PD) district, which would allow redevelopment of existing non-conforming resort hotels.

The report adds that the relevant parcels in the Sarasotaville of Siesta Key application are zoned Office, Professional and Institutional, and Residential Multi-Family 4. The application seeks their rezoning to BRR/PD.

The report explains that the new zoning district “is intended to apply to older transient accommodations and related tourism resort facilities,” with the goal of encouraging the preservation and redevelopment of historic properties.

The district’s establishment would “facilitate the redevelopment and modest expansion of these properties with ‘boutique’ motel or hotel resort uses, which are smaller in size, limiting the number of rooms, and offering unique accommodations,” the report points out.

A search of the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office records found 62 properties “being utilized as hotels/motels/lodging with 1-40 units,” the report adds. Of those, it notes, eight are eligible for possible rezoning to BRR/PD.

An aerial graphic shows the location of the hotel property, outlined in yellow. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Staff has found the proposed new district to be consistent with the intent of the county’s applicable Future Land Use Policies, the report says. Therefore, staff also recommends the Planning Commission recommend approval of the new zoning district to the County Commission.

The total number of new units proposed on the approximately 1-acre Siesta Key Palms Hotel site would be 30, the staff report says. They would be divided between 12 existing rooms with kitchens and 18 proposed rooms without kitchens; the combination would create a density of 8.46 units per acre. The proposal calls for the new units to be in a three-story building.

The site has 17 parking spaces; 30 new ones are proposed, according to the binding development concept plan.

The property also has six multi-family dwellings and eight motel/hotel units, the report notes.

Eventually, the plans call for the removal of a two-unit, multi-family building, so a pool and spa can be constructed in that area, the staff report says.

The county’s review agencies recommended four stipulations for the hotel redevelopment. Among them is the requirement that Avenue B be “improved to county local road standards and resurfaced over the entire roadway width” before or concurrent with the hotel project. “The improvement shall be completed between the asphalt cross section of Stickney Point Road to the parcel’s access,” the report continues.

The plan is for five existing access points along Avenue B and Dawn Street to be closed, with entry to the resort to be allowed only from Avenue B, the report points out.

Another stipulation calls for the inclusion of a Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) bus shelter pad that will be accessible to persons with disabilities; it would be on Stickney Point Road. The owner would not be required to build the shelter, but, instead, to convey an easement to the county for the structure.

The last two stipulations call for the project to be built in accord with the development concept plan dated Feb. 7, which was attached to the report; and for the Master Surface Water Management Plan to be consistent with the Robert Bay North Coastal Basin Master Plan.

New ice cream shop for Davidson Plaza

A graphic shows details about the street light easement. Image courtesy Sarasota County

One item on the March 13 County Commission Consent Agenda of routine business items called for approval of a “partial release of a street light easement in an area no longer needed for installation and maintenance of lighting facilities along Ocean Boulevard, Siesta Key.”

The item won unanimous approval that day, along with a bevy of other Consent Agenda items.

As it turns out, the request is linked to the remodeling of commercial space in Davidson Plaza for “an ice cream restaurant,” as a March 13 county memo put it.

The design calls for construction of a concrete patio out to the street, the memo explained, and that would be over an area “encumbered by the County’s Street Light Easement.”

The situation was discovered during a review of the permit application for the project, the memo added.

“All required County staff reviewed the area and have no objection to releasing this portion of the easement,” the memo continued. “This area is no longer necessary for access during the implementation, installation, and maintenance of the street light pole located in that [area],” the memo added.

The map submitted in conjunction with the memo shows the released area on the eastern end of the southern side of the plaza, which is owned by the Davidson, Epes Partnership LLP. That partnership also was the petitioner for the partial release of the easement.

County Permitting Division records show that staff accepted the application for the remodeling project on Feb. 6. The file references Unit 5140, with the contractor listed as Coral Cove Construction Inc. of Sarasota. The total cost of the work was estimated at $110,000.

The application remained under review as of April 3, when the News Leader took a look at the file. The building plans review, the electrical plans review, the plumbing plans review, the gas plans review, the zoning plans review, the flood zone review and the “Resource Protection/Air Review” all were marked “Failed.”

For example, a Feb. 13 notation regarding the plumbing plans says, “Provide plans to reflect a permanent canopy over the new service sink as storm water is prohibited to enter into the Sanitary sewer.”

Davidson Plaza is centrally located on Ocean Boulevard in Siesta Village. File photo

The flood zone review section carries a March 2 notation saying, “This building is in FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] flood zone AE 9 with a minimum design elevation requirement of 10.0 NAVD [the latter refers to height above ground level].” One option to fulfill the review requirements, the notation adds, is to provide an elevation certificate showing that the existing structure is fully compliant with FEMA regulations.

That notation also points out that, based on the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office records, the structure “has an adjusted market value of $362,502.”

A Feb. 7 notation regarding the air review says that an asbestos survey is required for the flooring, walls and ceiling areas that will be “disturbed during remodel.”

Later, on March 9, TECO/Peoples Gas submitted an application to the county to enable the company to excavate the adjacent right of way, which included the removal and replacement of a section of the sidewalk. That permit was issued on March 13, the records show.