County Commission approves rezoning of two parcels for the project
The South Tamiami Trail McDonald’s, located near Stickney Point Road, will be rebuilt for the second time since it opened in 1970, thanks to a unanimous Sarasota County Commission vote on July 11.
The restaurant has not been remodeled since 1990, Michael Motta, McDonald’s regional development director, told The Sarasota News Leader this week.
“I remember this McDonald’s from when I was a kid, actually,” William W. Merrill III, an attorney with the Sarasota firm of Icard Merrill — who was representing the owners — told the county’s Planning Commission members when he appeared before them on June 7.
The new plans entail a “modern building with a better layout,” Motta said during a July 16 telephone interview with the News Leader. “We are scheduled to break ground in September of this year and reopen in December.”
Without comment on July 11, the county commissioners approved a motion by Commissioner Michael Moran, seconded by Commissioner Paul Caragiulo, to rezone two segments of the property, which encompasses the parcels at 6345 and 6347 S. Tamiami Trail and 2032 Cover Drive. That meant the entire site of approximately 1.61 acres will be zoned Commercial General.
On June 7, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend the County Commission approve the applicant’s petition for the zoning changes.
The item was on the County Commission’s July 11 agenda as a public hearing, but with a presentation only upon request of a commissioner. No member of the public had asked to address the issue, Chair Nancy Detert confirmed, and no commissioner sought comments from county staff or the applicant.
The owner of the property is McDonald’s Restaurant of Florida, while the franchisee is Tiny Dancer Inc., located at 4411 Bee Ridge Road, according to documents provided to the county. Denise Wheeler is director of Tiny Dancer, as noted in the application filed with the county last fall.
An addendum to the ownership disclosure form also listed Wilkie 6345 LLC of Edmond, Okla., along with McDonald’s USA LLC, a Delaware limited liability company, and McDonald’s Corp. in Delaware as lessees of the property. Florida Underwater Sports Inc. was named as a sublessee, with Greg P. Galford listed as director and president; Tim Perrault, director and vice president; Lisa Perrault, director; and Rosemary Galford, secretary. All were listed at the address of 6345 S. Tamiami Trail in Sarasota.
Presentation and questions
As county Planner Kirk Crane explained to the Planning Commission on June 7, the property consists of three contiguous parcels. The McDonald’s stands on one; a leased commercial building (former home of a dive shop) is on the second; and a single-family residence is on the third. “All the buildings will be removed in order to [build] a new McDonald’s restaurant on the entire property, with a drive-through [operation],” Crane said.
The new structure will comprise 5,000 square feet, he added.
A fence and a 20-foot-wide buffer will separate the property from the residential area on the east side, he continued, which is along Couver Drive.
Crane noted that Couver is a commonly used cut-through for drivers between South Tamiami Trail and Stickney Point Road.
The binding concept plan calls for one right-in/right-out access on Tamiami Trail — replacing two ingress/egress points — plus two full accesses on Couver Drive.
Because part of the property is zoned Commercial Intensive and part of it is zoned Residential Multi-Family 1, Crane pointed out, the decision was made to seek the rezoning so all the property would be zoned Commercial General.
Attorney Merrill, speaking on behalf of the owners, told the Planning Commission members that the goal was to reduce the number of structures on the three parcels from three to one. Further, he said, “We’ve reduced the building footprint significantly,” referring to the McDonald’s, “and we’ve increased the building distance from the residential areas.”
Noting the fence and landscape buffer that will separate the commercial property from the adjoining residential area, Merrill pointed out those were the request of the closest neighbor. The fence will be 6 feet tall, Merrill said, adding that the neighbor especially sought the erection of the fence.
Moreover, referring to the design, Merrill told the Planning Commission, “We’ve greatly improved the internal traffic circulation. That was one of the concerns that McDonald’s had.”
The accesses from the site onto Couver, he continued, will be right-in/left-in and right-out/left-out.
Planning Commissioner Teresa Mast asked Merrill about concerns neighbors had expressed regarding lighting intrusion from the commercial property.
Merrill replied that the project team members had explained to the resident that the county requires shielding on such lights to reduce disruptions to neighborhoods.
“Thank you for that,” Mast told him.
Mast then asked whether customers will be confused by the new configuration of the driveways.
Detailed signage — including “Do Not Enter” signs — will be installed, Merrill replied. Additionally, arrows will be painted on the pavement, he said, and internal stop signs will be erected.
When asked about the hours of business, Merrill replied that the restaurant would be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which is the current schedule.
Planning Commissioner Ron Cutsinger then inquired what material would be used for the fence.
“It wasn’t specified,” Merrill responded. The resident who had requested it did not indicate a preference, he added. The resident “just wanted it for the shielding,” Merrill said.
Concrete would reduce sound intrusion into the residential area, Cutsinger pointed out.
“I’ll talk with McDonald’s to see what they want to do,” Merrill told Cutsinger.
Then Cutsinger added of McDonald’s Corp. “Their stock was up 4% today, so they can afford it,” prompting laughter among the board members.
At that point, Vice Chair Kevin Cooper — who was presiding at the meeting — asked, “Any other questions of the applicant? Any other stock tips?”
No one had signed up to address the project before that board, Cooper noted.
County staff had received one letter, which was included in the meeting packet. Handwritten on June 3 by Ruthann Koelling, a Couver Drive resident, it asked, “Just how much land does McDonald’s need? Over the years they have taken over a gas service station on the corner of [U.S.] 41 and Couver Dr., and an oil company on the next lot, given them access to an entrance/exit to Couver Dr.”
She also noted the house Planner Crane had mentioned as part of the site. It had been rental home, she pointed out. In the aftermath of the deaths of the couple who had owned it, she continued, their heirs could make “a great deal more money” than they would with a residential sale.
“Once again,” Koelling wrote, “just how much land does McDonald’s need? Do they have to ruin our neighborhood? Lower our standard of living and property value.”
She concluded with, “Please [her emphasis] do not allow McDonald’s to overtake our residential neighborhood.”
Cooper closed the public hearing and asked for a motion. Mast moved that the Planning Commission recommend County Commission approval of the rezoning, and Planning Commissioner Robert Morris seconded it. The motion passed 7-0.