County staff will make the final decisions, Kimley-Horn representatives say, urging residents to take a survey posted online
In preparing for a Feb. 11 Neighborhood Workshop on traffic calming measures for the area surrounding the Siesta Promenade mixed-use project site, residents of Pine Shores Estates expected to hear suggestions from the consulting firm working for the developer.
Instead, the engineers representing the Kimley-Horn firm reviewed a variety of options for reducing speeding and deterring drivers tempted to cut through Pine Shores to avoid traffic congestion on Stickney Point Road and in the vicinity of that road’s intersection with U.S. 41.
Sura Kochman, long-time leader of the Pine Shores Neighborhood Alliance — which fought the concept of Siesta Promenade as designed by Benderson Development — told the Kimley-Horn group, “I thought we’d be seeing some examples” of what the engineers felt would work best on the neighborhood streets.
“I’m very surprised that you guys didn’t have a map [of Pine Shores showing Kimley-Horn’s suggestions],” added Tom Crites, who also lives in Pine Shores Estates.
“We are looking for your feedback,” Kelly Fearon, a transportation engineer with the firm, pointed out.
“This is purely an informational workshop,” the moderator of the Zoom session, Philip DiMaria, planning project manager at Kimley-Horn, added. “It’s the best practice approach,” he said, to get comments from the residents first and then work on designing the measures the majority of them favor.
“We have to do the study,” DiMaria said later. Then, as he understands it, he continued, Benderson will pay for the traffic calming measures.
Fearon urged the approximately 20 workshop participants to take an online survey that would be open for two weeks — and to encourage their neighbors to take it, as well.
The survey link is https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SiestaTraffic.
The results of that survey will be turned over to county staff, DiMaria said. “Ultimately, it’s going to be the county’s decision, in terms of what measures [are put in place]. … We can make suggestions and recommendations, as you will with the survey input,” he told the participants.
Sarasota County staff required that Benderson conduct the Neighborhood Workshop, DiMaria continued, as part of the process before Siesta Promenade is constructed.
The development is planned on approximately 24 acres in the northwest quadrant of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road. As approved by the County Commission on Dec. 12, 2018, it would have 414 apartments/condominiums, a 130-room hotel, 133,000 square feet of retail space and 7,000 square feet of office space. However, in August 2019, Benderson purchased two Pine Shores parcels with single-family homes. The properties border the Siesta Promenade site.
The company has expressed its intention to seek County Commission approval of plans to add 16 residential dwelling units to its site plan, on the basis of the extra square footage.
A situational situation
During the Feb. 11 workshop, Kochman of Pine Shores emphasized to the Kimley-Horn team, “It’s not like we are simply a neighborhood unto itself. … We’re a cut-through to Siesta Key, as well.”
After Siesta Promenade has been built, she predicted, Pine Shores is going to become even better known to the public. Therefore, she said, it behooves the residents to have traffic calming measures installed, “as much as possible.”
Kochman asked DiMaria when the Kimley-Horn group would review the results of the survey with the residents. “Or is this [workshop] it?”
“This is the one and only community workshop, per se,” DiMaria responded. “This will be a collaborative effort between the county and our staff in terms of selecting what options are available.”
Kochman voiced support for four-way stop signs and what she called “mini roundabouts” at some of the Pine Shores intersections. However, she pointed out, the county’s Traffic Advisory Council (TAC) has to conduct hearings on such traffic calming measures and then make recommendations to the County Commission, which has the final say.
“I know stop signs are not considered traffic calming,” Kochman acknowledged, “but those and other measures might be appropriate.”
Pine Shores resident Crites agreed that county transportation staff does not believe that four-way stops calm traffic. However, he said, in the Michigan community he lived in for decades, “I saw what happens when you put four-way stops on all the streets. It calms the neighborhood.”
DiMaria told Kochman that, if she felt so inclined, she could send a message to Todd Mathes, Benderson’s director of development, about her recommendations. (She had mentioned earlier that she had been in contact with Mathes before the workshop.)
She could do that, Kochman replied, but “that’s not really a formal request [to the TAC].” It would seem to her, Kochman continued, that Benderson could go ahead and make the formal request to the council for four-way stops and mini roundabouts where those options would work best in the neighborhood.
The TAC process could get underway, Kochman noted, as Kimley-Horn works with county staff on other potential traffic calming measures in the area around the Siesta Promenade site.
DiMaria told Kochman he understood her point. Kimley-Horn staff would make certain Benderson representatives heard about her recommendation, he said.
A review of the options
Early on during the workshop, Fearon of Kimley-Horn reviewed the list of streets that county staff had identified as those that would be affected by traffic after Siesta Promenade has been constructed. Then she presented a series of slides offering details about those streets, including the speed limit, the daily traffic volume, the width of the right of way and the classification.
For example, Beechwood Avenue in Pine Shores Estates has a 25 mph limit; its daily traffic volume is 1,506; it has a 60-foot right of way; and it is classified as a local street for transportation planning purposes.
For another example: Glencoe Avenue in Pine Shores also has a 25 mph speed limit; its daily traffic volume is 771; it has a 50-foot right of way; and it, too, is classified as a local street.
A third street on the list, Constitution Boulevard, has a 30 mph speed limit and a daily traffic volume of 2,267, Fearon noted.
Then Fearon showed the workshop participants a series of slides with a variety of traffic-calming measures, which, she explained, are used to create a balance between transportation efficiency and safety.
One item on those lists was speed feedback signs, which use radar to detect how fast drivers are traveling and then flash the speeds to the drivers. The signs specifically target persons who are exceeding the posted speed limit, she pointed out. National studies have found them to be successful in calming traffic, Fearon added.
Other options, she continued, are speed humps, or bumps, and speed cushions. “Speed humps have been found to reduce crashes between 33[%] and 48% and speeding between 16 and 13 mph for the 85th percentile of traffic,” she said. They create “a little bit of discomfort” for drivers, Fearon noted.
Speed cushions have gaps between them to allow emergency vehicles and buses to pass over them without any effects, she said; those vehicles’ wheels fit in the spaces. However, passenger vehicles are not able to avoid the cushions, she added.
Yet another option is a raised crosswalk, which is usually 3 to 6 inches above a street and level with any sidewalks in the area, Fearon said. Such a crosswalk provides higher visibility for pedestrians, she explained, “and it really increases the safety of both [drivers and pedestrians].”
Finally, enhanced landscaping can make a street appear narrower, Fearon noted, which encourages drivers to slow down.
More comments and concerns
After the Kimley-Horn team asked for questions or comments, Kochman of Pine Shores talked of her research into mini roundabouts, which are about 10 feet wide. She pointed out, “I understand that is a very good way to slow traffic down.”
Kochman noted that the intersection of Crestwood and Glencoe avenues could be realigned, and then a mini roundabout could be installed there.
Yet another good location for a mini roundabout, she continued, would be the convergence of Glencoe Avenue with Birchwood and Hazelwood streets. “You’re going to have the ingress and egress for the project right there.”
Moreover, she said, “People will use local streets to get to Beechwood [Avenue] to reach the U.S. 41 light to go north.”
As for speed humps, bumps and cushions: Kochman noted that residents are “very concerned” about the noise associated with those devices.
If a traffic light is installed at the Avenue B and C intersection on Stickney Point Road, then people will be even more inclined to travel through Pine Shores, Kochman stressed. They will see the neighborhood streets as a means of avoiding congestion on Stickney Point Road, especially during tourist season, with drivers headed to the Siesta Key beaches.
“So noted,” DiMaria of Kimley-Horn replied.
Kimley-Horn staff proposed that signal as part of its Siesta Promenade traffic analysis, and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has approved it, to facilitate traffic in the area of Siesta Promenade. The County Commission agreed during the Siesta Promenade public hearing that the light must be in place before the mixed-use project can be built.
However, a south Siesta Key resident, James Wallace III, has filed petitions with FDOT to try to prevent the signal from becoming a reality.
Another speaker, Beverly Clark, pointed out that she lives near the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Crestwood Avenue. “We continually have this amazing cut-through traffic trying to head to Siesta Key,” she said. Siesta Promenade “is really going to exacerbate that.
Further, Clark told the Kimley-Horn team, “There’s a huge problem with flooding currently,” with culverts apparently clogged in her area of Pine Shores. “So I have a big concern about the great increase in traffic.” She asked that someone look into the flooding issue.
Clark did agree with Kochman’s proposal about the four-way stop signs.
Another speaker, John Busey, whose daughter lives in Pine Shores, told the Kimley-Horn staff that he likes the idea of the roundabouts, four-way stop signs and enhanced landscaping. The four-way stop signs already in place in Pine Shores are “very helpful,” he added. “[People] at least slow down,” he pointed out, even if they do not come to a full stop. He characterized that action as “a California roll.”
“I would like to see at least a couple of those flashing speed limit signs to warn people that they’re over the limit,” Crites of Pine Shores said, adding that he also believes speed bumps would be effective in certain parts of the neighborhood.
Jerome Di Mercurio, who lives on Beechwood Avenue, told the Kimley-Horn team that he was “really happy that the trailer park … is gone and something better will be replacing it,” referring to a mobile home park that stood for decades on the Siesta Promenade site.
He added that he does not want to see the neighborhood damaged, but he feels sure Benderson Development will make certain that that does not happen.