Over almost five hours, board, public and project team members debate proposed improvements
Almost exactly three years after it responded to a City of Sarasota Invitation to Negotiate regarding improvements to the 2.42-acre Lido Pool and Pavilion property, Lido Beach Redevelopment Partners LLC won City Commission approval of a lease so it can proceed with its proposal.
However, the 4-1 vote on Nov. 20 is not the last step for the company. It also will have to secure a major conditional use permit from the City Commission, following a city Planning Board hearing, and it will need site approval from both boards, staff explained.
Only Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch voted against the lease, which is for an initial 10-year term, with options for two 10-year renewals.
It took almost five hours — with only about an 8-minute “bathroom break” — and two failed motions before the agenda item was concluded.
More than 40 speakers addressed the board, many complaining about the potential for noise and more traffic congestion, and others complaining that the commission would be giving away public property.
“We’re not selling the property,” City Manager Tom Barwin pointed out. “This is purely a lease agreement; we have several of those around town.”
“Our facility is for the public,” Troy Syprett, a partner of Lido Beach Redevelopment, stressed to the City Commission. The only other place right on Lido Beach where someone can purchase food is at the Lido Beach Resort, he said. “This is going to be a facility that’s affordable and for everybody.”
Commissioner Hagen Brody predicted that after the project has been completed, people will find themselves enjoying the improvements.
Brody also said he found it “very disingenuous that we had folks from hotels that are in direct competition with this project come out and speak against it and not identify themselves as such.”
Commissioner Willie Shaw praised Brody’s comments about “other motives behind this whole scheme [to derail the lease].”
Shaw told Brody, “I normally don’t support you, but I do [in this situation].”
Pointing to the general proposal provided by Lido Beach Redevelopment Partners, Vice Mayor Liz Alpert said, “Every bit of this space was taken up by what the residents wanted. … I have not been able to understand why now they don’t want it.”
The lease is to go into effect on May 1, 2018, with Lido Beach Redevelopment committed to securing a Certificate of Occupancy by June 30, 2019.
Syprett and Gavin Meshad — another partner of Lido Beach Redevelopment — told the commissioners they anticipate the expense of improvements to run about $4 million. The company plans to remodel Building A into a 200-seat restaurant, kitchen and service bar; remodel the restrooms in Building B and add offices, a sundries store and an ice cream parlor; erect a fabric shade structure over the pavilion area; construct a tiki bar, a splash pad for children and cabanas along the west side of the pool deck; install decorative concrete for the pavilion and pool areas, as well as for the splash pad; and construct a playground and create open green space on the east side of Building A. Picnic tables will installed adjacent to the playground for people who wish to bring their own food and beverages with them to the beach.
The restaurant will be called The Castaways, reprising the name of the dining establishment in the Lido Beach Casino that existed decades ago.
Syprett also pointed out that the current facilities have dining space for about 168 people. Even without crowding, he said, room is available for the 200 seats his group envisions.
Lido Beach Redevelopment Partners will be taking over all responsibility for operations — including paying the lifeguards — at the facilities. That runs about $150,000 a year, staff pointed out.
During the construction, Lido Beach Redevelopment will have to provide interim food service between 11:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. seven days a week, the lease says. After completion of the improvements, the maximum operating hours will be 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. seven days a week. The restrooms also must remain open seven days a week during the hours the restaurant is open.
The current situation, during which a custodial service handles the upkeep of the restrooms, costs $40,000 a year; the restrooms are open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., city Parks and Recreation Director Jerry Fogle noted.
The lease calls for an $80,000 payment to the city for the first year; $90,000 for the second year; and $100,000 or 3.5% of gross sales — whichever is greater — in the third year. Subsequently, the base amount will rise a minimum of 2% a year — up to 4% — based on the Consumer Price Index.
Among the details
At the outset of the presentation, Fogle pointed out that if the board did not approve the lease, he would like its go-ahead for city staff to at least renovate the restrooms. “I think right now our residents need much, much better and deserve better than what we have out there. … [The restrooms] are in dire need of … major renovation. … I can’t tell you what that is going to cost.”
One other facet of the lease calls for the city to be responsible for 50% of the expense of a major capital improvement, such as replacing the restaurant roof and any under-slab plumbing, if such work proves necessary before the lease is due to expire.
In response to a question from Mayor Shelli Freeland Eddie, Meshad of Lido Beach Redevelopment Partners said he did not think a commercial liability insurance policy would cover a roof replacement. “I’m not talking about damage [to the roof],” he pointed out of the company’s request. “These properties are 50, 60, 70 years old,” he added, so a significant, future capital expense had to be anticipated.
Syprett of Lido Beach Redevelopment noted that the electrical and plumbing infrastructure at the site “needs a lot of work, too.”
“Currently, we’re responsible for 100%” of the replacement expense, if a new roof is needed, Rob Shanley, manager of facilities assets for the city, told the commission.
In summing up the city’s position — and staff’s recommendation of approval of the lease — City Manager Barwin said the city breaks even with the operations of the Lido Pool and Pavilion. The city has $1.25 million set aside for capital improvements to the facilities there. If it did not have to spend the money at that site, Barwin stressed, the funds could be used elsewhere. “The city is like a big house with a lot of upkeep recurring around town. … There are always many needs in the city.”
In combining the annual lease payments and assumption by Lido Beach Redevelopment Partners of the operating expenses at the Lido Pool and Pavilion, Barwin pointed out, the city would save about $250,000 per year of taxpayer money.
Additionally, Syprett told the board, the lease includes no provisions to give the company a break if it does not make as much money as it anticipates. “The risk is all on us.”
In the beginning …
In 2007, Fogle explained to the commission, improvements to the Lido Pool and Pavilion were among projects on a list that city voters approved during a referendum, with $250,000 allocated for work in the 2016 fiscal year and another $1 million set aside in the 2017 fiscal year.
Then, in January 2012, an ad hoc committee of the Lido Key Residents Association worked with a city consultant to develop a master plan for the facilities at Lido Beach, he continued. As a result of that initiative, on Oct. 1, 2012, Fogle said, the Lido Key Residents Association (LKRA) unveiled a plan for improvements with an estimated expense of $2,916,567. The cost has risen to about $3.2 million to implement that master plan, Fogle added.
After working with staff on facets of an Invitation to Negotiate (ITN) process to achieve the implementation of the master plan, he continued, staff began advertising for proposals on Aug. 19, 2014. The deadline was Nov. 18, 2014. Only one other company submitted a proposal, staff said.
On Feb. 26, 2015, according to a memo Fogle provided the commission, an evaluation committee comprising city staff and the president of the LKRA — Carl Shoffstall — recommended moving forward with the proposal of Lido Beach Redevelopment Partners.
Two public meetings were held afterward, Fogle said, and Lido Beach Redevelopment Partners modified its plans as a result of those discussions.
Staff appeared before the City Commission on Jan. 17 to ask whether to continue negotiations with Lido Beach Redevelopment or take another path, Fogle added. During that meeting, only then-Commissioner Susan Chapman opposed allowing the negotiations to proceed.
Pro and con
Although Mayor Freeland Eddie noted that 38 people had signed up to speak when the board was ready to hear public comments — about 3:50 p.m. on Nov. 20 — 43 ended up addressing the board, by count of The Sarasota News Leader. Although the commissioners first approved a motion calling for public comments to end at 5:30 p.m. — with their evening session scheduled to start at 6 p.m. — the board later voted to continue with the last of the public comments and discussion before moving on to items on the evening agenda.
Several speakers told the board they looked forward to the new and improved amenities, which would make the pool and pavilion a more desirable site for them and their children to visit.
Others said the plans were not in keeping with what Kathy Kelly Ohlrich, a Glen Oaks Drive resident, characterized as the “laidback charm” of Lido Beach.
Representing herself and several of her neighbors, Ohlrich told the commission she could sum up their point of view by repeating what one person had said when Ohlrich brought up the proposal: “‘What?! That’s not what we want Lido Beach to be.’”
Russell Custer of Ben Franklin Drive described his joy in walking the beach and being able to hear seabirds, the sound of the surf and the laughter of children, “and we’re talking about replacing that … with a large commercial establishment [that will serve alcohol].”
Referring to the annual $150,000 in operating expenses the city incurs at the pool and pavilion, Dan Kriwitsky of Osprey said, “These costs are the role of government, providing for the general welfare.”
Conversely, Linda Emory, a commercial real estate broker, told the board she felt the base rent “is a little bit high,” based on Lido Beach Redevelopment’s operating costs and the amount of money the company plans to invest in the project.
Former Commissioner Chapman reminded Commissioner Willie Shaw about a city ceremony a couple of years ago to commemorate the opening of Lido Beach to all residents, including those who live in Newtown. The latter once were forbidden to go to the beach because of their skin color. “I would say this ITN is re-segregation of the beach,” Chapman told the board: “Economic re-segregation.”
On the other side, business leaders representing St. Armands Circle urged the board to approve the request.
As the commissioners debated facets of the project, Ahearn-Koch at one point suggested the city manage the pool and continue to keep a concessionaire in charge of the food service.
David Boswell, general manager of the city’s Purchasing Department, responded that the contract for the concession was due to expire on Nov. 30. Staff would need to advertise a new request for proposals, he added, if the commission decided not to approve the Lido Beach Redevelopment lease.
Commissioner Shaw ultimately made a motion to approve the expenditure of the $1.25 million in city funds to upgrade the facilities, and Mayor Freeland Eddie seconded it.
City Attorney Robert Fournier suggested that the board first needed to vote on the lease.
“My motion is to get us out from the back of this to the front of this,” Shaw replied, referring to the agenda item.
“I am sympathetic to that,” Fournier told him.
When Commissioner Brody pointed out that Parks and Recreation Director Fogle had asked about proceeding with the restroom renovations only if the lease agreement failed to win approval, Shaw replied, “It’ll be 12:30 in a few minutes, and we’ll still be standing here, going back and forth over nonsense.” Of his motion, Shaw added, “You can vote it up or down.”
His motion then failed 2-3, with only him and Ahearn-Koch supporting it.
On the next motion, Ahearn-Koch proposed denial of the lease agreement. Shaw offered a second, for discussion purposes, he pointed out.
The community residents want a simple project, Ahearn-Koch said. That was among numerous reasons she could not support the proposal.
Only Vice Mayor Alpert voted in favor of Ahearn-Koch’s motion.
Finally, Freeland Eddie made a motion to approve the lease. That followed a few clarifications in the language of the lease that Alpert had sought, such as a clause specifying that members of the public will be able to pass through the property on their way to and from the beach.
Alpert then joined all but Ahearn-Koch in approving the motion.