Leader of Alliance opposed to density and intensity of project tells County Commission that planned May 1 Neighborhood Workshop on updated plans to be conducted virtually
Once again, Benderson Development Co. has revised its Development Concept Plan for the mixed-use Siesta Promenade development in the northwest quadrant of the intersection of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road.
In late March — subsequent to The Sarasota News Leader’s report on a March 9 iteration of the layout — Sarasota County Planning Division staff received another version. In this latest one, all six buildings on the western side of the property would be 40 feet tall. The March 9 plans showed two 65-foot-tall structures adjacent to the Pine Shores Estates neighborhood, which comprises mostly single-family homes.
Additionally, Philip DiMaria, a project manager in planning for the Kimley-Horn consulting firm in Sarasota — which has been working with Benderson for years — has scheduled a May 1 Neighborhood Workshop on the latest proposal. That will be conducted virtually, as Pine Shores Neighborhood Alliance leader Sura Kochman pointed out to the County Commission during its regular meeting on April 11.
(As of the morning of April 20, the News Leader found no details about the workshop on the county Planning and Development Services calendar, which is on the department’s webpages. Neighborhood Workshop details typically are provided through clicks on that calendar, along with a link that allows a person to sign up for a specific meeting.)
The Pine Shores Neighborhood Alliance worked for years to try to convince Benderson Development staff to reduce the intensity of the plans for Siesta Promenade. As approved by the County Commission seated on Dec. 12, 2018, the project will contain 414 apartments/condominiums, a 130-room hotel, 133,000 square feet of retail space and 7,000 square feet of office space on approximately 24 acres.
During her April 11 remarks, Kochman pointed out to the county commissioners that the substantial changes to the 2018 Binding Development Site Plan for Siesta Promenade will necessitate a new Planning Commission hearing, followed by a County Commission hearing. “So you get to see us all over again.”
During the December 2018 hearing, the Commission Chambers at the county Administration Center in downtown Sarasota was full, necessitating the use of overflow rooms. The hearing lasted a full day; it was the only item on the agenda.
Kochman also reminded the county commissioners last week that, on March 7, they directed staff to draft a revised resolution requiring once again that all Neighborhood Workshops required by the Planning and Development Services Department be conducted in person, though entities conducting those sessions could opt for a hybrid in-person/virtual model. During the COVID pandemic, the board members had modified county regulations to allow the use of Zoom for the workshops, in an effort to foster public safety.
A virtual workshop, Kochman said, “will not give the input from the [Pine Shores] neighborhood that this body, as well as the Planning Commission, would hope to get. There are so many elderly people in the neighborhood that are uncomfortable or feel awkward doing Zoom.”
The interactions between residents, planning staff and representatives of the applicant are “not as fluid” as they are in person, she pointed out. “The dynamic is just really off.”
As she understands the situation from staff, Kochman continued, the Planning Commission is the only county entity that can consider a public request for an in-person workshop, if the applicant plans just a virtual meeting. Therefore, she said, leaders of the Pine Shores Neighborhood Alliance will make such a request of the Planning Commission.
Through a public records request, the News Leader obtained a copy of email from county Planner Keaton Osborn to Kochman, which explained that the Planning Commission “is the only authority that can demand [an in-person Neighborhood Workshop].”
Nonetheless, Kochman told the county commissioners, she wanted to make them aware of what is taking place.
The News Leader learned on April 12 from Michele Norton, assistant director of Planning and Development, that members of the department were scheduled to meet for the first time that day with staff of the Office of the County Attorney to begin drafting the revised Neighborhood Workshop resolution. Norton added that it likely would be May or early June before the draft would be ready for County Commission review.
“You all were so specific in the ordinance that was passed [in December 2018,” Kochman told the commissioners during her remarks as part of their Open to the Public period at the start of the April 11 meeting. “It really protected the neighborhood. Now things are very, very different.”
The March 29 proposal
In its April 7 edition, the News Leader reported that the proposed new Binding Development Concept Plan for Siesta Promenade would incorporate two single-family home parcels in Pine Shores Estates that are adjacent to the project site. That allows for a smoothing out of the boundary of the development.
However, the first new layout of the development — dated March 9 — also showed all five of the proposed residential structures next to Pine Shores, as well as a 50-foot-tall building that has been planned to contain a restaurant and retail and office space.
The later, March 29 revision of the Binding Development Concept Plan shows all six buildings aligned next to Pine Shores would contain apartments and/or condominiums. Building No. 7 also would have residences constructed over a parking deck, at a height of 65 feet, the concept plan legend notes. It would stand to the east of the other residential structures.
The March 9 Binding Development Concept Plan said Building 7 would comprise the hotel, plus retail and office space, at a height of 80 feet.
The March 29 layout shows that Building 9, which would front on Stickney Point Road, directly south of Building 7, would contain the hotel, as well as retail and office space, at a height of 80 feet.
Building 8, to the west of Building 9, would stand 50 feet high and contain a restaurant, plus office and retail space.
In the March 9 Binding Development Concept Plan, Building 8 would have been 35 feet tall, with a restaurant and retail space, while Building 9 would have been 35 feet high, with a restaurant and retail space.
In the Binding Development Concept Plan that the County Commission approved in December 2018, Buildings 6 and 7 would have stood where Buildings 8 and 9 are depicted in both plans submitted to county staff in March.
Moreover, the adoption of the 2018 plan allowed Buildings 4 and 5 to have up to 5,000 square feet of commercial uses, along with the dwelling units. That plan put those structures east of the line of buildings next to Glencoe Avenue.
However, the March 29 Binding Development Concept Plan keeps that proposal for the commercial space, even though the buildings would be next to Pine Shores homes.
Further, the March 29 plan, like the one dated March 9, shows parallel parking spaces on the Glencoe Avenue boundary of Siesta Promenade. Those were not part of the December 2018 plans.
In an April 5 county staff list of revised stipulations for the new plans — which the News Leader also obtained through its public records request — No. 15 says, “On-street parking within the Glencoe Avenue public right-of-way:
- “Shall not be designated for private use only.
- “Must be maintained by the owner.
“Additionally, 20 feet of pavement must be maintained, and any sight distance issues with on-street parking shall be addressed during the Site and Development plan review,” that list adds.
Section 7.1.13(c) of the county’s Code of Ordinances says that each parking space along a street “shall be a minimum of nine feet wide by 18 feet long.”
Glencoe Avenue is 20 feet wide, which allows for two-lane traffic. The Federal Highway Administration calls for a travel lane to be a minimum of 10 feet in width when less than 10% of the traffic is expected to be made up by trucks. Lanes that will serve traffic with 10% to 30% mix of trucks should be a minimum of 11 feet, the agency adds.
One of the stipulations in the county’s 2018 Siesta Promenade ordinance also called for construction of a 10-foot-wide sidewalk along Glencoe Avenue from Stickney Point Road to Crestwood Avenue.
An April 5 email from Planner Osborn to Todd Dary, the county’s planning manager, continues to show that requirement in the updated version of the construction stipulations.
However, in a March 31 email to Paula Wiggins, the county’s Transportation Planning Division manager, Osborn wrote, “Looking at the 20-foot landscape buffer that is required on the perimeter of the project, the sidewalk along Glencoe does not appear to be 10 feet. Will what is shown on the plan suffice for Transportation in regards to this stipulation since this could be [handled during the] site and development [phase of the developer’s work with staff,] when more specific dimensions and diagrams are shown?”
Wiggins replied in an email the same day: “As long as it’s stipulated, they will need to construct a 10-foot wide sidewalk.”
The traffic-calming measures
Yet another section of the December 2018 stipulations that the commissioners approved called for traffic-calming measures in Pine Shores: “Prior to any Construction Authorization of the Siesta Promenade development, the Owner (with public involvement) shall identify traffic calming measures that will best preserve existing neighborhood environments, their cohesion and integrity to mitigate the development’s transportation impacts on surrounding neighborhoods. The traffic calming measures identified shall be included in the first construction plans for the subject property and approved in advance by the County Engineer.”
The relevant section of the Dec. 12, 2018 county staff report on the Siesta Promenade development suggested the following “measures were identified as possible candidate for implementation without any specific one measure recommended for the study area local roads to address the speeds and volumes [of vehicles]:
- “Targeted Speed Enforcement.
- “Speed Feedback Signs.
- “Speed Hump.
- “Speed Cushion.
- “Speed Table.”
The April 5 county staff version of the stipulations for the project includes the following as No. 14:
“Prior to or concurrent with the development of the subject parcel, the developer shall provide the following traffic calming measures:
- “Raised crosswalks located on Crestwood Avenue at the Pine Shores Presbyterian Church.
- “Three (3) feedback signs at the following locations”: on Hollywood Boulevard, between Shelburne Lane and Ridgewood Street; on Beachwood Avenue, between Birchwood Street and Redwood Street; and the intersection of Upper Glencoe Avenue and Brentwood Avenue.
- “All-way stop control at the intersection of Glencoe Avenue and Crestwood Avenue.
- “Speed cushions on Beechwood Avenue between 6217 and 6223 Beechwood Avenue.
- “Intersection control improvement at the convergence of Hazelwood Street, Glencoe Avenue, and Birchwood Street (i.e., an all-way stop control or a mini roundabout).”
Further, the 2018 ordinance the commissioners approved called for a 20-foot-wide landscape buffer “along all street frontage and adjacent properties.” It added, “Along Glencoe Avenue and Crestwood Avenue [streets in Pine Shores], the required sidewalk within the right-of-way
shall be constructed as close as practical to the required, planted buffer so as to take advantage of the shade offered by trees planted within the buffer.”
Affordable housing stipulations modified
The new version of county stipulations also covers the affordable housing units planned in Siesta Promenade, as the 2018 list did. The latest version reads as follows, based on changes that Tamara Schells, the county’s affordable housing strategist, wrote to Planner Osborn in an April 5 email:
- No. 5 — “The maximum required affordable units is 25, based on 479 residential units requested (414 [multi-family] units and 65 hotel units. [Each hotel room at the time counted as half a residential dwelling; therefore, the 130-room hotel would have a total of 65 units]). The affordable housing units shall be provided for families at or below 80% of Area Median Income (AMI).” The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sets the AMI annually for each metropolitan statistical area (MSA). The 2022 AMI for a family of four in the North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton MSA was $90,400; 80% of AMI for a family of four was $69,050. HUD says it plans to release the 2023 AMI levels in mid-May.
- “Administrative Agency – An agency or organization responsible (Administrative Agency) for implementing the affordable housing (income-qualifying families, record keeping, Annual Monitoring Report) shall be identified with the first Annual Monitoring Report.
- “Annual Monitoring Report (AMR) – The first AMR prepared by the Administrative Agency will be due with the sale or rent of the first Affordable Housing unit. The Administrative Agency will be responsible for reporting the sale or rent price for all affordable housing units, the date of the sale or lease, and verification of income eligibility for families. The AMR will include a notarized statement that the Owner has complied with the verification of income eligibility requirements.
- “Timing of Units – The Administrative Agency will confirm in a Monitoring Report that the 25 affordable housing units have been rented or sold to income-qualified families in the first residential Multi-family building and prior to the building permit issuance of the 3rd Multi-family building.”
The 2018 version included this stipulation: “The Administrative Agency will be responsible for reporting the sale or rent price for all affordable housing units, the date of the sale or lease, and verification of income eligibility for families within five years from the initial sale of lease date. The AMR will include a notarized statement that the Owner has complied with the verification of income eligibility requirements.”
An email that the News Leader received through its public records request showed a note from Planning Manager Dary to Planner Osborn, questioning why the five-year period was removed from the revised stipulations. Dary suggested that Osborn check with Schells to be certain about the requirement. Osborn did so, as noted above.
State law related to local governments’ affordable housing requirements has changed since the 2018 approval of Siesta Promenade.