Sarasota residents slam effort to fast-track large Siesta Key hotel proposals

Article Courtesy of  Herald-Tribune

By Timothy Fanning

Published January 13, 2021

SIESTA KEY – A consortium of homeowners associations, condominium councils and residents on Siesta Key are calling on Sarasota County officials to closely scrutinize the collective adverse impact of large-scale hotel proposals on the barrier islands.

The Siesta Key Coalition wants the county to deal with the three “precedent-setting applications” at one time, rather than separately.

This comes after two of the hotel developers have requested that Sarasota open an unscheduled, or “out of cycle,” revision of the county’s long-range growth map.

This would allow the three hotel proposals to circumvent or customize certain protective policies on the barrier island – which could have countywide implications if approved by the County Commission on Jan. 26.

The request by the Siesta Key Coalition is motivated by the prospect of three new large hotel projects on Siesta Key that come at the heels of the approval of the 170-room Siesta Promenade hotel in 2018.

Those proposals include:

  • Mike Holderness’ plan to expand his Siesta Key Resort on Ocean Boulevard from 55 to 170 rooms.

  • Robert Anderson’s plan for a second Village hotel with its entrance on Calle Miramar. The 170-room, seven-story hotel would replace existing single-story buildings. It also calls for a 223-space parking garage, a restaurant and a rooftop pool and bar. Traffic is proposed to come and go along Calle Miramar. Anderson’s project team was scheduled to host a community workshop on Monday evening.

  • Gary Kompothecras’ plan build a seven-story, 120-room hotel at Siesta Key’s south entry on Old Stickney Point and Peacock Roads. The proposed structure would sit on a little over one acre. The project has undergone two community workshops and is expected to go before the planning board soon.

“These hotels will collectively add 460 rooms with the prospect of an additional 1,000-plus transient guests spilling onto Siesta Key roads and beaches in high season,” said Mark Spiegel, who represents the coalition.

Charlie Bailey, Kompothecras’ attorney, said that he had not seen the Siesta Key Coalition’s proposal when reached by a Herald-Tribune reporter Monday afternoon. Bailey said he would review the material and respond accordingly.

According to Spiegel, a collective “bigger picture” approach taken by the county should include a review of the 1999 Siesta Key community plan that led to the formation of the Siesta Key overlay district and the Sarasota future land-use policies.

“Our appointed and elected representatives have a responsibility, one they took seriously in the 1999 process, to understand the implications and legal precedents that the proposed developments would have on our barrier island,” Spiegel said.

Allowing developers to revise and customize the policies and regulations enacted in the comprehensive plan, for their purposes, will set a legal precedent for the other 30 acres of commercially zoned property on Siesta Key, Spiegel said.

Of special concern to the coalition is a request by Anderson and Kompathecras to allow county planning staff to review two privately initiated amendments separate from the usual schedule for considering such changes.

“This is not an approval of a change in the comprehensive plan but rather an attempt by the developers to accelerate a review of potential changes,” Spiegel said.

These changes could remove density and intensity restrictions on overnight accommodations for all three proposals on Siesta Key.

“Any reasonable review of their projects will clearly show that they fail many of these required standards,” Spiegel said.

The coalition also believes that there has never been a comprehensive vehicular and pedestrian traffic study for all of Siesta Key. In particular, the coalition would like a traffic study that analyzes the impact of multiple large-scale hotels, together with the Promenade mixed-use development.

The Florida Department of Transportation has given segments near Old Stickney Point and Calle Miramar a poor grade for traffic flow.

“Our Sarasota County representatives need to listen to the overwhelming concerns of those that call Siesta Key their home,” Spiegel said. “We need those representatives to lead, bring solutions to traffic and beach challenges, find answers within existing regulations and codes, not open the floodgates to high-rise, transient accommodations that will put at risk what makes our barrier island such an attractive destination.”