By Jane Bartnett
The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce has announced its support for “boutique hotels of no more than 52 rooms per acre, with a maximum of 75 rooms regardless of total acreage, and height restrictions which are in conformity with the surrounding RMF (residential multi-family) properties.”
The chamber issued its statement in response to four proposed hotel developments on the Key that have been submitted to the Sarasota County Planning Department during the past year.
Like the hotel applicants, the chamber is suggesting changes in local code that would allow for exceptions to what is now in place. However, in the chamber’s case, more limitations are being sought in comparison to what some of the hoteliers have requested.
In a May 25 letter addressed to Sarasota County Zoning Administrator Donna Thompson, the chamber submitted its proposal to amend the Sarasota County Unified Development Code (as it applies to lands zoned Commercial General in the Siesta Key Overlay District).
The chamber proposed that the number of rooms per hotel be decreased and that parking, building height and traffic also be limited.
Citing “a need for transient accommodations on the Key in the form of boutique hotels that will benefit the businesses on and around the Key,” the statement read that any such places, “must be in line with and maintain the character of the Key.”
Steve Cavanaugh, president of the chamber, told the Siesta Sand “The chamber remains committed to the business community. In issuing this letter, we were doing what we thought was right for Siesta Key. This is a compromise. A meeting in the middle.”
He added, “A lot of people put a lot of thought and time into this. We want the hotels to be small and reasonable and to complement the Key.”
The first hotel proposal emerged in May of 2020 in the form of a 170-room hotel that would contain parking, shops and a restaurant, and be built from the ground up near Siesta Key Village in between Calle Miramar and Beach Road.
A second hotel proposal that was also submitted that month seeks approval for a new hotel to be built at Old Stickney Point Road and Peacock Road with 120 rooms.
In August, a third hotel proposal detailed expansion plans for the Siesta Key Resort and Suites on Ocean Boulevard, going from 55 rooms to 170 rooms.
Earlier this year, following the sale of the former Wells Fargo Bank building and property on Midnight Pass Road, a pre-application proposal was submitted to create a hotel with 100 rooms.
In each case, although to varying degrees, the applicant is requesting more than what’s currently allowed in the areas of intensity and density. Currently, county regulations allow up to 13 dwelling units per acre on Commercial General parcels. However, a hotel room without a kitchen counts as half a unit.
In one case, it’s requested that any calculations be dropped entirely, and another is asking to be grandfathered-in to previous regulations.
Any changes would apply to Future Land Use Policy 2.91, which relates to the county’s barrier islands. Sarasota County commissioners will have the final say on what is allowed.
Cavanaugh stated that the chamber does not plan to issue any further statements on the issue of hotel proposals for the Key.
“We are not in support of any particular hotel,” he said, “but we do remain pro-business.”