Neighboring residents sway county planners to eliminate 39 roadside spots added to Siesta Promenade development
By ChrisAnn Allen
Parallel parking was the only roadblock.
And, following a revised motion excluding 39 proposed parallel parking spaces, members of the Sarasota County Planning Commission on July 20 approved amendments to the plans for Siesta Promenade – the commercial and residential project by Benderson Development to be constructed at the northwest corner of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road.
The project was first approved in December of 2018.
The company has since acquired two additional parcels, totaling .78 acres, which were recently incorporated into plans for the development. Changes to the plan had to be heard by the planning commission for recommendation or denial before again being presented to the Sarasota Board of County Commissioners.
Part of the amendments included traffic calming for the streets feeding into the development, including feedback signs, speed cushions, a raised crosswalk, a mini-roundabout at Glencoe Avenue, and parallel parking spaces along that roadway outside the proposed 20-foot landscape buffer.
Following staff and applicant presentations regarding the plan amendments, about a dozen residents of the abutting Pine Shores Estates neighborhood, many of which live on Glencoe Avenue across from the proposed parallel parking, voiced strong concerns and vehemently dissented to the updated parking as a “traffic calming measure.”
“It is not safe for children,” James Williams, a 20-year Glencoe Avenue resident, said during public comment. “It is not safe for bicyclists and it is not safe for people walking their dogs.
“Putting parallel parking in there would fundamentally alter and damage the character of the neighborhood. It would be unsafe and unpleasant. Please don’t do this.”
He added that there is a church and rehabilitation facility in the neighborhood which creates a significant amount of pedestrian traffic, including disabled people in wheelchairs and their assistants.
Planning commissioner Kevin Cooper asked Kimley-Horn engineering consultant Philip DiMaria if the additional parking was necessary to fulfill plan requirements, to which DiMaria responded “No.”
Planning commissioner Colin Pember asked Kimley-Horn traffic engineer Christopher Hatton why he deems parallel parking a traffic calming element. Hatton said it produces “friction,” making people more aware that vehicle doors might open into the street or people might be pulling out of spaces, and slows traffic.
“It is, without a doubt, an industry standard for traffic calming,” Hatton said.
When asked by the commission for his take on the matter, county transportation manager Don DeBerry said “I do believe it is a traffic calming measure. I do not believe it is safer than no parking.”
He added that diagonal parking is less safe than parallel parking, and cited Federal Audit Clearinghouse studies to support his stance.
Commissioner Pember said direct access between Glencoe Avenue and the proposed development creates more traffic than parallel parking and motioned to recommend approval of the proposed amendments, including parallel parking.
Commissioner Andy Stultz said “I’m going to be in favor of the motion as presented, but it’s a coin flip, quite honestly,” and recommended the residents take their concern to the county commission, with which the final approval rests.
The vote was split 3-3, so the motion failed.
Commissioner Emmalee Legler asked a county attorney if the motion could be revised to exclude parallel parking from the recommendation, and she said it could. So, Legler motioned to recommend approval with removal of parallel parking due to safety concerns. The motion passed 5-1 with commissioner Cooper voting “nay.”
Following the vote, Legler commended the community members present for their persistence and encouraged the group to attend the county commission meeting when the board considers the matter.
“We are just one advisory board that brings this forth to the Sarasota County commissioners,” she said.
They are scheduled to hear the matter on Aug. 29.