Planners give nod of support to hotel No. 1

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By Phil Colpas

If the Sarasota County Planning Commission has its way, Hotel Siesta Key is a go.

 At its Aug. 19 meeting, the commission approved an amendment and special exception to allow a proposed eight-story, 170-room hotel to be built between Beach Road and Calle Miramar. The decision now goes to the County Commission and is on its agenda for the Oct. 27 meeting.

 The only commissioners who voted no were Justin Taylor, who voted against both the Unified Development Code (UDC) amendment and the special exception; and Kevin Cooper, who voted against the special exception. The rest of the commissioners present voted to approve both measures: UDC amendment 5-1, special exception 4-2. This means the Planning Commission will recommend that the County Commission approve the hotel.

The UDC amendment seeks to remove limits countywide on density relating to transient accommodations (the current limit is 26 per acre on Siesta), and the special exception would permit transient accommodations within the Siesta Key Overlay District (SKOD) and allow a maximum height of 80 feet above base flood elevation (the current limit is 35 feet). 

The proposed structure, referred to as “Hotel Siesta Key” in the renderings, was designed in the Sarasota School of Architecture style and will be eight stories and 92.5 feet tall. Proponents of the Calle Miramar project, led by attorney William Merrill of Icard Merrill, say it will bring increased ad valorem and tourist development taxes. Enhanced landscape buffers will be provided, including an 8-foot wall with vegetation on the east boundary. The entrance and exit will be off Calle Miramar, not Beach Road. Public parking will be provided for 36 vehicles, the team for the developer said.

Planning Commission Vice-Chair Teresa Mast asked Merrill what the approximate cost per night would be.

“$600 per room and up,” Merrill answered.

“I could say ‘bougie,’” Mast said. “High-value customers.”

The Siesta Key Coalition signed up 19 residents and experts to speak in opposition to the project. They were given three minutes each to speak. The coalition argued unsuccessfully that they should have six minutes since there were two issues being voted on.

“Why is an owner of less than 1 acre on Siesta Key allowed to amend the UDC in a manner that will have countywide impact?” asked Patricia Petruff, land-use attorney with Dye, Harrison, Kirkland, Petruff, Pratt & St. Paul, PLLC. “Most people don’t even know about it. There needs to be more public hearings to educate people about what is going on. The current regulations allow only 26 transient accommodation units per acre.”

Rose Battles, longtime resident and owner representative for Beach Villas at the Oasis (adjacent to the site of the proposed hotel), said the building will block out the afternoon sun. “Siesta Key is very special — so much of its charm is in its smallness,” she continued. “I’m not against hotels. I love hotels. But this hotel is too tall, too big and will cause major traffic and congestion problems. We’re begging you to vote no on this proposal.”

Longtime resident and former Siesta Key Association president Lourdes Ramirez urged the planning commission to deny the hotel proposal as “inconsistent with the comp plan,” which has limited density on the island to 26 units per acre since 1989. She revealed the SKA will be submitting a 12-page white paper rebuttal to the county.

The next meeting of the Planning Commission will be 5 p.m. Sept. 2, when the team representing Gary Kompothecras will discuss his proposal for a seven-story, 120-room hotel on Old Stickney Point Road and a five-story parking garage on Stickney Point Road.

The Calle Miramar project will be the solitary item on the County Commission’s Oct. 27 agenda.

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