By Jane Bartnett
Sarasota County held a virtual public hearing to announce the creation of a new building in the Nora Patterson Bay Island Park, at 946 Siesta Drive, Siesta Key, that would hold two “family style” public restrooms. The public Zoom event was held on the evening of November 18, 2020. Located on the south side of Siesta Drive, in the middle of the park, the proposed structure would, a spokeswoman said, “be settled in amidst existing trees near ADA (Americans with Disability) parking locations.”
The proposed public restrooms will be located on the elevated first (and only) floor of the building. An ADA compliant ramp will provide access to the restrooms. Two benches for seating will also be installed, one mid-way up the ramp, the other at the top of the ramp. The building’s design, County Parks officials said, allows for compliance with FEMA regulations. Open space on the ground level will avoid flooding. Currently, the park contains Porta Potties for visitor’s use. The elevated first floor will also allow for views of the water. Siebert Architects of Sarasota are designing the structure in the style of the Sarasota School of Architecture.
The final design will be subject to change as the approval process and public comment period continues. Officials said that there are no plans to change current access to the park’s entrance and no changes to traffic flow are expected. Open daily, the waterfront park is known for its views of downtown Sarasota. It features park benches, picnic tables, fishing and scenic walking paths.
A number of community members voiced concern and disapproval of the structure during the presentation. Residents questioned the county’s plans for regulating after-hours use, illegal sales and rentals on the premises, as well as concerns that homeless people will use the structure as a shelter. Parks officials said that the County has established plans to work closely with the Homeless Outreach Team (HOT), as well as Sarasota County and Sarasota City law enforcement officials to ensure that the structure remains a safe place. Officials also advised that the public bathrooms will feature doors that will automatically lock after-hours. Police will monitor the facilities each day to ensure that no one is locked inside.
The County is accepting feedback and public comment from the community and will continue to review plans before moving forward. The current timeline for the new bathroom structure in the Nora Patterson Bay Island Park is to have the design completed and permitted by August 2021. Should the Board of County Commissioners vote to approve the facility, the building is expected to be completed by the summer of 2022.
Comments about the proposed family style bathroom structure in the Nora Patterson Bay Island Park may be submitted to PRNRmeetings@SCgov.net.
Caption #2: Side view of proposed architectural rendering of Nora Patterson Bay Island Park Bathroom Pavilion, designed by Siebert Architects. Ramp access is ADA compliant and adjacent to handicapped parking spaces.