Brings expert into fold in battle against Siesta Key hotel approval
By John Morton
Looking for some expertise with an issue that’s similar in what she’s fighting, Siesta Key resident Lourdes Ramirez has brought Richard Grosso to her legal team in her fight against Sarasota County.
Ramirez sued the county late last year, alleging it went against its own comprehensive plan when it approved an eight-story, 170-room hotel on a bit less than an acre of land between Calle Miramar and Beach Road on the edge of the Village. The trial is set for next spring.
Grosso, an attorney and professor at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, served as Ramirez’s legal representative in mid-June during depositions regarding the case. He’ll join Tampa attorneys Martha Collins and Pamela Hartley on behalf of Ramirez.
Grosso won a landmark land-use case in 2001 in Martin County, claiming the county commission violated its comprehensive plan by allowing the construction of the Villas at Pinecrest Lakes. Neighbors of the project were in litigation against the county when the developer nonetheless built part of the $3.3 million apartment complex before the case was settled. The ruling against the county, which Grosso litigated, forced the developer to tear it down a year later.
“It was his landmark case (Pinecrest Lakes Inc. vs. Shidel) that caught my attention years ago,” Ramirez said of Grosso. “I reached out to him last year, but he had a huge caseload. I was happy when he decided to join my legal team recently.
“His extensive experience on land use-issues and the landmark case are invaluable to my case. I’m grateful he is on my team full-time.”
Grosso in 2021 was honored by Audubon Florida with its Everglades Champion Award for his precedent-setting cases in areas including land use, the environment, and property rights.
Regarding her case against the Sarasota County Board of Commissioners, Ramirez contends that its vote of approval was illegal because it included the elimination of limits on density. Previously, the number of rooms allowed was 26 per acre of property on the barrier islands.
That hotel was one of two approved for Siesta Key in 2021, the other being a seven-story, 120-room project near the south bridge. That hotel is also involved in a lawsuit likely to go before a judge next year.
Proposals for two additional new hotels have yet to go before the commissioners for a vote.