Ramirez, Sax team up for non-profit

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Victorious anti-hotel lawsuit plaintiffs create Protect Siesta Key organization

By John Morton

Ramirez

With a another push underway by developers for unlimited density for new hotels, the winners of two lawsuits against Sarasota County to prevent such a thing have joined to form an opposition organization.
Siesta Key activist Lourdes Ramirez, who won a case last year that halted development of the three large hotels approved by the county, and Rob Sax, whose separate lawsuit prevailed via the same ruling, created in November the not-for-profit Protect Siesta Key.

According to an electronic newsletter distributed by Ramirez in January, the organization’s mission statement is “ … to promote good governance to enhance the public health, safety, and preservation of the quality of life for residents, visitors, and property owners on Siesta Key through educational awareness, advocacy, and, if necessary, appropriate legal action.”
The organization’s web address is protectsiestakey.org.

Sax

In Sax’s lawsuit, he was joined by the Marina Del Sol condominium (where he’s president of the homeowners association) and the 222 Beach Road condominium.
Marina Del Sol sits near the seven-story, 120-room hotel that was initially approved near Siesta Key’s south bridge, while 222 Beach Road is across the street from the eight-story, 170-room hotel initially approved at the edge of the Village.
That second hotel has re-emerged through the application process as a seven-story, 163-room complex and in January completed its mandated neighborhood workshop. The two hotels have yet to do so.
Judge Hunter Carroll in August ruled that no hotel could exceed the limits of 35 feet in height and 26 rooms per acre as set forth in March of 1989.
In her announcement of the new organization, Ramirez said “During the last go around on mega-hotels, I worked on the problem with just my attorneys. I developed white papers, spoke before the county commission in 2021, and eventually filed the lawsuit.
“Although individuals have supported me by donating to the effort, I was restricted from working with anyone but my attorneys because of the sensitive legal process. After we won our respective lawsuits, Rob and I spoke about combining our efforts as we face the next mega-hotel challenge. We have experience and extensive knowledge on the topic so it made sense to work together.”
Benderson Development, which late last year not only announced its interest in building an 85-foot, 163-room hotel on land it owns on Ocean Boulevard in the Village, but it submitted a private, out-of-cycle amendment to the county’s comprehensive plan that would allow for the needed increase in density and intensity.
If approved, the other three hotels would fall under the umbrella of what would be allowed.
Initially, county commissioners approved those hotels based upon the county’s interpretation of the guidelines already in place; now, an actual change on paper is what’s being considered.
County commissioners in late November chose the Benderson comp-plan amendment recommendation for study while ignoring two other proposals that had more stringent parameters.
Added Sax in the newsletter, “The county fails to accept that these proposed mega-hotels, and others sure to follow, are damaging to the health, safety and quality of life of the residents of Siesta Key and would destroy the charm and beauty of the Island which drives the tourism fueling Sarasota’s economy.
“The existing Siesta infrastructure cannot support this type of development and, rather than improve Sarasota’s economy as the county believes, an influx of these hotels is more than likely to damage it.
“We need the support of everyone in the county to help preserve Siesta Key as the very desirable destination for residents and tourists that it is today.”
The third hotel initially approved by the county is at 5810 Midnight Pass Rd. and includes six stories and 112 rooms. Dave Balot, its principal, proposed one of the two com-plan amendments denied by commissioners (limiting new hotels to 52 rooms per acre on a minimum of 1 acre).
The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce submitted the other, also recommending no more than 52 rooms per acre with a maximum of 75 rooms and a height limit of 45 feet in commercial areas and 35 feet in residential areas.

John Morton
Author: John Morton

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