Siesta Key resident files complaint against county for traffic signal

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traffic signal

By ChrisAnn Allen

Wallace’s lawsuit alleges the traffic signal at Avenue B & C on Stickney Point Road would put lives at risk and requests judicial review

It is yet to be activated, but a traffic signal at Avenue B & C on Stickney Point Road is again drawing ire.

Island resident Jim Wallace on April 19 filed a complaint against Sarasota County with the 12th Judicial Circuit Court which states activation of the traffic signal would create further traffic hindrances on a roadway already plagued with slowdowns, leading to “grave danger” for emergency medical vehicles and hurricane evacuation egress and ingress for Siesta Key.

The road is one of two providing access to the barrier island.

“Making this signal operational would adversely affect his, and many others’, ability

to safely enter and leave the barrier island of Siesta Key via Stickney Point Road to access hospital facilities and doctors during medical emergencies and deal with emergency hurricane evacuations,” Wallace’s attorney, Ralf Brookes of Cape Coral, states in the complaint. “The operation of the traffic signal at Avenue B & C would create a new and dangerous condition

causing unreasonable additional significant traffic delays placing human lives at risk in the event

of medical emergencies and hurricane evacuations on the southern portion of the barrier island of Siesta Key …”

In February, at a meeting of the Siesta Key Association, a neighborhood group that works to protect quality of life for residents, Wallace threatened to take action against the county for its approval of a plan to build the Siesta Promenade, with the traffic signal at the core of his concerns. The light was mandated by the county as a requirement when it first approved the development in 2018 as part of an entryway.

The signal is installed, but the light is not yet activated. Wallace claimed traffic studies indicated the light would lead to stopped traffic every 85 seconds on a road already besieged by gridlock.

A mixed-use development comprising 414 apartments/condominiums, a 130-room hotel, 33,000 square feet of retail space and 7,000 square feet of office space, the promenade will be located at the northwest corner of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road.

The complaint also includes a reference to the recent court decisions against the county by the state’s Division of Administrative Hearings and the 12th Judicial Circuit Court in relation to the approval of high-rise hotels, which advised against development in the area due to possible hurricane evacuation issues, further demonstrating a failure of the county to follow through with limitations imposed by its comprehensive plan.

Both rulings involved lawsuits by Siesta Key resident Lourdes Ramirez, and Wallace’s complaint noted that both a Florida state administrative law judge and Sarasota County judge

made the following findings: “There are only two bridges — Siesta Drive Bridge and Stickney Point Road Bridge — that provide access and evacuation routes to the mainland from Siesta Key. Both of the bridges are designated as constrained roads by the comprehensive plan. … This means that while on the bridges, ‘speed and freedom to maneuver are severely restricted. Small increases in traffic would generally cause operational problems at this level.’ … Therefore, the county has accepted’ an additional responsibility … to not allow the existing operating conditions to be degraded.’”

The comprehensive plan, a guideline for growth and development in the county, contains a “transportation element” which Wallace claims is being violated through the activation of this traffic signal as part of the Siesta Promenade development on an already “constrained road.”

In conclusion, the filing states, “Plaintiff Wallace has on numerous occasions provided written and oral notice to the county that he would seek judicial review, declaratory and injunctive remedies, as appropriate, for a court to review and declare that the traffic signal at Stickney Point Road and Avenue B & C places human lives in danger during medical emergencies and hurricane evacuations,” and formally requests a court-ordered hearing on the matter.

Wallace previously filed a complaint with the Florida Department of Transportation regarding its approval of the traffic signal, but lost an initial ruling and appeal.

ChrisAnn Allen
Author: ChrisAnn Allen

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