By Rachel Brown Hackney
Once again, Sarasota County staff members have cited a number of insufficiencies in documents Benderson Development Co. has submitted regarding its proposed Siesta Promenade mixed-use project.
Among the information missing from materials the firm provided the county in December 2017 is an updated traffic impact analysis, “which addresses all FDOT [Florida Department of Transportation] comments as discussed” during a Jan. 24 meeting, says a Feb. 1 county letter to Todd Mathes, Benderson’s director of development.
Also missing are the documentation of traffic counts taken at side streets and medians in the study area along U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road, and an evaluation on which to base recommended traffic calming measures “for the identified local roadways,” even though the “Traffic Calming section [the company submitted in December 2017] provides an analysis of the daily [traffic] volume,” plus afternoon peak hour trips and the average speed for 85% of the vehicles on the roadways included in the study, the Feb. 1 letter says.
County staff also notes, “A ‘Future Land Use Plan’ has been submitted, but no conditions for development approval have been provided. Any documents or conditions intended to be part of the ‘adopted’ Critical Area Plan (recorded in the public records) must be clearly identified.”
Benderson is seeking the Critical Area Plan (CAP) designation so it can increase the density of the project. Commercial General zoning districts in the county allow up to 13 dwelling units per acre, but the CAP approval would enable the firm to build up to 25 per acre.
In a number of ways, the two letters county Planner Todd Dary wrote Mathes on Feb. 1 mirror the correspondence Dary sent Mathes in July 2017, after the company filed revised applications in June 2017 for the CAP designation and a rezoning of the property.
Dary’s Feb. 1 letter related to the rezoning application includes five notations of “INCOMPLETE” [emphasis in the document].
The July 25, 2017 letters Dary sent Mathes encompassed nine repetitions of “INCOMPLETE” [emphasis again in the documents].
Benderson plans to construct 414 dwelling units, a 130-room hotel and 140,000 square feet of commercial space on property that encompasses about 24 acres at the intersection of Stickney Point Road and U.S. 41, just east of Siesta Key. In response to the CAP application, the County Commission in January 2017 called for specific traffic studies to be completed before it would consider approval of the CAP request.
Since Mathes announced in June 2016 that Benderson was reviving and revising its plans for Siesta Promenade, many residents and business owners in the vicinity of the project site have voiced the view that Siesta Promenade would exacerbate the traffic congestion problems involving the intersection of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road. Just after Christmas 2017 and in January, residents pointed to long waits on Stickney Point Road to reach Siesta’s beaches, as well as the shopping centers and other commercial properties located south of Stickney Point Road.
Residents and business owners also have expressed worries about Benderson’s proposal for FDOT to erect a traffic signal at the intersection of Stickney Point Road and Avenue B and C. FDOT representatives have called for more documentation from Benderson to support that idea, citing concerns about traffic backups through the U.S. 41/Stickney Point Road intersection.
Pine Shores Estates, the neighborhood immediately adjacent to the Siesta Promenade site, is the focus of several staff comments in the February letters.
In June 2017, Dary wrote Mathes, “[T]he development concept plan includes portions of public streets including Brentwood Avenue, Sunset Boulevard Street, and Crestwood Avenue. A plan is required that clearly indicates what portion of these rights-of-way are intended to be vacated and how alternative public access is to be provided.”
In the Dec. 28, 2017 material Mathes submitted to the county, he directed staff to “Exhibit B” as an explanation of the firm’s street vacation plans for Crestwood Avenue in Pine Shores Estates.
In one of the Feb. 1 letters, Dary noted Benderson’s plan to realign Crestwood Avenue and its proposal for the County Commission “vacation of existing public streets” to accommodate the firm’s traffic plans. Dary pointed out that “no public hearing can be scheduled [on rezoning the Siesta Promenade property] until street vacation has been processed and is scheduled before the Board of County Commission for authorization to proceed with vacation.”
A bevy of missing figures
A number of issues county staff cites in its Feb. 1 letter to Mathes regarding the rezoning of the property relate to missing or incorrect figures.
For example, Day noted that Mathes wrote in the Dec. 28, 2017 materials that the density of the project would be 18 units per acre. However, because hotel rooms typically equate to half of one residential dwelling unit, and Benderson is proposing 130 rooms, plus 414 condominium units, the density appears to add up to 20 units per acre.
In one of the July 2017 letters to Benderson, Dary pointed out that the total number of dwelling units had to include the hotel rooms.
Yet another issue Dary cited was that one section of the December 2017 materials “indicates a dimension of 29 feet between the edge of pavement and the property line [on Glencoe Avenue], where the actual dimension appears to be 18 or 19 feet.”
Dary made an almost identical observation in one of the July 2017 letters citing insufficiencies.
In three other cases SNL found, insufficiencies Dary cited in the Feb. 1 correspondence were identical to those he noted in his July 25, 2017 correspondence with Mathes:
- Maximum building heights needed to be shown on the sections.
- Locations and dimensions of the sidewalks and other pedestrian paths within Siesta Promenade need to be shown.
- Locations and dimensions of the landscape buffers between Siesta Promenade and all the adjacent properties and streets must be shown.