Signs of the times: Hotel protest hits the streets

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In recent weeks, Siesta Key has seen a burgeoning bloom of new signs. With red letters, they say “Stop High Density Hotels.”

At the bottom of each, the website for the Siesta Key Coalition is listed.

In an April 23 email, Mark Spiegel, president of the Coalition, reported that 250 of the signs had been made available so far, “with more in production.”

Then, in a May 6 update, Spiegel reported that the signs “were in such demand that we just got in a new order of 250 signs that we have available at both Davidson’s Drugs [locations] on Siesta Key.”

During the May 6 Siesta Key Association (SKA) meeting, Robert Luckner, who is the vice president of the nonprofit, reported that county code enforcement staff had informed Coalition representatives that signs legally cannot be planted in the county right of way.

“We’re busy fixing that,” Luckner added.

With hope of building on the signs’ message, the Siesta Key Condominium Council took another opportunity in early May to encourage island condominium associations to support the Siesta Key Coalition’s efforts.

In a May 3 email blast, the Council also reported on the Coalition’s growth since Spiegel addressed the Council’s members in early March.

The Coalition was organized last summer in opposition to a proposed eight-story, 170-room hotel that would stand on four parcels between Beach Road and Calle Miramar, a short distance from the Siesta Key Beach Resort and Suites in Siesta Village.

The nonprofit later expanded its mission, as noted in a statement on its website homepage:

“The Siesta Key Coalition exists to protect the unique character, environment, and quality of life of our island home of Siesta Key. We are committed to preventing the development of large-scale hotels that would remove protections for the barrier island, and allow building beyond current zoning and codes. The Coalition, the Siesta Key Association, the Siesta Key Condominium Council, and many community organizations, oppose any non-compliant hotel developments, now and in the future.”

In March, Spiegel noted that the Coalition had been organized as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit; that status enables it to lobby for its goals.

Further, the website points out that the nonprofit has engaged the services of an attorney and that it is in discussions with other consultants who will be able to help Coalition leaders “prepare effectively for presentations to the County Planning Commission and the Board of County Commissioners.”

During the May 6 SKA meeting, Luckner reported that the Coalition indeed has “retained the services of a planner and an environmental consultant.”

It also is looking into hiring a traffic consultant, Luckner said.

The Coalition website says, “We anticipate that our expenses could reach the $100,000 range over the next year. None of the money contributed to this cause will be spent on anything except expenses incurred in the effort to prevent the over-development of our island.”

Luckner told the SKA members that the nonprofit has received about 60% of the funds it was hoping to collect from supporters.

In opening their May 3 email blast, the directors of the Condominium Council made it clear that they signed on early to support the Coalition’s efforts.

They also invited Council members to review a matrix that the Coalition has produced, which provides details about the four hotel projects.

The Council pointed out, “All [of the hotel proposals] exceed the current codes by varying degrees,” with their residential density levels ranging from twice to 6.8 times what is allowed on commercial parcels within the Siesta Key Overlay District zoning regulations.

“No, it is not a typo, 6.8 times the current codes,” the email blast stresses.

Further, the Council leaders reported that more than 55 of Siesta Key’s approximately 112 condominium associations have joined the Coalition.

Coalition president Spiegel said in his May 6 email that the number had climbed again, to 58.

On March 9, Spiegel reported to Council members that, as of that date, 37 of condominium and homeowner organizations, representing nearly 3,200 households, had become part of its efforts.

The May 3 Condominium Council email blast noted that the membership roster as of that date represented more than 5,000 homeowners, an indication that the larger associations had become formal Coalition supporters.

“We need every association to join regardless of size,” the email blast added.

A link in the email directed readers to a chart showing all those groups. A note at the bottom of the list did explain, “The numbers in parentheses represent the numbers of households represented by each organization.”

Many of them also are members of the Siesta Key Association and/or the Siesta Key Condominium Council, the email blast said.

“A big thanks to those associations that have already joined,” the email blast added.

The Condominium Council’s goal is for 100% of its member associations to join the Coalition, to demonstrate solidarity among the more than 7,000 condominium owners and taxpayers on Siesta Key.

The Condominium Council also encouraged its members to contribute financially to the Coalition through its website: SKCoalition.org.

“At this site, you will see an easy way to donate using a credit card by hitting the DONATE button,” the email blast noted.

Groups may join the Coalition by sending an email to SKCoalition@gmail.com, the email said.

The Council leaders also are encouraging their members to email the Sarasota County Planning Commission members and the county commissioners to express opposition to the four hotel projects proposed on the Key.

Further, their email stressed, “We need to speak as one rational, educated and objective voice” to fellow county homeowners, business leaders and county leaders.”

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