By Rachel Brown Hackney
It was not until a December 8th, 2020 deadline that representatives of several Sarasota County divisions that handle land-development issues provided comments on a preliminary application submitted in May for a seven-story, 120-room hotel and a five-story parking garage planned in the Stickney Point Road/Old Stickney Point Road area of Siesta Key.
A participant in the December 15th, 2020 Neighborhood Workshop on the projects noted the December 8th document, which was signed by county Planner Joshua T. Law. “I am sending you this letter to inform you that [the proposed plan has] failed the sufficiency review,” Law wrote of both the hotel and the parking garage proposals in a letter to Kompothecras’ project team.
Among deficiencies the letter cites is the failure to provide details regarding the ownership of the parcels for the hotel and parking garage, as required by county regulations. (During the December 15th workshop, attorney Charles D. Bailey III of the Williams Parker firm in Sarasota noted that Siesta resident Gary Kompothecras, who is known for his 1-800-ASK-GARY medical and legal referral service, and Kompothecras’ family members are the property owners. (The parcels are listed in county records as belonging to limited liability companies.)
Other points, cited by the Zoning Division staff, focus on lack of information showing that the hotel design would conform to the necessary street yard setbacks in the county’s Unified Development Code (UDC), which contains all the county’s zoning and land-development regulations.
For example, one of those comments notes that the required setback between the hotel site, which is zoned Commercial General (CG), and the Sabal Lake Condominium complex, which is zoned Residential Multi-Family, must be 20 feet, plus 12 feet for the additional height that will be sought for the hotel. “While the proposed [structure] appears to meet the required [32-foot] setback,” the comment continued, “the setback is shown as 30 [feet] and should be increased to 32 [feet],” the comment said.
The project team has said the hotel will stand about 80 feet above base flood elevation, although CG zoning allows for a structure to be only 35 feet above base flood elevation. (The latter phrase refers to a Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA)] regulation regarding construction in a flood zone.) The team is seeking a Special Exception from the County Commission for the extra height.
A related note pointed out that the required setback of the hotel from Peacock Road — which is planned to be the eastern border of the site — is 42.5 feet,” unless the project team demonstrates otherwise and wins Special Exception approval for a different figure.
In response to a SNL inquiry, Planning and Development Services Department staff wrote in an email: “This letter was generated from the 12/8 deadline for staff comments regarding staff’s review for completeness.”
When Siesta resident Janet Emanuel asked about the letter during the December 15th workshop, Robert “Bo” Medred of Genesis Planning & Development in Bradenton, told her that the project team “just received these comments on [December 11th, 2020], so we’re in the process of having our consultants go through [the comments].”
Attorney Bailey III also pointed out, “Sometimes you have multiple rounds of sufficiency reviews.” The team members will address county staff members’ comments as the county review proceeds, Bailey added. Often, he continued, a project team is required to provide clarifications and confirmation of specific points. “We’re not disregarding it or discounting its importance,” Bailey explained in reference to the letter. Still, he added, “It’s not unusual to get a whole slew of comments.”
Later, Bailey told Emanuel, “We’re not able [during the workshop] to walk through every provision of the [county Comprehensive] Plan and the [County] Code.”
“So what have you been doing since May?!” Emanuel responded.
She did not get an answer.
During an informal Neighborhood Workshop conducted about the projects on December 2nd, Medred explained that, typically, it takes a year from the time a formal application is submitted to county staff until construction can begin. In fact, he pointed out, an 18-month-long timeline would be more likely.
Other staff concerns
Among other comments in the December 8th letter, representatives of the Landscape Division noted that because Stickney Point Road is designated an arterial/collector road, a buffer that is at least 10 feet in width would be required between the parking garage and Stickney Point Road. Further, a 6-foot-wide buffer would be needed on the Old Stickney Point side of the garage.
(The Florida Department of Transportation defines an arterial road as one that “provides continuous routes which serve through traffic, high-traffic volumes, and long average trips.”
Yet another comment from the Zoning Division noted that a street yard setback within the Siesta Key Overlay District (SKOD) “may be reduced to 2 [feet] if approved by the County Commission for buildings exceeding 35 [feet in height] as part of the Special Exception approval.” However, the comment continued, “It appears that the ramp up/ramp down does not meet the required [20-foot] street yard setback, so please demonstrate that the building elevations meet the requirements of Article 7, Section 124-102(b)(4)j. of the [UDC].”
Medred of Genesis Planning & Development has explained that the plans call for hotel guests to drive up a ramp from Old Stickney Point Road to reach the second level. There, they would turn over their keys to a valet who would park the vehicle in the garage across the street.
Another comment from the Landscape Division pointed out that the preliminary application appeared to show angled parking outside the garage. If that were the case, all of those rows also would have to “terminate in a curbed landscaped island with each island having a minimum area of 170 [square feet] with a minimum width of 10 [feet] inside the [curb] and include one large tree as described in Article 8, Section 124-122(s) of the UDC, the staff member wrote.