Wallace ready to sue county

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By John Morton

Siesta Key resident Jim Wallace is going forward with his threat to sue Sarasota County in its relation to approving late last year a revised plan for the building of the Siesta Promenade mixed-use development at the northwest corner of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road.


That is what he told attendees at the Feb. 1 meeting of the Siesta Key Association civic group, with a filing to likely occur before the end of February.
At the crux of Wallace’s concern is that a county-mandated stoplight was approved at the intersection of Stickney Point and Avenue B & C, where an entry point into the Siesta Promenade would exist. The signals and related infrastructure have already been installed, but the light is not yet activated. Wallace maintains that studies show that traffic would stop every 85 seconds as a result on a roadway that is already congested.
His recent fight against the Florida Department of Transportation for issuing the needed permits failed last year on appeal, and now he’s taking aim at the county itself. Wallace says that recent court decisions against the county by both the state’s Division of Administrative Hearings and Sarasota County’s 12th Judicial Circuit Court in relation to the approval of high-rise hotels should also put a halt to Benderson Development’s Siesta Promenade project. Those decisions said, in part, that development on barrier islands should be discouraged in part because of issues with ease of hurricane evacuation.
“The access roads are included,” said Wallace. Stickney Point Road, home to the south bridge, is one of only two leading to the Key.
Thus, the Siesta Promenade project violates Sarasota County’s comprehensive plan that governs land use.
“Everything we’re fighting has been done in an illegal fashion,” Wallace said.

Todd Matches of Benderson Development discusses the Siesta Promenade project. (submitted photo)

He has also pointed to transportation reports that note that Siesta Key’s major roadways have been rated with a “D” grade or lower in terms of safety.
If the county is required to halt the Benderson project, all improvements related to the installation of the traffic lights would be required to be removed, Wallace added.
“It would all have to go back to the way it was,” he said.
Before pulling out, Wallace was originally part of one of the two hotel-related lawsuits that were victorious last year on the county level against Sarasota County commissioners. He joined fellow Marina Del Sol resident Robert Sax along with the 222 Beach Road condo residents.
As for Siesta Promenade, it will be comprised of 414 apartments/condominiums, a 130-room hotel, 33,000 square feet of retail space and 7,000 square feet of office space.
Its developer, Benderson Development, is also now proposing to build an eight-story hotel in the Siesta Village.

An artist’s rendering of the entrance to Siesta Promenade. (submitted image)
John Morton
Author: John Morton

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