By Rachel Brown Hackney
The organization fighting proposed hotels Siesta Key continues to grow, its chairman said.
The hotels’ developers need Sarasota County Commission approval to exceed the island’s standard zoning provisions.
In a Jan. 25 email, Mark Spiegel of the Siesta Key Coalition wrote, “We are now up to 22 associations on Siesta Key representing nearly 2,000 households. A few more are considering joining.”
The coalition, which has achieved 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, was established last summer, initially in response to plans for a 170-room hotel on what the attorney for the developer calls “the edge of Siesta Village.”
In a Jan. 29 email blast, the Siesta Key Condominium Council provided its members its latest recommendation for membership in the coalition.
“The SKCC strongly urges all Siesta Key Condominium Associations to become a part of this important fight to preserve our iconic Siesta Key,” Frank Jurenka, the association’s president, wrote.
He said a list of condos that have joined the coalition can be found siestakeyassociation.com/projects/sk-coalition/.
The webpage also includes a wealth of information on the activities of the coalition, multiple recent newspaper or online publication articles discussing concerns, a live video presentation of the coalition’s perspective, and a prior press release, Jurenka added.
“If … your condominium association wishes to join in this fight by becoming a ‘community supporting member,’ thus allowing the coalition to place your support information on its website and advertise added support for its efforts, the coalition is requesting a support letter,” Jurenka pointed out. “An example of this can be found on the website.”
That letter is from the Siesta Isles Association.
Dated Oct. 17, 2021 and signed by Siesta Isles Association President Pamela Atkins, the letter is addressed to Spiegel. She noted that Spiegel had made a presentation to the Siesta Isles Association Board of Directors this past Oct. 15.
During his remarks that day, she noted, Spiegel had focused on plans for the eight-story, 170-room hotel that would stand between Calle Miramar and Beach Road.
Since then, the Coalition has expanded its efforts to oppose the planned 120-room hotel that Siesta Key businessman Gary Kompothecras wants to construct on Old Stickney Point Road, plus the redevelopment of the Siesta Key Beach Resorts and Suites in Siesta Village from 55 rooms to 170.
Atkins pointed out in her letter that her board members agreed that not only would the hotel on Calle Miramar “be a detriment to the quality of life on the Key, the change in county density per unit … would also open a pandora’s box that would allow high-rise hotels throughout Siesta Key and on all the other barrier islands in Sarasota County. Such a change would forever alter the ambience and lifestyle of this part of the west coast of Florida.”
The Calle Miramar project team also has proposed amendments to the county’s Comprehensive Plan and its Unified Development Code, which contains all the zoning and land-development regulations. Those would eliminate any residential density consideration for hotel rooms on property zoned for commercial purposes on the barrier islands within the county’s jurisdiction.
During the county’s required neighborhood workshop on the Calle Miramar proposal, William Merrill, a partner with the Sarasota law firm Icard Merrill, emphasized that research had shown that neither Casey Key nor Manasota Key has property zoned for commercial purposes; thus, the amendments would apply only to Siesta Key.
In a Jan. 21 letter to the Sarasota County commissioners, Spiegel, Jurenka and Catherine Luckner, the Siesta Key Association president, pointed out that the Siesta Key Community Plan, which was adopted in 1999, “became the precursor for the later legislative enactment of the codes and regulations of the Siesta Key Overlay District in 2002 and the … future land use [policies] for the barrier islands including Siesta Key,” which are part of the county’s Comprehensive Plan.
The district encompasses all the zoning rules for Siesta Key.
“The intent of these existing policies was to designate the special land-use category for unique barrier islands, including Siesta Key, relative to mainland Sarasota County, recognizing that ‘development on the barrier island was of special concern’ and ‘to underscore these special considerations density and intensity of future development may not exceed that allowed by existing zoning,’” the Jan. 21 letter added.
Moreover, the letter said, “Hotel density equivalency factors have been utilized elsewhere in Florida, especially coast towns and barrier islands, and serve to control the number of hotel units per acre to maintain Siesta Key’s community character, sense of place and control the commensurate impacts.”
Jurenka also noted in his Jan. 29 email blast, “If your condo representative wishes to gain additional information, the SK Coalition leader is available for discussion.”
Spiegel’s email address, Jurenka added, is SKCoalition@gmail.com.