CG/SKOD Text Amendment Revising the Street Setback on Siesta Key

By Mark Smith

   The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors voted on text amendment language that would allow commercially zoned properties that were large enough to have on-site parking to support a building taller than 35 feet to have the option to ask to be built closer to the sidewalk than 25 feet in order to keep the pedestrian connection. This “ask” would happen through the Special Exception process when Sarasota County staff, Planning Board, County Commission, and the public would review the SE application for compatibility with its surrounding commercial and residential neighborhood. 

   One of the goals of the Siesta Key Overlay District (SKOD) was to create the ability for retail and restaurants to be at the sidewalk with the parking in the rear. This is why the old 20’ setback from the sidewalk was changed to 2’. A great example of the difference is in Siesta Village where on the east side of Ocean Blvd. there are the Hanna and Siesta Beach Plazas that have their parking lots in front with the shops and restaurants 50 to 60 feet from the sidewalk, and then on the west side of Ocean that has the Daiquiri Deck, Gidget’s, Siesta Key Oyster Bar, Bonjour Cafe, and Big Olaf right on the sidewalk.

   I forwarded the suggested SK Chamber text language to the Board of County Commissioners at the January 30th text amendment hearing in the effort to maintain the pedestrian connection to commercial properties. The Commission decided to have the petitioner bring forward language to staff to amend the zoning setback text for commercial properties.

   The SK Chamber is not in favor of 85’ buildings 2’ from the sidewalk. We are in favor of giving the architects design flexibility to come up with creative solutions that will maintain the pedestrian connection to retail and restaurants while not overpowering the sidewalk’s pedestrian experience, like stepping the building back when it exceeds 35’ in height. The recently passed text amendment does just that. It does not condone or allow 85’ tall buildings 2’ from the sidewalk.

   There were gross exaggerations fabricated to scare people into thinking that 85’ buildings 2’ feet from the sidewalk would pop up all over Siesta Key if this text amendment would pass, that an 85’ tall building could be built on the Gidget’s Coastal Provisions property in Siesta Village. That property is only 50 feet wide. An 85 foot all building on that site would require 66 parking spaces. There are only 8 there now.

   The fact is that there is direct relationship between the number of square feet that can be built on any commercial property with the number of parking spaces that the property can accommodate.

   You can only build to the limit of your available parking.

   Parking garages need to be at least 85’ wide and up to 240’ long to ramp up to the next level. At the cost of $15,000 to $20,000 a parking space to build the property has to be large enough to make it economically feasible.

   The vast majority of commercial properties on Siesta Key are too small to build a parking garage on.

   The Sarasota Board of County Commissioners understood the process that was happening at the April 11th hearing.

   Unfortunately the large number of citizens that showed up at the commission hearing did not.

   The hearing was not for a re-zoning.

   It was not for a special exception to build a hotel.

   It was to amend the zoning text to give design flexibility to the commercial property owners in the Old Stickney Point Road commercial area.

   Out of the 1,536 acres that make up Siesta Key, 11 acres will be effected by this text amendment change.

   The accusations that the revised text amendment will turn Siesta Key into Miami Beach or Ft. Lauderdale are absolutely absurd. 99% of Siesta Key is zoned residential and cannot be re-zoned to commercial.

   The Sarasota Board County Commissioners did listen to all the citizens that spoke that day, both for and against.

   Unfortunately, the vast majority of the folks that spoke that day were misinformed, believing that the end of Siesta Key was eminent with the passing of an amendment the effects one block of Old Stickney Point Road.

   The Board County Commissioners should be applauded for listening to their staff’s recommendation to approve the text amendment that will help facilitate the redevelopment of an abandon property that has been an eyesore on Siesta Key for too many years.

Mark H. Smith, AIA, LEED AP 
Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, Past-Chair
Smith Architects, PA
5032 Calle Minorga
Siesta Key