Changes to residential density calculations key to new hotel proposals

By Rachel Brown Hackney

SarasotaNewsLeader.com

The recent filings of preliminary applications for two new 80-plus-feet-tall hotels on Siesta Key will encompass more than land development considerations, the SNL has learned.

Each proposal calls for major changes to the Sarasota County Unified Development Code (UDC), which contains all the land development and zoning regulations. Each application also proposes a modification of the county’s Future Land Use policy that applies to residential density on the barrier islands.

One proposal — which would apply countywide — seeks to eliminate the counting of hotel rooms for density purposes altogether. The second calls for a 50% decrease in the count, but it would apply only to the South Village area in the vicinity of Old Stickney Point Road and Stickney Point Road.

The issues of residential density and intensity of development on the island have prompted numerous discussions in recent years during Siesta Key Association (SKA) meetings.

Residents — including SKA directors — have complained especially about the increasing number of new houses constructed near Siesta Public Beach for rental to tourists. Advertised via online accommodations platforms such as Airbnb and Vrbo, some of those homes are marketed as being able to sleep 25 or more people. SKA members have raised concerns about additional traffic congestion associated with those big new homes, pointing particularly to potential problems if hurricane evacuations become necessary.

On May 19, an attorney for the Icard Merrill law firm in Sarasota filed the first proposed county Comprehensive Plan amendment to Future Land Use Policy 2.9.1.

That policy says, “The intensity and density of future development on the Barrier Islands of Sarasota shall not exceed that allowed by zoning ordinances and regulations existing as of March 13, 1989, except that, with respect to lands zoned RMF [Residential Multi-Family] as of that date and consistently so thereafter, a non-conforming duplex whose density exceeds the density restrictions of the zoning regulations and restrictions may be rebuilt within the footprint of the structure, or a non-conforming multi-family structure may be demolished and a duplex rebuilt in its place within the prior footprint of the multi-family structure without violating this policy.”

In the preliminary application county staff received on May 19, which involves a 170-room hotel planned on parcels between Beach Road and Calle Miramar, Matthew Brockway of Icard Merrill proposed treating transient accommodations as a non-residential use. That, Brockway noted, “is consistent with the true nature of the use.

“After all, from a land use, planning, and zoning perspective,” he wrote, “hotels are a commercial use critical to tourism and our local economy. To that end Transient Accommodations are only permitted (either as Permitted Uses or by Special Exception) in certain commercial zoning districts [Brockway’s emphasis].”

Brockway added that Unified Development Code (UDC) text amendments he also had suggested on behalf of his clients would “eliminate residential density and residential density calculations for Transient Accommodations, and instead rely on existing height, bulk, setback and other commercial development standards and requirements.”

Brockway also wrote that his clients’ proposed UDC text amendments would apply countywide, “(not just to a small area of Siesta Key).”

His suggested modifications of the UDC, he added, would allow transient accommodations to be considered a non-residential use “for all purposes.” The only areas where they would not apply, he proposed, would be in the Boutique Resort Redevelopment/Planned Development District zone and in the Nokomis Center Revitalization Plan U.S. 41 Corridor.

Louise Khagahan of New York City owns the property where the 170-room hotel is proposed, a short distance from Ocean Boulevard in Siesta Village. RE/MAX real estate agent Robert T. Anderson Jr. of Sarasota, who — the material says — has leased the property for many years, is the co-applicant for that project.

The second proposal

Almost three weeks before Brockway filed the preliminary application on behalf of his clients, Robert “Bo” Medred of Genesis Planning & Development in Bradenton submitted to the county preliminary applications for a 120-room hotel on Old Stickney Point Road and a 47-foot-tall parking garage, with retail space, between Old Stickney Point Road and Stickney Point Road.

Medred’s client is Dr. Gary Kompothecras, the Siesta Key chiropractor and businessman known for his 1-800-ASK-GARY legal and medical referral service.

Those materials also call for an amendment to Future Land Use Policy 2.9.1. It would allow “lands located south of Stickney Point Road which are zoned CG [Commercial General] and CI [Commercial Intensive] (the ‘South Bridge Area’ under the Siesta Key Community Plan) … [to] be redeveloped to contain transient accommodations which exceed the density restrictions of the zoning regulations existing as of that date without violating this policy.”

Additionally, as Medred noted in the documents, Kompothecras wants to amend Section 124 of the UDC in regard to redevelopment of properties into transient accommodations in what the proposal again refers to as the “South Bridge Area.” The modification would apply only to parcels zoned Commercial General (CG) in the Siesta Key Overlay District (SKOD).

The proposed text amendment would allow no hotel room within such transient accommodations to contain a kitchen.

Moreover, it would add that “in calculating the maximum number of hotel rooms allowed within an individual transient accommodation use” on property zoned CG/SKOD within that “South Bridge Area,” each hotel room without a kitchen would be counted as one-quarter dwelling unit, instead of half a dwelling unit.

Finally, the amendment would allow no transient accommodation to “contain more than 120 hotel rooms.”

The county’s CG district allows for up to 13 dwelling units per acre.

Among notes provided by members of the county’s Development Review Committee (DRC) when they reviewed Kompothecras’ preliminary proposal on May 21 was the following: “Proposed text amendment is site specific, rather than applicable to either the entire County or only the Siesta Key Overlay District, which would be preferred. Additionally, it will need to be demonstrated how the proposed density calculation is not an increase in density which is prohibited on the Barrier Islands.”