An artist’s rendering of the proposed hotel near the Village on Calle Miramar. This is the view from Beach Road. (Submitted image)
By Rachel Brown Hackney
Sarasota County staff has found numerous deficiencies in the application for an eight-story, 170-room hotel slated for four parcels between Calle Miramar and Beach Road, as outlined in a Jan. 13 response to the project team.
Staff pointed out that the materials submitted to the county in December do not address “all associated Comprehensive Plan goals, objectives and policies.”
Along with the construction plans, the proposal calls for amendments to the county’s Comprehensive Plan and the Unified Development Code that would eliminate residential density requirements for any hotel on a barrier island within the county’s jurisdiction.
Among examples cited in regard to the deficiencies, the staff document says, “No analysis has been provided regarding potential impacts to hurricane evacuation and evacuation times. Please provide an analysis of anticipated impacts to the evacuation network both in and out of season as tropical and sub-tropical type systems can appear at any time of the year. It is recommended that you coordinate Sarasota County Emergency Management staff in developing this analysis.”
Further, staff has raised concerns about transportation issues and how the development would comply with policies regarding neighborhood compatibility and smart-growth planning.
In regard to the coastal construction and hurricane evacuation issues, the county sufficiency document explains, “The Coastal Disaster Management chapter [of the Comprehensive Plan] is required by statute for coastal counties. The core values of this chapter for Sarasota County include (1) Limiting public expenditures in designated coastal high-hazard area to necessary public services and facilities; (2) Encouraging appropriate land uses and densities in the coastal high-hazard area; (3) Ensuring safe and timely evacuation and sheltering of county residents in event of natural disaster; (4) Providing county residents on-going training opportunities and education in emergency preparedness and timely information in case of a natural disaster.”
Siesta Key residents have decried the project team’s proposal for getting rid of the residential density consideration for hotels on the island in large part because of traffic congestion and the inability of the county to widen the road network.
County Public Works Director Spencer Anderson has told the Sarasota County Commission that Siesta Key’s roads are constrained, and he has said property owners are reluctant to allow any of their land to be used for transportation modifications.
Commissioners have indicated reluctance to use eminent domain powers to try to improve areas of particular concern.
During the Jan. 11 neighborhood workshop that county regulations required the hotel developers to conduct, some participants stressed their worries about hurricane evacuations, with potentially 340 people — two per room — in the hotel.
The group that owns the hotel site is based in New York City, the application says. The long-time lessee of the property is Robert Anderson, a Sarasota RE/MAX real estate agent.
Land use concerns
In regard to other issues that need to be addressed, the staff letter noted the following:
Policy 1.2.17 points out that, “As reflected in Sarasota County zoning standards, potential incompatibilities between land uses due to the density, intensity, character or type of use proposed, shall be mitigated through site and architectural design techniques including but not limited to any or all of the following: the provision and location of open space, perimeter buffers, landscaping and berms; the location and screening of sources of light, noise, mechanical equipment, refuse areas, delivery areas and storage areas; and the location of road access to minimize adverse impacts, increased building setbacks, step downs in building heights.”
During the neighborhood workshop, residents of Beach Villas at the Oasis, which is immediately adjacent to the hotel site, voiced concerns about various issues, including the fact that the hotel would tower over their property. Other people expressed worries about whether noise emanating from a rooftop bar would disturb residents.
Sarasota attorney and project team member William Merrill explained that, since the goal would be to ensure the best possible experience for the guests, he was certain the bar would not be a source of noise complaints.
Policy 2.3.7 says, “In established residential areas, incompatible land uses shall be discouraged if traffic is generated on abutting local streets in amounts that would substantially and adversely affect traffic flow, traffic control and public safety.”
Again, during the Jan. 11 workshop, Calle Miramar homeowners expressed worries about the traffic associated with the hotel creating congestion on a street that mostly has residential properties. Merrill responded that he expects guests would arrive and leave at a wide variety of times, thus decreasing the likelihood of problems. Merrill also noted his anticipation that guests would walk or use public transportation or services such as Uber, leaving their own vehicles in the hotel parking garage for most of their stays.
Finally, Policy 2.9.3 points out, “The rezoning of additional lands on the barrier islands for commercial or office uses shall be prohibited.”