By Rachel Brown Hackney
Benderson Development Co. has been asked, figuratively speaking, to fill in a number of blanks in the latest materials it filed with Sarasota County regarding its proposed Siesta Promenade project.
On July 25, county Planner Todd Dary sent Todd Mathes, director of development for Benderson, two letters detailing numerous insufficiencies in the documents the county received from the firm in late June. Benderson had revised its plans for the mixed-use development at the northwest corner of the intersection of U.S 41 and Stickney Point Road.
Among the issues Dary’s letters cited were lack of figures showing maximum building heights and setbacks; no clear plan showing road width and turning radii for traffic patterns within the development; the fact that the material does not indicate which portions of rights of way of public streets the firm intends to be vacated; and insufficient data in the company’s updated traffic analysis. The latter was discussed with Benderson staff on June 26, according to one of Dary’s letters. Shannon Rodden in the county’s Transportation Planning Division wrote that the transportation analysis should address “all [Florida Department of Transportation] and Sarasota County comments” provided during that meeting.
In a section regarding county Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department requirements, one letter said Benderson “should provide a private shuttle service to [Siesta Public Beach, Turtle Beach Park, Crescent Beach and Point of Rocks Beach] “and/or work with [Sarasota County Area Transit] to increase the frequency of trips to the beaches and/or look into expanding the Siesta Key Breeze Trolley service to the project site.”
The free open-air circulator began service on the island on March 20; county Administrator Tom Harmer and SCAT Director Rocky Burke have vowed to find the funding to ensure its continuing operation.
The documents county staff received about Siesta Promenade on June 28 showed a reduction from 506 to 415 residential dwelling units and a hotel with 130 rooms, instead of the 150 originally planned. The firm still proposed 140,000 square feet of retail and office space.
Benderson has sought a Critical Area Plan (CAP) designation for the project so it can pursue a density of up to 25 residential dwelling units per acre. That exceeds the 13 allowed in Commercial General zoning districts. The site itself — where a mobile home park once stood — is zoned for 9 units per acre. The development site is approximately 24 acres.
The company also indicated in the June 28 materials that it still plans to construct condominium towers as tall as 85 feet, though — as county staff noted in the July 25 letters to Mathes — no details were provided about which buildings it would like to construct at that height.
In a June 2, 2016 presentation to members and guests of the Siesta Key Association, Mathes unveiled a version of plans that he pointed out had been modified from the firm’s original proposal, dating to 2014. The new concept, he stressed, would encompass 40,000 fewer square feet than Paradise Plaza on Bay Road in Sarasota. He also talked of the “huge demand in the whole area for residential product.”
On Jan. 25, the County Commission voted 4-1 to allow Benderson to continue pursuit of the CAP designation for Siesta Promenade. However, it specified a number of analyses — including those regarding traffic patterns at 16 intersections near the project site — that the firm would have to undertake as part of its application process. Commissioner Nancy Detert cast the “No” vote, saying, “I’d frankly like to stop this process, and I don’t know how to do it.”
Detert joined the board in November 2016.
As of Aug. 16, county staff still was awaiting updated materials after providing the letters to Benderson. After all the documents have been resubmitted, county spokesman Jason Bartolone told SNL, “staff will perform another completeness review. That process typically takes 30-45 days, but we expect the next review to be no longer than 30 days.”
Bartolone continued, “Then, after the material has been deemed complete, formal review will commence. We anticipate the first public hearing [by the Planning Commission] to occur approximately 60 days after the beginning of the formal review, and the [County Commission] hearing to occur approximately 45 days after that.”
One letter Planner Dary sent Mathes in July focused on Benderson’s request to rezone the property for the development; the other discussed issues relative just to the Critical Area Plan application.
The four-page letter involving the rezoning petition included nine repetitions of the notice, “INCOMPLETE” [emphasis in the document].
Documentation of specific insufficiencies was listed by department. Among them, Dary asked for details about the locations and dimensions of the landscape buffers between Siesta Promenade and all the adjacent properties and streets, along with the locations and dimensions of the sidewalks and other pedestrian paths within the development.
Dary also noted that one section of the application indicates a distance of 29 feet between the edge of the pavement of Glencoe Avenue and the Siesta Promenade property line; however, “the actual dimension appears to be 18 or 19 feet.”
Dary added, “The graphic depictions and dimensions of ‘single family house to 3 story building’ and ‘single family house to edge of pavement’ are also inaccurate.”
Regarding the “Roadway Vacation Plan,” Dary wrote that the concept Benderson provided “includes portions of public streets including Brentwood Avenue, Sunset Boulevard Street, and Crestwood Avenue. A plan is required that clearly indicates what portion of these rights-of-way are intended to be vacated and how alternative public access is to be provided. The plan must include a schedule showing how the vacation process relates to the rezoning/CAP process.”
Furthermore, Dary noted, the development concept plan “depicts the re-alignment of Crestwood Avenue. Please provide and label buffer along Crestwood Avenue. The re-alignment of [the street] and the vacation of existing public streets require a street vacation be processed. Please coordinate with [the county’s] Real Property [Division].”