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Worries about Avenue A and neighborhood access points

By Rachel Brown Hackney

On Dec. 12, as the Sarasota County commissioners were taking their votes on the Siesta Promenade project, the issue of the proposed closure of the median at the intersection of Avenue A and Stickney Point Road also arose. That proposal was one of several included in reports from the Kimley-Horn and Associates consulting firm, which worked with Benderson Development Co. on Siesta Promenade.

Commissioner Alan Maio referred to earlier testimony that day by the Benderson representatives. “The applicant has no intention to [change] the access turn movements in the median for Avenue A.”

Therefore, Maio proposed including that as a stipulation in the motion to approve the Critical Area Plan for the project.

“I understood it as an expression of intent,” Deputy County Attorney Alan Roddy responded.

“It’s a matter of intent,” Maio said, as the Benderson representatives, with — as Maio noted — cameras running to record the meeting for county records, told the board “they’re not touching Avenue A.”

Roddy suggested that the Avenue A matter be part of the rezoning motion for the project. However, he also advised the board first to allow more testimony from Paula Wiggins, the county’s Transportation Planning Division manager.

“My only concern,” Wiggins said, “is that [Avenue A] is a known area of crashes,” and it has been studied by the Florida Department of Transportation. “The applicant is not proposing to do anything with that intersection.”

Yet, she told the board, she did not feel the Avenue A issue should be included as a stipulation in the rezoning motion. After the conclusion of a planned “road swap” with FDOT in coming months, when the county will assume authority over Stickney Point Road, she continued, if crashes continue to occur at Avenue A, “and we don’t correct the deficiencies [there], we would be liable for anything that happens there, knowing that there is an existing problem.”

“Now you’ve got that all in the record,” Maio told her.

Business owners and residents south of Stickney Point Road have demanded in emails to the commissioners that the median not be closed, he continued, because it would compromise access to their property. He then suggested that staff not take any future action regarding Avenue A without discussing it with the commissioners.

Commissioner Moran agreed.

“Staff recognizes that there is a significant issue … for those businesses and residents on the south part of Stickney Point,” Wiggins responded, adding that staff would come back to the board with any proposals for changes.