Rhana Bazzini has not given up her dream of turning the site of the proposed Siesta Promenade mixed-use development into a park.
During the June 2, 2016 Siesta Key Association (SKA) meeting, she told Benderson Development’s director of development, Todd Mathes, that she felt a park would be the best use of the approximately 24 acres at the northwest corner of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road. Just last week, she renewed her call for that approach when she addressed the County Commission before it considered the scope of work for Benderson in its efforts to create Siesta Promenade.
On Jan. 25, she also gave the clerk to the board copies of a petition with more than 200 signatures of people supporting her view.
“It is clear that there are several negative components [of the Siesta Promenade plan],” she told the commissioners. Among them are the potential for exacerbation of the traffic congestion in that immediate area, incompatibility with the neighborhood and adding more vehicles to a major hurricane evacuation route.
Not only was she proposing a park, she continued, but she also wanted to recommend the site be the location of a “shuttle station,” which could provide much-needed transportation to Siesta Key and its beaches.”
To make all that possible, she added, Benderson “would need to divest itself” of the property. “I imagine Benderson has a cadre of accountants and lawyers who could figure out how to implement this,” she said. “They could donate the property to the county; they could sett it to the county.”
Bazzini told the board that she had been talking with Mathes about her ideas and hoped, at some point, to have the opportunity to speak with Randy Benderson, CEO of Benderson Development. Then, she said, she could “remind him that being a successful businessman and an enlightened corporate citizen are not mutually exclusive.”
Her conversations with Mathes, she noted, “have been always respectful. We may disagree as to the merits of the proposal, but we have never been disagreeable.”
A Siesta Promenade factor to consider
During the Jan. 25 County Commission meeting, Margaret Jean Cannon was among numerous Siesta residents who voiced concerns about traffic relative to the proposed Siesta Promenade project at the intersection of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road.
One big issue that seems to have been overlooked in the traffic studies the county is requiring of Benderson Development, she said, is that congestion at the south access to the Key affects the north access.
“As soon as the south end begins to back up,” Cannon told the board, people head north, to Siesta Drive.
The City of Sarasota’s utility project on Siesta Drive just east of the north Siesta bridge in mid-January produced such long lines of waiting vehicles, she continued, that drivers started eschewing the north route to the island in favor of Stickney Point Road. That was an excellent example of what happens, she explained.
Therefore, she said, the traffic studies for Siesta Promenade need to include analysis of the potential for congestion on Midnight Pass Road and Higel Avenue, as well as on the part of U.S. 41 in the vicinity of Siesta Drive.
No commissioner addressed those comments in the discussion of the scope of work, and staff did not include those road segments on its list of areas Benderson’s consultant will have to analyze.