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Sarasota Thursday, Jun. 25, 2009 8 years ago

City accused of hypocrisy

by: Robin Roy City Editor

As the city of Sarasota prepares its plans for a parking garage on Palm Avenue, some developers and Realtors are complaining that the city is giving itself some allowances that it will not give anyone else.

Earlier this year, the city rejected several private-company proposals to build a parking garage and chose to develop it on its own. City planners will go before the Planning Board July 8 to ask for several adjustments to city zoning code — adjustments some say it will not give to other developments.

Commercial real-estate broker John Harshman said the city is discovering that some of its code is not practical.

“It’s not until you do some real case study that you find out,” Harshman said. “The city’s (code) requirements are not economically practical.”

Code requires that the building on Palm Avenue have retail or residences on the first four stories at a minimum depth of 20 feet; provide access to the garage from an alley or secondary street when possible; have no more than two lanes of traffic entering the garage; and create a 12-foot recess on the building above the second, third or fourth floors.

But the city’s garage proposal doesn’t comply with any of those requirements. Harshman said private developers requesting similar adjustments anticipated trouble receiving approval.

“The city may now understand these issues,” Harshman said.

City planner Steve Stancel, who is overseeing the garage project, says much of the code is open for interpretation, such as providing access from an alley or secondary street “when possible,” so the city is merely being conservative in asking for adjustments.

“This is a public facility,” Stancel said. “When it comes to public facilities, there is greater latitude.”

Stancel said the city wanted to get approval from the Planning Board before it asked builders to send design proposals, so that designs weren’t created and then changed if a problem arose.

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