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Opinion
Longboat Key Wednesday, Sep. 19, 2018 3 years ago

Commission beware

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You have a signed Lido Pavilion lease
by: Matt Walsh Editor & CEO

To be sure, the Sarasota Planning Board’s 4-1 vote last week to recommend rejection of the redevelopment plans for the Lido Beach Pavilion came as no surprise. 

What occurred at the planning board meeting is like watching the reruns of “Seinfeld.” We’ve seen the same episodes dozens of times. You know the drill:

Opponents to a project pack the hearing the room with the intention of creating the impression the entire city population opposes a project. The script then calls for each of the opponents present to take his or her three minutes to “dis” the project.

This goes on for hours, after which the developers get their three to five minutes to rebut four hours of bashing. 

In the end, you can see the officials sitting in judgment feeling the pressure and concluding: If these 45 people feel this way, everyone must feel this way. They vote no.

Emotions, not the rule of law, prevail.

Sure, developers often prevail as well. But that’s when those in judgment realize the rule of law supersedes emotion.

In this instance — the proposed redevelopment of the Lido Beach Pavilion — it’s worth reminding Sarasota’s city commissioners to examine what has transpired over the past five years before they feel inclined to succumb to those who don’t like what Lido Beach Redevelopment Partners LLC has proposed. Sarasota commissioners are expected to cast the final say on the project sometime between now and Dec. 11. 

Go back six years. At the time, many Lido Key neighbors of the beach pavilion and members of the Lido Key Residents Association expressed great displeasure at the deteriorating state of the Lido Beach Pavilion and pool. It was — and is — stuck in time, the 1950s. Old, declining, nasty. They wanted the place updated.

City officials said: Tell us what you want.

A city consultant and an ad hoc residents committee talked to their Lido Key neighbors in 2012 and came back to the city with what it envisioned: remodeled pavilion, up to 21st century standards; updated pool; Tiki bar; and a splash pad.

The city said: That would take $2.9 million, which the city doesn’t have.

So the city administration and City Commission decided to try to persuade private enterprise to take on the project. The city could lease the property to a group that would make the necessary investment to upgrade everything, operate it and make a profit. Voila! Everyone wins.

In 2014, the city and the president and members of the Lido Key Residents Association crafted an “ITN” — an invitation to negotiate to redevelop the pavilion, specifying everything the ad hoc committee recommended.

In early 2015, an evaluation committee consisting of city staff and the president of the Lido Key Residents Association chose the proposal from Lido Beach Redevelopment Partners LLC, a company consisting of two Sarasota-grown entrepreneurs, Gavin Meshad and Troy Syprett, owners of the four Daiquiri Deck Raw Bar restaurants. Meshad and Syprett’s proposal included everything the city asked for and a little more. They added a miniature golf course.

Two public hearings followed. The Lido Beach Partners responded to residents’ concerns, eliminating the golf course, creating open space, eliminating an elevated lifeguard stand and reducing restaurant seating from 300 to 200. (Note: This is in the record, despite what Cathy Antunes says in her My View column on page 9.)

In a January 2017 letter to the City Commission, City Manager Tom Bawin stated: “It is very important to note that the proposal from Lido Beach Redevelopment Partners LLC mirrors the proposal from the Lido Key Residents Association Ad-Hoc Lido Pool Committee with few differences (seating capacity and the lifeguard relocation/pump house). Further, the proposal is to create a family friendly facility/environment and not an environment that leads to negative behaviors and/or to create problems for the residents of Lido Key. This will be assured through the agreement (if directed and approved) between the City and Lido Beach Redevelopment Partners, LLC.”

On Nov. 6, 2017, with city staff and city attorney support, the City Commission approved a lease with the Lido Beach Partners to execute everything that all parties had agreed to in the previous public meetings and negotiations — to create what the Lido Beach Residents Association helped craft.

The lease is signed. It’s a deal.

All of the above is crucial for city commissioners to remember. What’s more, they surely will have in the back of their minds the lawsuit the city lost because of the city reneging on a contract with another developer. 

While Ms. Antunes and others are stoking emotions to stop the renovation and redevelopment of the Lido Beach Pavilion, the public record shows Lido Beach Redevelopment Partners proposed and signed a contract to create what the neighbors wanted.

We spoke with Gavin Meshad this week. He made the point that every smart entrepreneur knows: “Why would we do something to offend our neighbors? We want them to be our customers.”

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