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Opinion
Sarasota Monday, Aug. 16, 2021 2 months ago

Letters to the editor: Siesta Key hotel proposals

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Siesta Key leaders sound off on recent opinion piece.
by: Guest Writer

Letter writers respond to Adrian Moore's Aug. 12 column headlined, "Don't close the door on Siesta Key."

 

 A little more balance would be in order

 We share your concern over property rights. However, in all of your concern over property rights, you seem to have a strange method for prioritizing whose rights should prevail.

Your statement, "Owners should have full use of their property as the law or contract stood at the time they bought it," does not apply to the proposed hotel projects as none of the proposals under consideration could be completed without changes to codes.

If the Benderson Development group had worked within the existing zoning and ordinances, they likely would have not had the level of community opposition that they got to Siesta Promenade. And now they purchased additional land to obtain approval for further increasing their density. Similarly, the proposed hotels all require significant changes and exemptions by the county.

You mention that there are processes to approve proposals. And, that these processes include public input. You do not seem to understand that a growing number of property owners on Siesta Key have come to the conclusion that they cannot rely on these processes.

There is a belief that the County Commissioners and their staff provide far more time and resources helping developers circumvent zoning and ordinances than taking the time to analyze and confirm what the existing property owner base wants Siesta Key to look like.

SKCoalition and Saving Siesta Key, the group evaluating the incorporation of the Key, as well as groups such as Siesta Key Association and the Siesta Key Condo Council, have asked the County Commissioners to take time out and do a comprehensive study to quantify the desires of the community and at the same time develop a transportation model for Siesta Key and its access roads.  Only in this way can one develop a comprehensive approach to evaluate the vehicular and pedestrian traffic of these proposed hotels and other projects.

This is a recommendation for well-planned growth for Siesta Key that must also accommodate mainland Sarasota residents the reasonable access to the benefits on the Key.

The Key community is trying to be heard. You have discounted those concerns and grouped them all into statements like, "I got mine, now let's shut the door." A little more balance in your analysis would be in order.

Dr. James and Marcia Wallace

Siesta Key

 

Looking for representation

 I wish we lived in the “Let’s be generous, welcoming and consistent” la-la land referenced by the Adrian Moore. The reality is different. The property rights of the proposed hotel builders to which the author refers would come at the cost of taking away the property rights of residents and business owners.

I was mayor of Laurel Hollow, New York,  a bucolic waterfront village on Long Island.  I, along with many residents of Siesta Key are proponents of responsible development which protect the property rights of the residents and maintain the character and environment of this “amazing place.”

The developers of the proposed hotels knew very well what the zoning allowed when they bought these properties. Nobody is denying them the right to build under the current zoning and density. Unfortunately, they want to throw away all the zoning and density regulations and forever change this island for their economic gains.

I am one of the board members of Save Siesta Key. I got involved in the effort to incorporate Siesta Key because I have seen Siesta Key not get the resources it needs. The intent  is not to create a nanny state but to provide a voice and the right to self-determination. Siesta Key is the heart of the entire region and an economic engine for the entire county.

Siesta Key is split between two county commissioners, neither of whom live on Siesta Key or understand its needs. How is this government of the people, by the people, for the people?

 Siesta Key has become a much smaller part of a growing county, yet it remains the crown jewel of the region. The county has not invested anywhere near the resources that it draws from tourism generated by Siesta Key.

Harry Anand

Siesta Key

 

Residents not trying to 'close the door'

No one in our organization is anti-development.  All of us feel that smart redevelopment is important. I am a 35-year career commercial developer and have never opposed development until now.

We are not trying to stop tourism, vacationers, or new residents. We are not against the idea of true boutique hotels, if the proposed size, scale and impact is compatible with our barrier island.

In fact, independent boutique hotels are the most profitable and fastest-growing segment of the hospitality industry. Yet, neither of these proposed hotels resemble the size, height or programming trends of boutiques. These developers are simply trying to maximize every inch of height and scale while minimizing setbacks.

We don’t propose to “deny developers their [zoning] rights." Commercial General land on Siesta Key does not, “by-right,” allow transient accommodations except by special exception. Similarly, their zoning only allows a height of 35 feet above the FEMA flood elevation (four stories). The two hotels are requesting to go 80 and 83 feet above the FEMA elevation.

These are also adjacent to existing residential communities. The existing code standards required to grant Special Exceptions have multiple compatibility requirements which these hotels do not satisfy. The applicant proposing on Aug. 19 is requesting 6.5 times the allowed density and over twice the allowed height.

These high-rises were part of the reason prior county leaders established protective regulations to avoid density and intensity. The goal was to preserve what makes Siesta Key attractive and set apart from commercialized areas like Clearwater Beach.

This is not about a bunch of “not in my back yard” residents trying to “close the door.” Many of our supporters reside on mainland Sarasota. They are concerned that high-density hotels will exacerbate access congestion to the barrier island and public beach overcrowding.

We welcome these commercial landowners to develop what they are allowed to do within existing zoning. However, they are requesting major precedent-setting changes beyond their existing rights, and in fact, attempting to circumvent the county-wide Comprehensive Plan without any community input.

Mark T. Spiegel

President Siesta Key Coalition, Inc.

 

Thoughtful collaboration created Siesta Key

The Opinion/Our View of Aug. 12 was challenging to read. At the heart of it, statements suggesting Siesta Key is ‘closing doors’ to anyone is counter to experience.

We’re working to prevent doors closing for thousands who live, work and visit here.

The writer may not be aware of thousands of people, who spend hearts, minds, and treasure to maintain the beauty and protections of this unique island. 

The proposed  hotels do not meet the standards set by county.

 By thoughtful collaboration and three years of work, residents, commercial and professional business, along with elected officials had full input on how to sculpt growth on Siesta Key. The Planning Commission and Board of County Commissioners approved an Overlay District for Siesta Key in 2002. It includes commercial zoning and residential zoning for future growth. It's unique to barrier islands.

If we violate and set aside the Codes, Ordinance, Comprehensive Plan language which has worked well, we all lose Siesta Key.

Doors are being closed for all who live and work here. The doors are being closed to Siesta Key by those working against the choice of protection for Siesta Key barrier island.

Catherine Luckner, President

The Siesta Key Association of Sarasota

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