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Lido Key pool and pavilion
Sarasota Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017 1 year ago

Resident opposition mounts to Lido pavilion plans

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Critics say a proposal to renovate the Lido pool and pavilion is a bad deal for the city.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

Commissioner Willie Shaw’s absence at a Nov. 6 City Commission meeting delayed the board’s planned consideration of a lease agreement with a private operator at the Lido Beach pool and pavilion, giving Lido residents two more weeks to review the contract.

Even with the extra time, they haven’t found much to like.

“Absolutely no one is happy with the lease agreement out on Lido Key,” said Carl Shoffstall, president of the Lido Key Residents Association.

On Monday, the commission is once again scheduled to consider the lease agreement. A private operator, Lido Beach Redevelopment Partners LLC, would assume control of the property for at least 10 years, and up to 30.

The group, led by Daiquiri Deck co-owner Troy Syprett, plans to operate a 200-seat restaurant in the existing concession area. The lease agreement mandates a series of improvements to the 2.4-acre property, including remodeling the existing buildings, upgrading the restrooms and adding green space and a playground.

Ahead of Monday’s meeting, there are two emerging arguments against the agreement. One is well-established: Since the proposal was made public in 2015, some residents have opposed the idea of leasing the property to a private operator. Those residents have argued the plans would change the character of the beach.

The second is new, a response to the lease agreement made public Nov. 1. David Riedlinger, a Lido Key resident who has long opposed the pavilion proposal, is one of many who argue the proposed contract is a flawed document that does not represent the city’s best interests.

“If you want to sign a lease — if you’re going to force this tenant on us — at least make sure you get us a good deal,” Riedlinger said.

Deal breakdown

Under the proposed agreement, the private operator’s first three years of rent are $80,000, $90,000 and $100,000 — or, in the third year, 3.5% of gross sales, if that figure is higher. After that, rent increases are tied to the Consumer Price Index, with minimum increases of 2% and maximum increases of 4% annually.

Riedlinger argued the rental rate falls far short of the actual value of the property. The city’s existing lease at the pool and pavilion brought in $146,053 in fiscal year 2017.

“Why would we want to settle for a lease that’s $80,000?” Riedlinger said. “What’s the rush?”

The city has argued the proposed agreement would confer additional benefits beyond the rent. City Manager Tom Barwin said estimates pegged the cost of implementing a resident-endorsed 2012 master plan for the pool and pavilion at $3.2 million. Because the city didn’t have funds available for those improvements, it looked to a private operator capable of renovating the property as part of a lease deal.

Lido Beach Redevelopment Partners estimates it’ll invest $3.8 million into pavilion improvements, the city said. The cost of the improvements is not explicitly written into the lease agreement.

The city has earmarked $1.25 million toward improving the pavilion and spends $144,000 annually operating the property. Leasing out the entire pool and pavilion would free up that money to be spent on other priorities, staff has said.

Patrick Berman, a Tampa-based managing director with real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield, wrote a letter to the city Nov. 13 endorsing the terms of the lease. Berman describes the rent as reasonable and cites the city’s lack of financial obligations as a strength.

“I’d want to get the best tenant I could, the most rent I possibly could.” — David Riedlinger

Attorney John Patterson takes issue with that line of reasoning. Patterson is representing Ocean Properties Ltd., the owner of three Lido Key resort properties — including the Lido Beach Resort, which neighbors the pool and pavilion.

At the Nov. 6 commission meeting, Patterson distributed a list of issues with the lease agreement. It challenges the proposal on several fronts. There are no specific dollar figures associated with the improvements the operator is obligated to make. There is insufficient clarity in the language throughout the agreement, Patterson argues.

He also questioned the timing. The city gave interested parties three months in 2014 to submit proposals. Patterson said the city should have conducted a more exhaustive search for an operator, and that a more favorable agreement could be reached in today’s economic climate.

So how, exactly, does Patterson think the city should handle the proposed lease agreement?

“I think the commissioners need to open their eyes,” he said. “Just kill this, and start again.”

Shoffstall and Riedlinger offered similar assessments.

“I know time has already ticked by, but I’d want to get the best tenant I could, the most rent I possibly could,” Riedlinger said. “Why wouldn’t you want to do those things before you sign a 30-year lease?”

Does it fit?

All three men also said the restaurant is not a good fit for the Lido pavilion. To date, however, city officials haven’t been sympathetic to the argument that the proposal will fundamentally change the character of the beach.

In January, the commission voted 4-1 to continue negotiations with Lido Beach Redevelopment Partners. Despite objections from Lido residents, the commission signaled it was willing to lease the property to a private operator as long as public access was maintained.

“This is going to remain public,” Commissioner Liz Alpert said. “We’re going to make sure this remains public.”

City staff has stressed that the pool and pavilion aren’t becoming privatized. The city will continue to own the property, and staff attempted to codify some elements ensuring public access into the lease agreement. The proposal needs approval from a supermajority of the commission to take effect, which means it needs four votes to pass.

Syprett, who did not respond to a request for comment, has previously said his group does not intend to radically change the pavilion as it is today. Both Syprett and city officials contend the plans largely adhere to the 2012 resident-endorsed master plan. The most significant distinction is that the 2012 plan did not call for a restaurant.

“We want this to be integrated with the feel and nature of Lido Key.” — Troy Syprett

“We’re looking at creating a family-friendly facility,” Syprett said in August 2016. “We want this to be integrated with the feel and nature of Lido Key.”

Patterson, Shoffstall and Riedlinger expressed hope the city might still consider making improvements to the pool and pavilion on its own. That could, perhaps, enable the city to lease the property to a private vendor under more favorable terms, they said.

Patterson encouraged the city to look to the county as a model, highlighting the $21 million Siesta Beach improvement project in 2016 that included a renovated pavilion. He’s heard the argument the city is too financially strained to invest significant funds into the beach property right now.

Ahead of Monday’s commission meeting, he and others remain unconvinced.

“This isn’t some rinky-dink park someplace that is a minor part of the city,” Paterson said. “You’ve got a dynamic, growing city, and you have this park which is the jewel of the city, right on a public beach — and you can’t find $3 million to fix this thing up?”

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