As the city seeks a private operator for the Lido pool and pavilion, those living near the beach continue to speak out against significant changes to the property.
Residents of Lido Key turned what was planned as an informal information-gathering workshop into a heated public discussion Tuesday, continuing their pushback against a proposal to redevelop the Lido pool and pavilion.
City officials were seeking feedback on a privately submitted plan to improve the public property. Lido Beach Redevelopment Partners LLC, responding to the city’s invitation to negotiate, has proposed a series of new amenities for the pool and pavilion area, including a 305-seat restaurant, splash pad, playground, tiki bar and mini golf course.
The city asked attendees of Tuesday’s meeting to respond to a paper survey as a method to get residents’ input. Following unrest among the audience, staff agreed to field questions — giving residents an opening to voice their opposition to the project.
As was the case when the Lido Key Residents Association first discussed the proposal in November, the overwhelming response was negative. The project didn’t fit the character of the beach, people said. It would cause traffic and parking issues, they feared, drawing comparisons between the plans for the pavilion and Disneyland.
Troy Syprett, the co-owner of Daiquiri Deck who spearheaded the redevelopment plans, attempted to assuage concerns raised at the meeting. The proposal is for a family-friendly complex, he said. He wants to serve the needs of people already at the beach, to add new amenities to a run-down property that the city originally planned on closing for half the year.
“What we’re trying to do is not a carnival,” Syprett said Tuesday.
Multiple audience members signaled a divide, shouting back, “Yes, it is!”
In 2011, members of the Lido Key Residents Association formed a committee to discuss the future of the pool and pavilion. Pushing back against the city’s plans to make the property a seasonal attraction, the group developed a list of desired changes.
Syprett took those suggestions into account when developing his proposal for the land. There’s one key phrase on the residents’ wish list that caused much of the discord at Tuesday’s meeting: “enhanced food services.”
For all of the commotion about the mini-golf course or water park area, Syprett says that he’s willing to remove certain unpopular elements. The only truly foundational part is the restaurant — that’s the revenue center that makes Lido Beach Redevelopment Partners interested in taking on a series of capital improvements to the city facility.
“What the city is looking for is an investment into this property,” Syprett said. “That investment needs to be balanced by a return that can be made on the investment we’re making.”
Members of the pool committee said the new proposal is out of scale with what they envisioned. Today, most just want to see improvements to the existing concession operations. John Lambert, a member of the pool committee, criticized the city for not being responsive to the desires of residents. He’s one of many who are steadfastly opposed to the plans under consideration.
“Their plan hinges on the restaurant,” Lambert said. “As far as we’re concerned, the hinge broke.”
Lambert was one of several residents who said the city should be responsible for investing in its property on Lido Beach. The city operates the pool and pavilion at a loss, but many attendees didn’t see that as justification for privatizing the operations.
“Why do services have to be profitable?” Lido resident Vicky Scott said. “It’s paid for by taxpayers already.”
During the next two years, the city has $1.25 million in tourist tax funds allocated to improve the pavilion. Right now, that money is slated to go toward bathroom improvements, but residents suggested it could fund broader capital upgrades. Todd Kucharski, the city’s public works general manager, said that money could be reallocated for other uses if the project comes in under budget.
Despite two negative sessions with the Lido Key Residents Association, Syprett isn’t giving up on his plans. Outside of those meetings, he says he’s gotten mostly positive feedback. Both he and staff said the beach is an amenity for all residents, not just those on Lido Key.
A Sarasota native, Syprett said he’s motivated by a desire to make Lido more enjoyable to visit.
“It’s not just a money thing for me; we want to create something that is a community asset,” he said. “I think when people hear about what we want to do, if they’re open-minded to the process of what we’re talking about, they tend to be much more positive.”
On Tuesday, that appeal held little sway. Most residents said they had no issue with Syprett, but that their concern lied with the fundamental character of the nearby public beach.
“This isn’t anti-progress,” resident Ken Ayotte said. “It’s pro-Lido. We really like the beach — we like the quiet, residential nature.”