The proposal for the Lido Pavilion disregards parking needs and violates comprehensive plan standards.
By CATHY ANTUNES
Last week’s editorial, “Pavilion: Tragedy of the commons,” used the tired “anti-growth” moniker to dismiss and marginalize citizen dissent about a poorly vetted Lido Pavilion redevelopment proposal, and the lack of specifics in the article speaks volumes.
A careful look at the proposal reveals critical problems, making it dead-on-arrival with regard to neighborhood compatibility and compliance with legal standards in the city’s comprehensive plan.
The proposed redevelopment represents a far more intense and different use than currently exists at Lido Pavilion, although you have to conduct your own site visit to fully appreciate this.
The applicants and city staff claim there are 166 restaurant seats at the site, and their proposal will raise that number to 233. Beer and wine are served; the proposal adds liquor to the offerings.
Citizen review of the proposal blueprints and current site use tells a different story. The current snack bar concession has 96 seats, not 166. There are 50 seats around the pool, but food and drink is prohibited there. Picnic table seating capacity is 30, but those seats are for those who bring food.
The proposal shows the retail food and beverage service would grow to 200 restaurant seats and a 33-seat tiki bar in the middle of the facility, with a 700-square-foot bar deck, which would accommodate 67 or more standing bar patrons roughly 50 yards from the beach.
That brings us to 300 patrons.
The applicants’ July proffer indicates alcohol will be served on the pool deck. The proposed $100 per day cabanas seat 60; the splash pad shade and tiki structure would hold another 40; and the large open pool deck will easily add another 50 people. Add the ice cream shop, and you’re looking at quite a large restaurant service.
Where would all these customers and service employees park?
The public beach parking lot has 308 spaces and is routinely full on weekends, even off-season. The city plans to re-stripe that lot add another 30 spaces, and the proposal would carve out 24 parking spots on-site, bringing a 17% increase in parking to 362 spaces. With restaurant and food service activities increasing to as many as 450, that’s hardly adequate.
The Florida Department of Transportation’s barrier island traffic study reports Lido Key’s public parking deficit is 540 spaces. Beachgoers looking to skip the destination bar and restaurant may find themselves squeezed out as the venue puts additional demand on the public’s already inadequate parking.
The applicants’ business plan allocates $243,000 a year for marketing and promotion, invalidating any assurances this restaurant will just serve beachgoers and not worsen traffic. Closing time would change from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. A live-entertainment budget of $84,000 per year makes for a lively venue.
What’s more, testimony at the city Planning bBoard hearing cited numerous violations of the city’s comprehensive plan standards. For instance, Lido Pavilion has an open space-recreation-conservation land use designation, requiring food and beverage service to be a secondary, not primary use. A destination bar and restaurant is a prohibited primary use.
The comprehensive plan also requires neighborhood character, safety and quality of life be protected, as well as wildlife and the environment. All would be damaged by a beach bar and restaurant.
The proposed 33-seat bar is larger than any bar on Main Street or St. Armands Circle, and this watering hole’s 700-square-foot deck would provide standing room for another 67 or more.
Situated between the pool and restaurant, and 50 yards from the beach, walking by the bar would be necessary for many beachgoers looking to use Lido’s only public beach restrooms. Would you want your teenage daughter, in her swimsuit, to have to navigate her way through the bar area to use the bathroom? What’s to stop a 21-year-old from buying a beer, taking it to the beach and giving it to a minor?
Is this really a good idea?
More than 3,400 Lido residents and visitors have signed the petition opposing this proposal because it will fundamentally change the character of their beloved beach and neighborhood, adding noise, traffic, parking and safety issues.
The city has $1.25 million set aside for pavilion improvements, and there are better alternatives.
First things first: The City Commission must listen to its constituents and deny this proposal. Notwithstanding the editor’s stated desire to privatize all parks, I bet if he lived across the street, his name would be on that petition too.
Cathy Antunes, a Sarasota resident, is host of The Detail radio show on WSLR.