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Siesta Key Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019 8 months ago

Opponents seek court action to halt Siesta Key Promenade

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Siesta resident, project critic say mistakes were made in approving project at Stickney Point Road and U.S. 41.
by: Samantha Chaney Staff Writer

'This train is leaving the station.”

With those words, Siesta Key resident Jim Wallace told members of the Siesta Key Association he was proceeding with a plan to seek a judicial halt to development of Siesta Promenade, a mixed-use project at the northwest intersection of Stickney Point Road and U.S. 41. 

The developer intends to build 414 residential units in addition to a 130-room hotel, 133,000 square feet of retail space and 7,000 square feet of office space.

Wallace cited what he called “10 gross structural and procedural errors” in the approval process. Working with him is Pine Shores resident and Promenade opponent Sura Kochman.

The Sarasota County Commission in December approved plans for the development, over the objections of dozens of residents, including Wallace and Kochman.

“I ended up getting serious about this at the last minute,’’ Wallace said. “And, like a lot of people, I did end up testifying. How could it be that the board would sit there and hear so many excellent legal and traffic analysis arguments against a ‘yes’ vote, and then just vote to approve it?”

Wallace joined with attorney Morgan Bentley, who provided his expertise pro bono, to put together a legal team.

“The brief is basically to say why this shouldn’t go forward,” Vice President Catherine Luckner of the Siesta Key Association said. “You have to have certain specific things in it that make it significant and relevant to production to say, ‘Hey, yeah, we better take a look at this.’ So, that’s what we’ve got.”

The 23-page brief, which names Sarasota County as the defendant and seeks to quash the commission’s approval, was filed Jan. 11 under Kochman’s name as an affected resident of the development. By the time it was filed, it alleged 11 points of contention:

  • Failed to meet concurrency requirements.
  • Failed to follow the order of approval required by Ordinance 2016-062; specifically, the commission should have approved a boundary and scope of work, then reviewed a proposed plan for that area, have public input and workshops, then receive and approve a plan, which did not occur.
  • Failed to prevent traffic from the commercial project from discharging into surrounding residential neighborhoods.
  • Failed to approve special exceptions for density over nine units per acre.
  • Failed to approve a special exception for building height over 35 feet.
  • Failed to approve a special exception for stand-alone multifamily dwelling units.
  • Failed to require an adequate  traffic study as required by code.
  • Failed to require completion of the scope of work approved by the commission in January 2017, including but not limited to the lack of required open space, required multimodal transportation and pedestrian access.
  • Failed to consider the health safety and welfare impact of installing an additional traffic light on Stickney Point Road west of U.S. 41 and the Stickney Point Road Bridge.
  • Failure to consider area impacts of restricting access to Siesta Key.
  • Lack of any competent substantial evidence that the project was compatible with the surrounding neighborhood.

“For any of these reasons,” the appeal reads, “the approvals should be reversed or remanded and returned to the commission for further action.”

A county spokesman said the county does not comment on ongoing litigation.

At the meeting where Wallace revealed his intent for the appeal, he and attendees commiserated over the Promenade approval, arguing that they didn’t want the project site to be treated like “any other corner on U.S. 41.”

Wallace said the development of the Promenade could degrade the value of beaches and land in the area, thus impacting residents from all over the county — not just Siesta Key residents.

“People on Siesta Key care about this, the neighborhood cares about this,” Wallace said. “And the greater Sarasota area better damn well care about this.”

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