The owner of the Siesta Key Palms is asking the county to restore an inactive zoning district to preserve the history of his resort hotel.
The Siesta Key Palms Resort is getting a makeover — if the owner of the property can get the county to bring back a zoning district that hasn’t been used in more than a decade.
Henry Rodriguez wants his resort just off the south bridge to Siesta Key to bring that “Old Florida atmosphere” to the area. Rather than a sleek high-rise, Rodriguez wants to retain the hotel’s mid-20th century motel style to preserve the past.
“Jurisdictions such as Key West, Anna Maria and St. Petersburg have come up with redevelopment regulations to encourage the development of existing historical hotels,” he said. “And Sarasota doesn’t have that. What we’re trying to do here is encourage the redevelopment of historical older hotels, which are becoming more appealing to the general public.”
To meet what he calls a growing demand for hotels like his, Rodriguez wants to add a 30-space parking lot and a three-story building to his existing property at 1800 Stickney Point Road. In the future, he plans to eliminate a small building and a pool on the property and convert two existing buildings into hotel units. The renovation would bring the total number of units on the property from 14 to 30.
The property carries a residential multifamily zoning designation, which allows 18 units per acre and is designed for permanent residences, rather than tourist units. This zoning allows buildings up to 85 feet, or eight stories. To resolve this issue, Rodriguez is seeking approval to rezone the property and add a zoning amendment to bring back an inactive district.
That district is the Tourist Resort Redevelopment District. It’s “intended to provide for tourist and other transient accommodations and facilities,” according to the county zoning code.
“We’re not just looking to scrape something to then turn around and put a 20-story building on there. We’re trying to kind of integrate without having to decimate it.
A county spokesperson said no staff members had historical knowledge to explain why the county made the district inactive in 2003.
For the most part, the surrounding community supports the development.
At an Oct. 12 workshop, residents in the area raised concerns over potential increases in traffic. Rodriguez said his proposed changes include moving the entrance to the property further down Avenue B and away from Stickney Point Road, designed to alleviate traffic back-ups entering adjacent neighborhoods.
Rodriguez plans to close off other entrances on Avenue B and Dawn Street. That would limit the traffic on the residential streets in the area, he said.
Residents were also worried about the new three-story building. Rodriguez said that with the zoning in place, he could build an eight-story building. Under his plan, he said the maximum building height would be 35 feet.
“I think they addressed everyone’s concerns about the property itself and the traffic,” said Margo Linn, a resident on Dawn Street. “I think they’ll do a good job.
“I think it’s the history and the integrity of what was there, as opposed to the cold eight-story hotels that don’t have any personality,” she said, explaining why she supports the plan.
Rodriguez said the feedback he’s received on the plans has been positive.
“People appreciate the fact that we’re trying to preserve a part of Sarasota’s past,” Rodriguez said. “We’re not just looking to scrape something to then turn around and put a 20-story building on there. We’re trying to kind of integrate without having to decimate it. This is more of a redevelopment. It’s not a new development.”
Rodriguez hopes that, if all goes well with the Planning Commission and the Sarasota County Commission, he can break ground on the project within a year. And, if the county adopts the new zoning district, he hopes other hotel owners will embrace Florida’s past, too.
“People need to know there are other alternatives other than these interior Holiday Inns,” he said.
Deputy Managing Editor David Conway contributed to this report.