Residents are upset the commission didn't listen to what they had to say, but should get a break before any hotel plans are drawn up.
That’s the word Siesta Key residents keep using to describe their feelings after the County Commission voted 3-2 last week in favor of amending the Siesta Key Overlay District to allow the possibility of narrower street setbacks for commercial buildings around the Stickney Point Bridge.
Disappointed over the outcome and, residents say, that commissioners didn’t listen to their concerns.
“The thing that was really disappointing was that there was a massive amount of evidence presented to those people that the voters and the taxpayers of Siesta Key did not want this. And yet those three commissioners that voted yes,” said Siesta Key Condo Council President Frank Jurenka. “Clearly, the taxpayers were not at the top of their priority list.”
The commission heard from more than 30 speakers on April 11, most of whom were residents voicing opposition, and then approved the amendment with commissioners Nancy Detert and Charles Hines dissenting.
The new regulations allow commercial buildings more than 35 feet tall to be set closer to the street than the 25 feet otherwise required in the south bridge area, if they meet specific criteria. Each proposal would be considered individually, as a special exception.
In particular, residents were disappointed with Commissioner Al Maio, who was one of the three commissioners to vote in favor of the amendment.
“I think we were also especially upset … with Commissioner Al Maio, who was the deciding vote and whose district is Siesta Key. The residents thought we could trust him to protect the Key from overdevelopment,” said Marina Del Sol resident Marc Julius.
Maio said at the April 11 meeting that he met with numerous residents and organizations, and responded to emails and phone calls about the subject.
“I don’t see the votes here today to move this forward,” he said at one point during the meeting, but the amendment was later approved with Maio’s vote.
Maio has said repeatedly he wouldn’t support a high-rise hotel on Siesta Key right by the sidewalk.
“I have no intention of voting for a 60-, 70-, 80-foot, whatever folks think this building is going to be, 2 foot from the sidewalk,” he said, referencing 1-800-ASK-GARY founder Gary Kompothecras’ intentions to build a hotel on Siesta Key.
Although the idea of a hotel with no formal plans so far has been unnerving to residents, business owners on the Key were in favor of the change and an eventual hotel for Old Stickney Point Road.
“We heard loudly and clearly from the County Commission, particularly from Commissioner Maio, that before anything can even be proposed, there must first be a meaningful conversation,” Kompothecras’ attorney Charlie Bailey said. “Anything that occurs on Old Stickney Point Road is necessarily going to include a lot of input from all of the neighbors and stakeholders.”
“Anything that occurs on Old Stickney Point Road is necessarily going to include a lot of input from all of the neighbors and stakeholders.”
Bailey said before he and his client could prepare a special exception application, there would be conversations with residents and research into what would be best to help redevelop the area.
“The filing of a special exception petition is not imminent,” he said.
But residents are worried a large hotel could be approved by the same commission that passed the amendment.
“We know where the commission stands on this. The real swing vote is Commissioner Maio, and do we trust him to protect the Key?” Julius said. “After his vote, we don’t.”
Siesta Key Association President Gene Kusekoski said SKA will be keeping an eye on plans that come forward.
“The [commission] decided they were right and we were wrong, so we have to bow to their elected official wisdom,” he said. “We’re disappointed, and we’ll certainly be watching whatever specific plans that come forward.”