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Siesta Promenade
Siesta Key Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018 1 week ago

Siesta Promenade plans set for review

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Ahead of a Planning Commission public hearing, the developer and residents continue to stake out opposing positions on the proposal.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

More than four years after Benderson Development first presented plans for a mixed-use project at Stickney Point Road and U.S. 41, the project is finally set to go before a county board for public review.

The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing Nov. 15 regarding the proposed Siesta Promenade development. Benderson hopes to build 414 residences, a 130-room hotel and up to 140,000 square feet of commercial space on a 23.4-acre parcel.

It’s been a long time since the project first emerged. Still, residents are lobbying to delay the hearing, arguing the proposal has failed to comply with procedural regulations for county developments.

On Wednesday, Pine Shores resident Sura Kochman announced attorney Morgan Bentley had sent a letter on behalf of project opponents formally requesting the county postpone the Planning Commission agenda item. In the Nov. 6 letter, Bentley said Benderson must obtain special exceptions from the county to construct buildings that are taller than 35 feet or stand-alone residential buildings.

Benderson has filed a Critical Area Plan for the project, a development tool designed to manage large pieces of land in accordance with the guidelines in the county’s comprehensive plans. Bentley referenced a section of the CAP regulations that states those projects may have taller buildings and smaller setbacks than the county would typically allow, but the attorney contends a special exception application is still necessary.

As a result, Bentley suggests the county delay the hearing until Benderson files those applications.

“Because this is an issue that can be avoided before we get to the appeal stage of the matter, I suggest we continue the currently scheduled hearings and ask the applicant to simply submit the height and stand-alone residential as a special exception in the normal course,” Bentley wrote.

Todd Mathes, Benderson’s director of development, did not return multiple calls for comment.

In addition to requesting the delay, residents near the proposed project site are taking other steps to show their opposition. Beyond neighbors’ ongoing complaints about the scope of the project, Kochman is taking issue with county staff’s transportation analysis. A county report notes the project will generate a net increase of 8,379 daily trips after factoring in the uses that were previously on the project site.

Although staff reports the level of service on nearby roadways will remain acceptable if the project is built, Kochman said some of the recommended traffic improvements aren’t actually feasible at the U.S. 41 and Stickney Point intersection.

Kochman highlighted an online petition against the project, which had 1,164 signatures as of Nov. 7. Opponents plan to conduct a demonstration against Siesta Promenade at 4 p.m. Nov. 11 at the project site.

“Everybody is extremely motivated and very passionate,” Kochman said.

Benderson, meanwhile, continues to engage with the public in an effort to win support for the project. On Oct. 22, the developer announced an online survey regarding a potential organic grocer as an anchor tenant for Siesta Promenade. The website asks visitors to select between Whole Foods, Sprouts Farmers Market, Earth Fare, Lucky’s Market or another unlisted business as their favored grocer for the site.

In a release, Mathes repeated previous arguments that Siesta Promenade would be less intense and more appropriate than a project developed under the existing zoning regulations.

Although Kochman said the surrounding communities remain staunchly opposed to the proposal, Mathes said Benderson would continue to engage with its neighbors as it attempted to move the project forward.

“We fully intend to keep this dialogue going as we prepare to market the property and find quality retail tenants to serve the future apartment residents at Siesta Promenade as well as the surrounding neighborhood,” Mathes said in the release.

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