At the behest of bayfront residents, the city of Sarasota decided to revisit the traffic study for a major downtown hotel and condominium development nearly three months ago. Now, the city appears to be satisfied with its findings — even if residents are not.
Beginning last year, residents of condominiums such as the Tower Residences at the Ritz Carlton and One Watergate objected to a traffic study conducted by Kimley-Horn and Associates to determine the impact of Vue Sarasota Bay. The development, located at Gulfstream Avenue at U.S. 41, will include 144 condominium units and 250 hotel rooms.
The complaints from residents alleged that the study underestimated the peak-season traffic increases and didn’t outline how internal traffic would be managed. As a result, the city decided to revisit its work in January. After further review, the city indicated at a meeting today that any traffic solutions at nearby intersections wouldn’t include delaying the development of Vue Sarasota Bay.
Tim Litchet, director of Neighborhood and Development Services, is the person responsible for signing off on the study and granting the development its traffic concurrency certificate. He said a preliminary indication from the city attorney’s office was that the study met the city’s minimum legal standards, and that as soon as he got a confirmation in writing, he would sign off on the concurrency certificate.
Many residents objected to Litchet’s use of the word "minimum," arguing that the existing traffic problems at Gulfstream and U.S. 41, as well as other nearby intersections, demanded a higher standard. Litchet said he had no means to delay a development that met the criteria outlined in the city code.
“Maybe part of the long-term solution is looking at some of those standards,” Litchet said. “I have to apply the standards in the code.”
Even after additional study, Kimley-Horn determined Vue Sarasota Bay would not add enough traffic to demand traffic mitigation efforts from the developer beyond what is already required. The study indicated the additional traffic would not create roadway conditions that exceed 115% of the acceptable level-of-service standard established by the city, meeting the requirements outlined in the code.
City representatives at the meeting said the city was working on several short- and long-term efforts to improve the flow of traffic in that area. Those efforts include signal synchronization, expected to be in place in May, and proposed roundabouts at Fruitvile Road and Gulfstream, which are still years away from completion.
For more information about the updated Vue Sarasota Bay traffic study, pick up a copy of Thursday’s Sarasota Observer.
Contact David Conway at [email protected].