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Opposition organizes against Siesta hotel plans

They don’t know where it’s going to be. They don’t know how big it’s going to be. But a group of Siesta Key residents is rallying against a potential hotel on the island.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. January 19, 2017
  • Siesta Key
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There are no specific public plans to build a hotel on Siesta Key, but residents of the Marina del Sol condominium on Old Stickney Point Road are convinced one is going to go in their backyard — and that it’s going to be big.

Ed Kroninger, one of those Marina del Sol residents, spoke up Jan. 12 at a Siesta Key Association meeting because he wants to stop the project. (Assuming there is a project.)

An effort to build a hotel on Siesta Key is shrouded in mystery. In November, 1-800-ASK-GARY founder Gary Kompothecras filed pre-application documents to change the county’s comprehensive plan to make it easier to build hotels on barrier islands. Those documents state Kompothecras intends to build a hotel on Siesta.

The change would only apply to three areas on the island: Siesta Key Village, the Wells Fargo property on Midnight Pass Road and 16 acres near Stickney Point Road.

Kompothecras owns a 15,000-square-foot property on Old Stickney Point Road less than 500 feet from Marina del Sol. Speculation on Siesta Key has also focused on the neighboring property at 1266 Old Stickney Point Road, which formerly housed the Fandango Night Club, as another possible hotel site.

Kroninger acknowledged most of the information about a potential hotel has come second-hand. Initially, the residents heard the project was supposed to be a smaller four-story boutique hotel. Now, they believe the property owner wants to build a 100-room hotel with a bar and restaurant.

“You hear all types of rumors,” Kroninger said.

The proposed comprehensive plan amendment is advancing through the county review process. After a public workshop in December — at which residents expressed concerns about the lack of details — the County Commission voted 3-1 Jan. 10 to direct staff to consider the proposal outside of the normal comprehensive plan amendment cycle, which usually begins in May.

There are still several hurdles to clear for the developer. And Charlie Bailey, the land use attorney representing Kompothecras, said the scope and scale of a project has not been finalized — and that the hotel wouldn’t be larger than five stories.

But the lack of concrete details is fueling fear on the island. The Marina del Sol residents said they have to stop the proposal now, before it’s too late. Kroninger isn’t sure how to kill the momentum of the hotel plans. He’s not sure if it’s even possible.

“Our real concern is they’re going to get this thing slid by without us having a lot of input,” he said. “We don’t know all the people they know. The Ask Garys of the world are wired into this stuff.”

Still, they’re preparing for a fight. They’re reaching out to the Siesta Key Association and other condos in an attempt to raise awareness. They’re in contact with Lourdes Ramirez, a resident activist who’s also organizing opposition to the comprehensive plan amendment.

Advocates of the proposed comprehensive plan change say looser regulations will encourage redevelopment of languishing properties.
Advocates of the proposed comprehensive plan change say looser regulations will encourage redevelopment of languishing properties.

Some island stakeholders, including Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce Chairman Mark Smith, have said it makes sense to make it easier to build a hotel in a popular tourist destination. Bob Wachter, a former SKA chairman who lives near Marina del Sol, said the proposal could encourage redevelopment. Bailey has said any project would have to be evaluated on its own even if the comprehensive plan change is approved.

But Ramirez is convinced the opposition will continue to mount.

“Why should we open the door so the onus of fighting density increases is on the citizens, when right now, the law protects us from any density increases?” she asked. 

“The idea of, ‘Let it pass, because then you can fight every request after that’ is insane.”


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