- September 20, 2018
Opponents of a proposal to redevelop the city-owned Lido Beach pool and pavilion packed the City Commission chambers today, prepared for a lengthy public hearing on the controversial project.
Less than 30 minutes later, the meeting was over. The development team behind the pavilion plans asked the city for an opportunity to discuss withdrawing the application and terminating a 10-year lease to manage the property.
The city agreed, voting 4-0 to delay the public hearing. Following the meeting, the future of the pavilion is uncertain. Representatives for Lido Beach Redevelopment Partners LLC said the group would also be willing to consider changes to the scope of the lease agreement and site plan.
City staff will negotiate with the development team and report back to the commission by Feb. 19.
Lido Beach Redevelopment Partners reached a lease agreement with the city in November 2017, forging a partnership to improve and operate the public beachfront facility. The plans included a 200-seat restaurant, a 33-seat Tiki bar, a splash pad, playgrounds, a new shade structure above the pavilion seating area and rental cabanas by the pool. The changes would not modify the footprint of the existing pavilion building.
The proposal generated outspoken public opposition. An online petition asking the city to reject the project has more than 5,400 signatures, and speakers offered hours of negative commentary at a September Planning Board meeting on the plans. At that meeting, the Planning Board voted 4-1 to recommend denying the site plan application.
The City Commission scheduled a special meeting for its public hearing on the site plan, anticipating lengthy public commentary. But at the outset of today’s meeting, City Attorney Robert Fournier announced he had received a request from the development team to postpone the hearing.
Bill Merrill, an attorney representing Lido Beach Redevelopment Partners, said the group still believed the project met the necessary standards for approval. But he said the controversy surrounding the plans — and the prospect of litigation if the city approved the application — led to the developer’s request.
Troy Syprett, Daiquiri Deck co-owner and a leader of the redevelopment group, offered a similar explanation following the meeting.
“Both my partner Gavin (Meshad) and I don’t feel like a project that has become this divisive would be good for a community,” Syprett said. “At this point, we’re looking at some different alternatives where we could change the project up or completely withdraw our application.”
Project opponents were happy about the prospect of the application being withdrawn, encouraging the city to proceed with improvements at the Lido pavilion without offering a private operator as much control over the property.
Carl Shoffstall, president of the Lido Key Residents Association, said he hoped the Lido Beach Redevelopment Partners plan would be scuttled in favor of more modest renovations.
“It’s not going to be overbearing,” Shoffstall said. “It’s the right thing to do.”
Cathy Antunes, an organizer of the Save Lido Pavilion campaign, said project opponents would remain vigilant as the city negotiated a possible termination of the lease. She cautioned against offering the development team significant compensation for withdrawing the application, stating the group should have been aware it was taking on some risk.
Antunes also thought the city should take a more active role in the management of the Lido pavilion going forward.
“It is a primary asset,” Antunes said. “If the city isn’t up to taking care of it, we need to find city staff who are.”
Fournier said he believed the commission should be willing to consider reimbursing the applicant because, if the application isn’t withdrawn, he believes the city would likely face significant legal expenses following the public hearing on the site plan. Fournier said the scope of any financial compensation would be a leading subject during the discussions with Lido Beach Redevelopment Partners.
“Alternatively, if we were unable to reach an agreement we were willing to bring forward or thought you would approve, we’d just report we were unsuccessful in coming to an agreement and the hearing would rescheduled,” Fournier said to the commission.
At today’s meeting, a representative for an opponent to the plans offered a financial contribution if the development team withdrew its proposal. John Patterson, an attorney representing Lido Beach Resort owner Logan Acquisitions, said the firm was willing to give $175,000 toward a smaller-scope renovation of the Lido pavilion.
“We believe we can all work together with staff, the neighbors and the community to find a balanced solution that would be supported by the city of Sarasota,” Logan Acquisitions Vice President Mark Walsh said in a statement.
Although opponents of the plans were happy the proposal did not move forward today, they also pledged to follow closely as the city and Lido Beach Redevelopment Partners discussed the fate of the pavilion.
“It’s not over,” Antunes said.