For the second time in a week, the County Commission approved an application associated with a planned hotel on Siesta Key over vocal opposition from residents.
The commission voted 4-1 Tuesday in favor of a special exception allowing a hotel and increasing the maximum buildable height at 1260 Old Stickney Point Road to 83 feet. The application is necessary to advance plans for a seven-story, 120-room hotel on the 1.17 acre site near the south bridge to Siesta.
In addition to the hotel, developer Gary Kompothecras intends to build a five-story parking garage at 1237 Stickney Point Road with 203 spaces, about half of which would be paid parking available for public use.
Representatives for the developer argued the proposal was appropriate in size and character for its surroundings, which includes a mixture of multifamily residential and commercial properties. Bo Medred, a planning consultant, said the height did not stand out in comparison with existing structures in the south bridge area, highlighting 15 buildings that range from 47 to 73 feet and two that are 97 and 113 feet. Medred also said the hotel would generate less traffic than projects that could be built by right on the property under the commercial general zoning, such as a supermarket or a combination of a convenience store and a high-turnover sit-down restaurant.
As they did at an Oct. 27 public hearing on a hotel planned for Siesta Key Village, Siesta residents spent hours at Tuesday’s hearing arguing the project was inappropriate for the island and in violation of county regulations governing development. Additionally, residents in close proximity to the project site expressed concern about the effects of traffic on Old Stickney Point Road and other neighborhood streets.
“It is dangerous to pedestrians,” said Julie Wright Halbert, resident of the Marina del Sol condominium. “The safety is an issue, and it’s of concern on many levels.”
Commissioner Nancy Detert voted against the special exception. Although she said she felt Siesta Key could benefit from more hotel rooms, she reiterated her discomfort with modifying county regulations based on a developer proposal, rather than a staff-led initiative. She suggested the county should pause its review of the Stickney Point application and work with stakeholders to put together guidelines for hotel development on Siesta.
Without more county involvement in the process of allowing hotels on the island, Detert expressed concern the commission would approve projects that detract from the quality of Siesta Key, negatively affecting an important regional economic hub.
“I worry we’re going to be in danger of killing the golden goose,” Detert said.
The rest of the commission did not share Detert’s trepidation. Commissioner Mike Moran said he believed a large portion of county residents supported such a project on Siesta Key and would be surprised to learn the tourist destination doesn’t already have a luxury hotel. Commissioner Christian Ziegler, who voted against the Siesta Village hotel proposal in October, said he was more comfortable with the south bridge area as a location for a hotel.
“I think it’s a lot less intense than what could go there,” Ziegler said.