Following the failure of an apartment complex to overcome legal challenges by Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, a new development is envisioned for the former Sarasota Kennel Club site.
On Wednesday, the city’s Development Review Committee had its first meeting with the representative of a developer about a preliminary plan for a combination of a 671-space parking lot for airport parking and a commercial project on the 26-plus-acre site.
The parking use may be temporary, or it could become permanent. It all depends on how the site is eventually master planned, which could be years away.
The property has been largely vacant since 2019 as the dog track facility has fallen into disrepair. It ceased operations following a statewide referendum that banned greyhound racing beginning in 2020. The Jack G. Collins Revocable Trust had been seeking a developer to purchase the land since.
For now, the applicant, an unnamed development entity, is seeking to use the current parking lot on the west side of the property, which is divided from the east side by a drainage canal, for commercial off-site parking to serve customers of Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. That use would continue at least until the airport completes its underway parking expansion work, and perhaps beyond pending ongoing need.
“We know there's a deficit in the area as the airport has grown exponentially. Quite frankly, there's not enough parking at the airport and our property owner is understanding that situation,” said Evan Futch of civil engineering firm Avid Group of Palm Harbor. “While we would like to develop a state-of-the-art facility or possibly a mixed-use facility, in the short term, while the airport is working on their projects and expanding their services to meet their customers’ needs, we would like to fill that void.”
The kennel club property owner is listed as Eric Baird of Baird Real Estate of Sarasota.
Building out the parking operation, though, won’t be as simple as resurfacing and restriping the current parking lot. Applicable to the project are a multitude of improvements required per code, including installation of permanent islands in some locations, landscaping those islands, irrigating the landscaping and more.
However, because the Phase 1 plan poses no changes to the current use, the application won’t require site plan consideration by staff.
“The initial development of the parking lot does not require a formal site plan application to go through the DRC,” said Amy Pintus, the project case planner. “That would be applied as a building permit. But the lots that you've shown to the east of the canal, that would require a final plat approval, and site plan approval is required as part of that approval.”
Futch said the intention was to repair the parking lot, secure it by adding fencing along Old Bradenton Road and atop the existing wall along University Parkway, and improve the aesthetics of the site. Meanwhile, master planning for the entire site would be underway along with demolition of the remains of the dog track structures.
The hope was to begin using the parking lot right away.
“We were banking on the fact that this was a prior existing use that was functional at one time,” Futch said.
“That was established in 1958, maybe,” Pintus replied.
The point being much has changed in the city’s building code since then, and any permits will require conforming with current standards, which at a minimum require a traffic study, compliance with current site lighting requirements, landscaped islands that include at least one canopy tree plus additional shrubbery, and more investment in the site that may be only temporary.
The site has a future land use classification of Community Commercial and is zoned Commercial Intensive. Access is proposed from three driveways from Old Bradenton Road and two from Desoto Road.
The airport has posed no opposition to the project because it conforms to an interlocal agreement with the city that specifies no new residential development beneath the 65-decibel day-night average sound level contour from the end of the runway.
However, the airport did have some comments to submit to the DRC. Most of them were boilerplate, citing FAA restrictions, stormwater management requirements and design and management of retention ponds to not attract wading birds.
There was one comment related to the operation of the parking service.
“Any shuttle vehicles picking up or dropping off passengers at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport shall, prior to operating, obtain an off-airport parking business permit from the Airport Authority and renew it annually thereafter,” reads the comment. “The permit will entail entering into a standard operating agreement, payment of a privilege fee charge of 10% of all gross revenues generated per month, maintenance of insurance and compliance with airport rules and regulations.”