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One Park debate may depend on one word: 'Adjacent'

A Planning Board member says the meaning of "adjacent" might determine whether One Park will be built as proposed over Quay Commons.

A rendering of One Park, which is planned to span across Quay Commons on blocks 1 and 9 in The Quay.
A rendering of One Park, which is planned to span across Quay Commons on blocks 1 and 9 in The Quay.
Courtesy rendering
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In the end, the fate of One Park as currently proposed for The Quay, and those who oppose the 18-story condominium tower, may be determined by the definition of “adjacent.”

That all depends on the opinion of the Sarasota City Commission, which will take up the One Park’s request for an amendment to the general development plan following the completion of the legislative public hearing before the Planning Board. 

During its marathon March 8 meeting the Planning Board opened, then after nearly five hours continued, its own hearing on the GDP amendment request. If approved, that would allow One Park, a mixed-use tower proposed by developer Quay 1 and 9 LLC, to submit its site plan at the entrance to The Quay on Quay Commons at Boulevard of the Arts for approval.

That’s when the matter of what is and what is not considered adjacent was raised by Planning Board member Damien Blumetti.

Regardless of what the commission ultimately decides, One Park must also clear a separate legal challenge brought by current residents of The Quay.

Proposed to span over Quay Commons, the private street serving as the multimodal spine of The Quay, One Park would connect blocks 1 and 9 above the road and over an 80-foot-wide breezeway that would cover the street, sidewalks and what the developer describes as amenities such as retail and restaurant spaces open to the public.

Quay 1 and 9 is a partnership of Miami-based Property Markets Group and Jebco Ventures of Sarasota.

The Planning Board session will require perhaps another five hours — plus one month in between — for members to complete the hearing and engage in discussion prior to making their recommendation to the City Commission. It was continued until the board's next regularly scheduled meeting at 9 a.m. April 12.

One Park is proposed to connect blocks 1 and 9 with a breezeway over the road.
Via Planning Board meeting materials

The hearing was not, Deputy City Attorney Micheal Connelly reminded board members, about the site plan. That will be considered only if the City Commission eventually approves the amendment to the GDP after it receives the Planning Board’s recommendation to either approve or deny.

“This is a legislative public hearing where it is really a policy decision,” Connelly said. “You're being asked to make a recommendation to the City Commission on a policy matter. The specific language that the applicant is looking to add to the development agreement is the following: ‘Any block site plan may include Blocks 1 and 9 and vertical development over Quay Commons between Blocks 1and 9.’ Your job is to make a recommendation to the City Commission whether it's good policy.”

Blumetti suggested the city may not be in a position to refuse the One Park plan. Although the two blocks are separated by a street, they may by definition be considered adjacent, and therefore allowed to be combined, regardless of the intent of the language in the development agreement.

The GDP reads, “Any block site plan may include more than a single block as shown on the general development plan, whether (A) two adjacent blocks combined, (B) one entire block and a portion of an adjacent block, or (C) the remaining portion of a block after the other portion of such block was included in a previously approved block site plan.” 

Under definitions in the city's zoning code, adjacent is defined as "abutting or being directly across the street, alley or other rights of way or alley. The diagram shows adjacent lots across a street and, as is with the case of Blocks 1 and 9, offset from one another. Blumetti said because adjacent is not defined in the GDP, he must refer to the zoning code.

Representing Block 6, attorney Robert Lincoln contends that Blumetti’s point as irrelevant. Lincoln showed the Planning Board 2016 testimony by GreenPointe executives stating that the only blocks that might be adjoined for development purposes would be Blocks 4 and 5, which are abutting and now comprise Bayso. 

Lincoln also told the Planning Board members that city staff had already made a final, non-appealable determination, which is binding on Blocks 1 and 9. That dates back to October 2022, when Director of Development Services Lucia Panica determined the One Park plan was inconsistent with the GDP. Lincoln contends that because One Park did not appeal within 60 days of the determination, and instead applied to amend the GDP, her decision is irrevocable.

All that will eventually be sorted out by the City Commission in its own legislative hearing, which either side could then appeal to the Division of Administrative Hearings.

Court case may supersede

For more than three hours on March 8, the Planning Board heard testimony by staff and by attorneys for the developer of One Park and those representing current condominium owners in The Quay who oppose the GDP amendment. That was followed by some 25 public commenters. When it continues next month, there may be as many as 60 more speakers who have already signed up — each granted three minutes — plus time for rebuttal by both sides, questioning by board members and finally board deliberation. 

Approval of the requested amendment to the GDP, which is a 2016 agreement between the city and general developer GreenPointe, would clear the legislative hurdle for One Park to be built over Quay Commons at a height of about 20 feet above the breezeway.

The One Park breezeway over Quay Commons is proposed as 80 feet wide and 22 feet high. Its developers say it would be activated with outdoor cafe seating, a restaurant and other retail.
Courtesy rendering

Meanwhile, litigation is pending in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court as owners in The Ritz-Carlton Residences, otherwise known as Block 6, have challenged the ownership of the air rights over Quay Commons. They claim that the air rights above street, which is common property, are required to be conveyed to the master association. Those rights cannot, they allege, be conveyed to the One Park developers.

“Ultimately, the pending litigation is going to determine whether that master declaration requires that the air rights over Quay Commons be owned by the master association or it could determine whether all 695 condominium unit owners within The Quay have an undivided interest in easement and interest in those air rights,” Connelly said. “Obviously, if the air rights are owned by the master association, the applicant can't build in them. All of the actions that the city will take on the Quay 1 and 9 development applications will become moot and irrelevant if the applicant doesn't win the litigation.”

That is, if the case is even heard in the upcoming Circuit Court session. Connelly said there may be dozens, perhaps more than 100 cases on the docket, and that cases are generally heard in the order filed, “And I'm sure this is not one of the older cases,” he added

Board member Kathy Kelley-Ohlrich questioned whether the Planning Board should even be discussing One Park since the litigation is not concluded. Connelly said waiting could well mean current members of the Planning Board, and perhaps even the City Commission, may not play a role in the decision.

“We know whoever loses at the Circuit Court level is going to take it to the District Court of Appeal,” he said. “That’s going to be a minimum of another 12 to 18 months. I'd be surprised if whoever lost at the District Court of Appeal doesn't try to take this one to the Florida Supreme Court. And then I wouldn't be surprised if they tried to go the United States Supreme Court, but the point I'm making is, if we just wait until the litigation if finished, we won’t be around anymore.”

One Park's developers and GreenPointe plan on wrapping up the case much sooner than that, having extended the deadline to close on Blocks 1 and 9 until the end of September, if not sooner.

Looking for a way

Although the One Park site plan was not up for discussion by the Planning Board, the topic of the building was frequently raised as One Park attorneys Bill Merrill and Matt Brockway extolled the virtues of the design and its benefits. Likewise, attorney Robert Lincoln, who represents Block 6, raised objections to the site plan, saying it would effectively be the equivalent of a third tower over a nonexistent lot, the space above Quay Commons being wider than several downtown condo buildings. 

An updated conceptual of The Quay shows One Park as one building on the northern end of the 14.7-acre development at the corner of North Tamiami Trail and Boulevard of the Arts. A portion of Bayso is shown at the bottom left next to the Ritz Carlton Residences.
Courtesy rendering

That, and it runs contrary to the spirit and intent of the GDP.

“This isn't a site plan review. We keep saying that, then we immediately ask site plan questions,” said Planning Board Chairman Daniel Clermont. “But I think it's germane to ask the questions because we're making determination whether or it should be one building or two.”

Many opponents who spoke prior to the meeting being continued also talked about the building, pointing to the original development plan that showed — in visual representations and in text — separate buildings on Blocks 1 and 9 and an open-to-the-sky, tree-lined street running from the Bayso tower on the south end to Boulevard of the Arts on the north. They purchased their homes based on that plan, many said, and object to any change after the fact.

There were also speakers in support of One Park, one of them a Bayso buyer who said he was fully aware of the One Park Plan before he purchased and welcomes the building. Bayso residents are expected to begin occupying their units this fall.

Opponents of the project consider the matter of adjacency settled by Panica’s determination. Blumetti, in his assertion, isn’t so certain, saying there is no definition of adjacent in the GDP.

"I don't particularly care for this building, but what I think about the building and what they're allowed to do are two completely different things,” Blumetti said. “It's very difficult for me to figure out how to look at the development agreement and say you can't do that. It's hard to argue that and trust me, I've tried. I've looked through this and I'm trying to find a way.”

This story has been updated to include more context from Quay owners.



Andrew Warfield

Andrew Warfield is the Sarasota Observer city reporter. He is a four-decade veteran of print media. A Florida native, he has spent most of his career in the Carolinas as a writer and editor, nearly a decade as co-founder and editor of a community newspaper in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.

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