Another proposal for a hotel in Siesta Village has surfaced, and this time it includes a developer's request for a Sarasota County Comprehensive Plan text amendment that would allow it to be built.
In a letter on behalf of Benderson Development, Philip DiMaria of consultant Kimley-Horn informed the county’s planning department that it is seeking text amendments to the county's unified development code to provide that “transient accommodations” are considered a non-residential use throughout the county.
By letter to the county planning director, a petitioner may request that the County Commission allow any privately initiated plan amendment to be submitted at any time.
The planning director must then seek commission recommendation as to whether the request can be reasonably accommodated at the time requested or whether the amendment more appropriately should be processed as part of the annual legislative cycle.
Benderson is seeking to bring the matter before the public sooner than the normal cycle accommodates.
Benderson wants to build a 210-room hotel in Siesta Village at a height of 85 feet. The development entities are 5221 Ocean Blvd LLC, SBP 5239 LLC, SKH 1 LLC and 7978 CCB 14 LLC.
There was no formal plan submitted in conjunction with the text amendment request.
Benderson owns properties at 5221 and 5239 Ocean Blvd., currently the site of two small retail centers, and across the street at 5214 Ocean Blvd., which is fronted by Bonjour French Cafe.
According to state records, three of the four entities are affiliated with Benderson. The principal of the fourth, SKH 1 LLC, is Robert Anderson Jr., who has been unsuccessful in developing a 170-room hotel on Calle Miramar in Siesta Village.
“The purpose of the proposed text amendments is to permit the redevelopment of properties within commercial zone districts on lands having the ‘Barrier Island’ future land use designation to promote transient accommodation, i.e. hotel, uses,” DiMaria's letter reads. “Additionally, the proposed amendment would allow for the redevelopment and replacement of older, nonconforming structures located on properties in commercial zoning districts within the Siesta Key Overlay District.”
The letter is one of two received by the county proposing amendments to the comprehensive plan, the second from the would-be developer of a 120-room hotel at 5810 Midnight Pass Road on the southern end of Siesta Key. That planned hotel and Anderson’s hotel at Calle Miramar have been successfully opposed in court by Siesta Key resident Lourdes Ramirez as in violation of the comprehensive plan.
“I'm very concerned,” Ramirez said. “For two years, I have focused on revealing the truth that Siesta Key has the highest existing densities in Sarasota County. We are a barrier island with only one two-lane road connecting two bridges. As a vulnerable, hurricane-prone congested barrier island, any increase in density is a threat to human life.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, county commissioners received County Attorney Joshua Moye’s recommendation to forego an appeal of the final judgment on the lawsuits that stopped the development of the hotels. The County Commission approved those hotels in 2021.
In a memo to commissioners, Moye wrote, “There is a possibility of a legislative fix, which amends the county’s comprehensive plan. As of the date of this memo, one party has submitted such a possible amendment. Such an amendment would require a supermajority vote of the board.”
That “legislative fix” is in reference to Benderson’s request, which will likely once again pit Siesta Key residents against the county in opposition to bringing greater density to the island. That division resulted in an unsuccessful bid to incorporate Siesta Key into its own municipality. A bill introduced this year to the Florida Legislature to permit a referendum on incorporation died in committee.
In his letter, DiMaria wrote, “The proposed unified development code text amendments will eliminate residential density and residential density calculations for transient accommodations, and instead rely on existing height, bulk, setback and other commercial development standards and requirements, none of which are being changed. An end result of this proposed text amendment will be a more predictable and logical use of land.
“Transient accommodations would no longer be required to occupy oversized parcels in order to generate an economically feasible number of units based on a residential density calculation being applied to a commercial use in a commercial zoning district.”
If adopted and not successfully challenged in state court, the amendments are viewed as a legal pathway to permit the hotels to be built. The two invalidated by Carroll’s ruling, though, would have to undergo the county’s approval process again.
“It doesn’t mean they won’t eventually get (approval), but rather that the developers will have to the process over from filing an application through public hearings,” Ramirez said. “The bottom line is Sarasota County Commissioners will have to choose between the lives of residents and visitors of Siesta Key or caving in to pressure from developers.”