Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Development Plan Gets Mixed Review

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Development Plan Gets Mixed Review

Article excerpt

PINE SHORES: Neighbors of Benderson hotel proposal are divided over the idea

SARASOTA COUNTY -- Howard Bridgman lives just a small drawbridge away from some of the world's whitest sand.

His intimate Pine Shores neighborhood is peppered with churches, grassy park space, and post-card views of Phillippi Creek and Roberts Bay. Neighbors know each other. Children play near the streets. Dog walks are common throughout the day.

But Bridgman now fears a massive new proposal by Benderson Development Co. for a five-story hotel and retail hub will transform his quiet neighborhood into a busy shortcut for drivers.

He's worried about losing his slice of paradise.

"We were here first," Bridgman said. "We have been here a long time. These profiteers are attacking the integrity of the Pine Shores community. They are over-building in our area."

Other residents were excited about the idea of new luxury shopping options near their home.

The debate comes during the largest upsurge in new development since the Great Recession. The Great Recession checked new development in Southwest Florida for years, but now that the economy has rebounded, many of those proposals are resurfacing and with it concerns among residents.

Benderson's Siesta Promenade calls for a 150-room hotel and 250,000 square feet of retail space on nearly 30 acres of vacant land at the northwest corner of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road.

Dozens of Pine Shores residents gathered Wednesday night for a workshop hosted by Benderson officials to update them on the proposal, the second public meeting of its kind for the development. Some were more adamantly against the plan than others.

"This is a quiet neighborhood," said Sura Kochman, organizer of the Pine Shores Neighborhood Alliance. "The plan, as it stands, would cause great harm to the community ... We want this self- contained, and they're just not doing it."

First step

Benderson plans to submit a formal development application with Sarasota County for the project within the next few weeks.

Once that is filed, the proposal would require a public hearing before the county's Planning Commission, and a second public hearing and final approval from Sarasota County commissioners. …

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