Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

'No Exceptions' | Residents Speak out on Density Issues of Planned Development

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

'No Exceptions' | Residents Speak out on Density Issues of Planned Development

Article excerpt

SIESTA PROMENADE

Residents near the gateway to Siesta Key can't imagine adding any more traffic to the area -- let alone making exceptions that would allow for more traffic.

But Benderson Development Co.'s plan for Siesta Promenade at the northwest corner of Stickney Point Road and U.S. 41 calls for an exception that would nearly double the residential capacity at the already busy corner.

And area residents, like Siesta Key's Jeff Dow, don't want any part of it.

More than 100 people packed a Sarasota County-mandated neighborhood meeting Thursday night on the retail, hotel and residential development slated for a primary route to Siesta Key.

"No exceptions" was Dow's constant refrain as Todd Mathes, Benderson's director of development, outlined a plan to seek a density of 25 residential units per acre and an 85-foot-high building allowance throughout the 24-acre property.

Going with Sarasota County's standard density for general commercial development would cut the proposed 600 residential units roughly by half.

That decision will go before the county in the coming months, and it has the potential to ease the additional traffic, even if it doesn't entirely stop it.

"If it has to happen, and it looks like it has that possibility, then at least stick to the regulations," Dow said. "Because you're going to make our lives miserable no matter what you do, so keep it to a minimum if you have to."

This is the second time in two years many of these residents have gathered in fierce opposition to developing the site, which was a trailer park until the early 2000s.

The project, which called for 250,000 square feet of retail space in 2014, resurfaced in public this spring after seemingly going dark following a series of similarly charged neighborhood meetings.

This time, Benderson has

brought Siesta Promenade back with 140,000 square feet of retail. But the company has also added 506 dwelling units to the plan, along with a 150-room hotel.

Benderson re-evaluated the plan to accommodate both a booming market for residential housing and concerns from neighbors, Mathes said. Typically, there are fewer complaints when developers build residential instead of commercial properties alongside already existing neighborhoods. Siesta Promenade would be home to a small grocery store and predominantly service-based retailers that would sit away from the neighborhoods. Now, the retail site is a fraction of the size of nearby Sarasota Pavilion and smaller than another neighborhood center in that region, The Landings Shopping Center.

But when the residents in the nearby Pine Shores neighborhood asked Benderson to reconsider the project, they were hoping for townhouses -- not six- or seven-story condo towers, said Sura Kochman, an organizer for the nearby Pine Shores Neighborhood Alliance. …

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