SARASOTA COUNTY (WFLA) – During a public hearing Tuesday, 36-people signed up to voice their opinions on plans for another luxury resort on Siesta Key. This time, off Old Stickney Point Road.
The proposal for the 120-room, the 7-story structure needed special height exceptions to move forward. Currently, height restrictions for hotels on Siesta Key are 35 feet.
Commissioners voted 4-1 approving the resolution for the special exception.
Less than one week ago, commissioners voted 3-2 in favor of the barrier island’s first-ever high-density hotel. The 170-room, 8-story building will sit on less than one acre of land nearby the popular Siesta Village.
Residents who spoke both last week and this week had similar concerns including added congestion, traffic, and pedestrian safety. Many aren’t against development; they’re against high-density development.
“This is going to make a bad situation even worse, especially for ambulances, firetrucks, and evacuations,” said Ralf Brooks who represents Siesta Key residents. “It is difficult enough to get to the hospital when you need to get there. If a heart attack happens or you are having a baby and you are at the beach and during the season it can sometimes take you over an hour to get off the island,” he explained.
“They are attracting more people and putting them somewhere which is already very constrained and we are worried about safety, we really are,” said resident Catherine Luckner.
The majority of people who signed up to speak were in opposition to the luxury resort. However, there were a handful in support.
Commissioners heard from a longtime Siesta Key employee Tuesday.
“Every slow season we s managers and employees, we fear our hours getting cut which cuts our income and as a single mom, it is the life I chose, I have to support my children. The life they chose is to live on the key and fortunately there is room for growth,” said the employed. “I feel another hotel will bring more to the economy and help all employees out on the key make more money,” she continued.
Commissioner Nancy Detert cast the only dissenting vote Tuesday. Last week, she expressed concerns about setting a dangerous precedent that could taint the county’s greatest asset.
“I think we are probably overdue for a hotel on Siesta Key. To me, the question is… What kind of hotel? I think height is important for the aesthetics. I worry that we are going to be in danger of killing the ‘golden goose’. It is our job to protect the beauty, the ambience of a very beautiful place,” said Detert. “I am still getting over being mad from last week, and boom here is hotel number two this week and there will be more,” she continued.
Commissioner Christian Ziegler, who represents the citizens of Siesta Key, voted in support of the exception. Unlike last week, where he voted against the proposal by the village.
He explained to the public why he came to this decision.
“He could easily put a bar and a restaurant there that would be packed every night, you would have people coming and going so I think that alternative use in the spot really resonates with me personally,” said Commissioner Ziegler. “Because of that location and the difference between the village which again, I was very hesitant on last week, to this location this week I think it is a night and day difference and I am sure people are going to try to merge it and try to create confusion, but I think if you compare the two, I just don’t see them as very similar,” he explained.
The commission also approved a special exception for a 5-story parking garage with ground-floor retail. It will include 203 parking spaces including 28 for retail, 74 for the hotel, and 100+ spots for the public.
Representation for the developer also explained plans to clean stormwater discharge from the site.