SARASOTA COUNTY (WFLA) – Sarasota County could be going to court over the recent approval of an unprecedented 8-story hotel approval on Siesta Key. It passed in late October despite major opposition from residents who spoke out during hours of public comment.
“We are not getting represented on Siesta Key. They are just taking the tourist money that comes in to Siesta Key and then they are ignoring the will of the people and that is not right,” said business owner and resident Barbara Lancer.
Neighborhood advocate and Siesta Key resident Lourdes Ramirez filed a lawsuit last Wednesday alleging Sarasota County violated its own Comprehensive Plan when commissioners voted to approve the high-density hotel one month earlier.
“It is unfortunate that citizens have to go and force the county to follow its own rules. It is a shame,” said Ramirez. “We really were hoping that the county would listen to us and at least listen to all of our legal arguments. We were passionate, but also we had real legal reasons for them not to approve it and the county commissioners decided to ignore it,” she continued.
Within the county’s long-term growth plan are policies including protections on barrier islands. Up until the October vote, the maximum density on barrier islands was 26 units per acre. The 170-room hotel that was approved sits on 96 acres of land on Celle Miramar just outside the Siesta Key Village.
“What if everyone decides to do this? It will be nothing but hotels. Our way of life which we love on our barrier island will be gone forever and there’s no getting it back,” said Lancer.
Ramirez says her legal actions are about more than whether or not there are hotels on the island.
“It is the fact that the county is not following its own rules and I think that is important not only for Siesta Key, but throughout Sarasota County. If the county commissioners feel that they don’t have to follow any rules, then we are going to have a problem with any development. The county is just going to be able to do whatever they want instead of what they are supposed to do,” said Ramirez.
County official told 8 On Your Side Tuesday ‘Sarasota County does not comment on active or pending litigation’.
The county has 30 days to respond to the lawsuit.