SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – Residents on St. Armands and Lido Key have posted signs around their neighborhood that read ‘stop the hotel houses’.
Locals say the issue first started on the island back in 2019 when developers first started purchasing old homes, demolishing them, and rebuilding mini-hotels in residential neighborhoods.
“They are coming in and building businesses. This is not a house. This is a little hotel. It has seven or eight bedrooms and bathrooms. It is not even configured for a family, it is configured like a hotel and the amenities that go along with a hotel,” St. Armands resident Mike Adkinson said.
Adkinson has lived on the key for about seven years. He still remembers the turning point on his street.
“It was June 2019. We just came back from a trip in our little motorhome. The first night back, about 11 o’clock at night we thought the whole neighborhood was in a party mode and we had missed the party. It turns out, it was the party house they had just opened this new hotel house two doors down and they were just having a ball. They were jumping in the pool, they were playing the music loud,” Adkinson said.
Hotel houses are proliferating on the key. Multiple are under construction in the middle of residential communities.
“They are making a conversion from a residential neighborhood to a business environment and the city is letting it happen. The city is saying oh well, we need to think about this more.. No. Make a decision. Other communities have put their foot down and said no, not here,” said Adkinson.
City leaders are well aware of residents’ ongoing concerns and frustrations. They’ve been considering possible regulations and listening to input from the community.
During a Feb. 2 meeting, the City Commission continued its public hearing on the matter to allow the City Attorney to continue to research the issue.
The City Attorney is expected to bring the proposed ordinance back to the City Commission Tuesday, April 6, and resume the public hearing. The ordinance would limit occupancy, parking, and require hotel houses to be registered with the city.
Sarasota City Commissioner Liz Alpert supports the regulations, but tells 8 On Your Side it is a complicated issue.
“It is a property rights issue. That is the part that has to be sorted out because people buy a piece of property and if they are not doing anything that is against the zoning regulations, you can’t really tell them they can’t do it,” said Commissioner Alpert. “So if they already have bought the property, they are already doing this, what can be done to change that going forward and that is what has to be done very delicately,” she continued.
Sarasota City Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch says it is an urgent matter in her eyes.
“These LLCs are coming in, they are buying up these old Florida homes, tearing them down, building lot line to lot line as high as they can go again, eight bedrooms, nine bedrooms, 10 bedrooms… sleeps 20, sleeps 24 and destroying neighborhoods. A commercial business that is a high occupancy hotel should not be in a single-family neighborhood. It is proliferating very very quickly,” said Commissioner Ahearn-Koch
Residents fear if city leaders don’t move fast enough, the character of the island will be destroyed and hotel houses will take over residential communities. They’ve watched it happen in other coastal communities across the state.
“Anna Maria has gone now to 70% rental property and only 30% neighborhood. That is what we are headed toward here if the city doesn’t wake up and stop just giving permits,” said Adkinson.
Residents have put together a website explaining the issue from their point of view.