Despite a majority of public speakers who opposed the move, Sarasota County Commissioners voted 4 to 1 in favor of another hotel on Siesta Key—this one from Gary Kompothecras, founder of the 1-800-ASK-GARY medical service. Kompothecras already owns the 20-room Captiva Beach Resort on Siesta Key and the Hibiscus Inn and Suites on Old Stickney Point Road, as well as the island's Crescent Club. He also executive-produced MTV's Siesta Key.
Kompothecras' project, located at 1260 and 1266 Old Stickney Point Road, comes on the heels of another Siesta Key hotel that was voted in by county commissioners last week, on Oct. 27.
This hotel is slated to sit on 1.17 acres and will be seven stories high with 120 rooms. The commissioners' vote will allow the developer to build up to 83 feet high, more than twice the current height limit of 35 feet, and have four times the current density limit of 25 rooms per acre.
Across the street from the hotel, the project includes a separate, 53-foot-high, five-story car garage on .58 acres, with ground retail space. It will house 72 parking spaces for hotel guests and 103 spaces for public use. Another 60 spaces in the lower floors of the hotel building will serve hotel guests. The parcels, once occupied by a series of restaurants and bars, have been vacant since 2016.
Many of the meeting's public speakers were residents of the Marina Del Sol condominium complex adjacent to the proposed hotel. They urged commissioners against the special exceptions Kompothecras needed to move forward with the project, arguing that their water views and property values would suffer as a result. Traffic congestion and traffic safety were also among top concerns.
Additionally, many who opposed the density and height exceptions, like public speaker Lourdes Ramirez, argued that they violated the county's Comprehensive Plan of 1989, which describes "transient accommodations" (a.k.a. hotels) as having a maximum density of 26 units per acre. Ramirez is also president of the Siesta Key Community, a group dedicated to preserving the quality of life and environment of the barrier island.
"The county chose to ignore the law. Why have growth management if if you're just going to ignore it?" she asked.
Another speaker pointed to the negative environmental impact of infilling Sabal Lake, which protects the area from flooding. Project representatives countered that Sabal Lake was a man-made stormwater lake and is not native habitat. They also added that the project will include updated stormwater facilities to deal with runoff.
In response to concerns about service trucks on the narrow, dead end roadways next to the proposed hotel, like Peacock Road, project reps said that service vehicles and delivery drivers will use an internal hotel roadway and unload goods at a designated service elevator within the hotel.
County Commissioner Christian Ziegler, who voted against the previous hotel project on Oct. 27, voted to move forward with this one in part due to its location.
“I think there's a big difference between Siesta Key Village area and this area. I think this area is more appropriate for a hotel,” he said. (Last week's 170-room hotel project is slated to be built in the heart of Siesta Key Village, where both pedestrian and car traffic are thick.)
To quell fears about opening the floodgates to other high-density developments on the ara's barrier islands, commissioners who pointed out that they voted on exceptions, and that future developments would be weighed on a case-by-case scenario.
Sarasota County commissioners have two more upcoming Siesta Key hotel projects to vote on in the near future. Dates have not yet been set.
In the meantime, Siesta Key residents are pushing back with the possibility of forming their own municipality, and Ramirez is working with residents toward the potential for legal action against Sarasota County for violating the Comprehensive Plan. Stay tuned.