Lido Pavilion Plan and the Sarasota Commission reek worse than red tide

Editor & Publisher

The very worst aspects of local government reveal themselves in the Lido Beach Pool and Pavilion Plan.

A refusal to listen to constituents and voters.

A gifting of a treasured resource — the beachfront — to a private operator.

A lease agreement so disadvantageous to the public interest and financial interest of the city that it provokes a reeking air of cronyism, favoritism and pecuniary interest.

A lack of capacity by the very leaders we trust to shepherd Sarasota — a sublime and beautiful community — into the future with a vision we can respect

A City Manager gaming the conversation and discussion by silencing the staff who try and present alternatives and options and twisting facts and using the staff like low-level lobbyists for an agenda.

And last but not least, a genuine sense and aura of incompetent desperation.


Nothing comes from nothing…

The problems are really not all that complex.

The Lido pool and Pavilion suffers from neglect. The restrooms, the walkways, the snack bar and the pool slowly and inexorably fell into a state of disrepair because the City failed to perform or budget basic maintenance. No capital improvements, no respect for the taxpayers and public who love the beach and pavilion in spite of the conditions.

But instead of doing what government is supposed to do: fix and maintain parks and beach facilities, the City of Sarasota did nothing. And bereft of a vision for the property, the City continued to do what it is really talented at — nothing. Just like Payne Park, it absolved itself from the basic act of repair and maintenance and the public just kept putting up with the mess and decay.

But that state of disrepair could only go on so long.  The neighbors and local Associations prompted the city to repair the roof, pool and facility.

Nobody complained about any of the uses. Nobody sought an expansion of uses. Nobody asked for a clichéd and depraved bar scene with amplified music crooning Jimmy Buffet and Hotel California late into the night. That scene is exactly what you can find at the Daiquiri Deck on Siesta Key and St. Armands Circle.

But instead of offering clear direction and protection in its negotiating process, the City awarded a contract so one sided, so beneficial to the Daiquiri Deck owners that more than 3,200 residents have signed a petition imploring the City Commission not to allow this degradation of our property.


Happy to acquiesce

Only two Commissioners have shown themselves to have the integrity to deserve their post — Willie Shaw and Jen Ahearn-Koch.

Shaw initially voted for the lease and then at the very next meeting wished to change his vote, but the other three — Liz Alpert, Hagen Brody and Shelli Freeland Edie — fought back.

Those three not only voted in favor of the lease, they then prevented Shaw from changing his vote to line up with his conscience and intentions. Shaw showed that despite some of his obtuse ramblings, he is a real man of the people. He listens, he gets it. His gut is in tune with the fact that this is the kind of government and private sector collusion and coziness and favoritism that never should happen.

And now thousands of residents are opposed. All of the surrounding neighbors are against the plan. Realtors, businessmen and woman, architects, the Observer Editor, the Longboat Key News and Sarasota City News Editor have all decried the plan. Some hate it from the economic perspective, historicists see a cultural relic destroyed and others see their beach diminished and the environment desecrated. In short, this benefits nobody except the greedy operators who have shown little to no respect. They are happy to diminish our residential community and the Commission is happy to acquiesce.


The sad endgame is approaching

The City Planning Board will consider the plan at 6 p.m. on Sept. 12. They will not revisit the lease, but whether the plan meets the criteria of a Major Conditional Use. This is the final hurdle and will soon mark the final chance for one of the three Commissioners to redeem their role as elected leaders and vote against this failed and flawed and dysfunctional proposal to allow a 300-seat restaurant, a tiki bar and a pool area where hard liquor sales will be promoted to the sounds of live entertainment nightly as late as 10:30 p.m.

And do not count on our City Attorney to counsel the Commission and do not expect staff — beholden to the plan and under constant pressure from Tom Barwin — to tell the truth.

The fact is the plan fails to meet the basic criteria of a Major Conditional Use. It is simply incompatible with the neighboring uses, diminishes what is supposed to be the primary use — the beach — and takes a rich family experience away from our community forever. The restaurant and Tiki bar will present a new destination that will actually take parking from families who simply want to use the beach.


The smell of rot must go…

Whatever analogy or metaphor or expression you want to use:

“If you find yourself in a hole stop digging.”

“Two wrongs (the lease and Major Conditional Use approval) do not make a right.” Or perhaps even worse, “There is something rotten in the state of Denmark,” are all apropos.

Perhaps that last Shakespearian allusion is what is most frightening.

The Daiquiri Deck owner sits on the St. Armands Circle Merchants Association and worked with the City structuring the parking and parking garage payment methodology. This coziness between staff, the applicant, Brody and other Commissioners reeks worse than red tide.

It is as if the three Commissioners favoring this plan are putting the applicant’s interest above the public and shamelessly and stubbornly could care less. Either that or they are truly so incompetent that they cannot comprehend what a bad deal this is for the community; I am not sure which is worse. Or maybe they suffer from both — cronyism and incompetence.

Either way, Shellie Freeland Eddie, Hagan Brody and Liz Alpert ought to realize that the integrity of our beach and shoreline and our very neighborhood and community is at stake. If they approve this Major Conditional Use — and sadly I suspect they will — the resentment of our community should haunt them like so many furies stinging them daily for giving away what is not their’s to give.

And guess what, we love Sarasota a lot more than we love politicians. The three will be known as the trio who forever screwed up the Lido Beach Pavilion. They will be the three who devalued Lido Key’s gorgeous strand of calm beach and handed it off on the cheap. The only good that we will be able to salvage from the mess is after the very next election we will be able to call the trio “former” Commissioners.

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Longboat Key News

6 Responses for “Lido Pavilion Plan and the Sarasota Commission reek worse than red tide”

  1. Art K. says:

    At the Planning Board meeting, no one mentioned the smoking that would come along with an outside bar / restaurant. To get to the beach, or restrooms, families would need to pass through the area and be subjected to second hand smoke.

  2. Senseless says:

    Vote them way out. Then recind the contrat for multiple breaches of contitional use. There will be many. There was sworn testimony under penalty of perjury on use conditions. Other meetings, hearings, minutes, lease agreements signed, etc.

  3. senseless says:

    There are two public picnic tables on the paved patio. The private owners said there were none at Wednesday’s meeting. They claim only public picnic tables in the sand. The new provate owners complained thst t pool was a lap pool and used only as such. I use it regularly — this statement is false. And the public drinking fountain? The public is being deprived by this depraved LOUD profit driven plan.

  4. Ramsey Kraft says:

    Very well written letter and I glad that you did. There have been several things over the 20 years that we have visited Sarasota, Lido and Longboat key that smelled fished and were passed by the powers to be.
    Glad that a lot of people are standing up to this and I hope it doesn’t get built.
    Also the city of Sarasota should take of Paine Park and I’m sure other parks and do the repairs at each of them that are needed.
    They also let the Chalk Festival leave and go to Venice.
    Sad, sad, sad.

  5. Sunny Gravy says:

    Vote them out.

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