City Planning Board votes against Lido Pavilion Plan

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Following more than five hours of debate and in the face of hundreds of opposing residents, the City of Sarasota Planning Board voted 4-1 in its recommendation to deny what is called a major conditional use that would allow a 200-seat restaurant, tiki bar and commercial expansion of the Lido Beach Pool and Pavilion site.

The issue heads to the City Commission likely next month for a final vote on the major conditional use but for the dozens who spoke against the plan and the more than 3,200 who signed a petition opposing it, the vote served as an affirmation of their view that the proposed restaurant is incompatible with the residential neighborhood, will not meet FEMA requirements and has not proven that it can, and will add an unacceptable amount of traffic, alcohol-related activity, amplified noise and ultimately undermine the primary use – the beach.

The applicants, Lido Development Partners headed by Daiquiri Deck owners Gavin Meshad and Troy Syprett, started the meeting this week along with their architect stating that their presentation, “will be concise and to the point.”

The group vowed to retain the character of the existing pavilion, retain access to the bathrooms, provide shade structure and enhance the pool area. They added that they have created 20 additional parking spaces and that lighting “will be respectful of turtles.”

Planning Board Member David Morriss, honed in on the issue of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and asked how the aged structure could be enhanced to the level they have proposed in their site plan, while meeting the 50 percent restriction placed by FEMA on development in flood zones.

The applicant responded that the City building officials would apply all the regulations and the architect said he was “not sure why there was such a big issue about this.”

Meshad said they would have to develop it in phases if it was an issue.

“I thought this was all going to be done at once; now we are hearing of phases?” said Morriss.

That issue of meeting FEMA regulations later became troubling to several Planning Board members in their final vote. Part of the requirement for a Major Conditional Use approval is to have demonstrated the ability to meet FEMA requirements. The applicant and City staff said that would be done in the permitting phases, while the Planning Board and Morriss in particular cited the very requirement that it be accomplished prior to approval.

The pressure to recommend denial at the meeting was palpable. On Jan. 5, 2018, the City Commission passed a lease agreement in a 4-1 vote setting out the financial arrangement that would grant the Daiquiri Deck owners the right to develop the restaurant and bar on the 2.42 acres of publicly owned property. But that lease is only part of the equation. The major conditional use approval is the mechanism of evaluation of compatibility to determine if the bar, restaurant, event lawn, and hard liquor environment along with live music acts is compatible with the neighboring residentially zoned district.

Another conundrum that led to the vote to deny the Major Conditional Use was the consensus on the Planning Board that the massive expansion of commercial activity into a waterfront restaurant and bar would ultimately compete with the primary use, the beach.

The existing concession stand only serves beer, wine and a small menu, closes at 4:30 p.m. and is a typical accessory use found at public beaches nationwide.

Following the applicant’s presentation, Planning Board member and former Commissioner Eileen Normile stated that the applicant had only performed a traffic concurrency study, “not an actual traffic study.”

Next, Sarasota attorney John Patterson said that the application is inconsistent with the lease and that the proposed tiki bar has been moved to be situated directly in the center of the path to the beach. The idea that beachgoers and families would have to pass by a bar surrounded by patrons drinking hard liquor on the way to the beach, would diminish and undermine the primary use.

Numerous residents said they would be uncomfortable having their children have to navigate through a bar scene in order to use the restrooms.

Next Ken Metcalf, a Certified Professional Planner with an expertise in Florida Department of Community Affairs, told the board that the proposal was not a permitted use nor a compatible use and does not comply with the conditional use or site plan criteria.

“I am surprised the short-shrift given to the Comprehensive Plan by staff in this proposal,” said Metcalf.

The land use category dictates that government is to protect the park, not develop the park. He added that this was simply creating and expanding commercial uses. He said that the existing beer and wine service is a non-conforming use and that what is proposed is a massive expansion of that use.

Next, dozens and dozens of residents and property owners surrounding the pavilion site spoke out.

“This is a perfect storm of incompatibility. Lido Pavilion is being robbed,” said Virginia Hoffman.

Mike Costantino said that the plan creates a socio-economic division of public property.

The Planning Board denial was led by Normile and Morriss.

Morris opened by saying, “I can’t buy this as an accessory use.”

Normile recommended denial. She said that she did not find a 250-seat tiki bar or restaurant as a limited accessory structure. She said that Lido Beach is the main draw and the applicant was adding a second draw.

“There is no evidence there would be enough parking for a large restaurant. Their concurrency study does not truly measure traffic. There is no proof FEMA will be satisfied and the code says you must prove that, not that it will be proved,” said Normile.

Board member Patrick Gannon said the proposal is a significant increase in intensity.

It was soon called to a question, and Planning Board members Normile, Gannon, Morriss and Kathy Ohlrich voted to recommend denial to the City Commission. Board member Damien Blumetti voted in support of recommending the plan.

There is no date set for the final vote at the City Commission meeting, but City Officials say it could be as soon as the October regular meeting.

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