Lido Pool & Pavilion Plan stirs Sarasota community throughout 2018; final vote next

The Lido Beach Public Pool and Pavilion was the focus of community consternation throughout 2018.

The City of Sarasota, which operates the publicly-owned facility that sits on an expanse of beach in the center of Lido Key, approved a contract to allow the owners of the Daiquiri Deck to add a waterfront restaurant, tiki bar, cabanas and provide amplified live music  in a vote in January of 2018.

The contract calls for a 10-year lease with two 10-year options to allow the 200-seat restaurant for an annual rent paid to the city starting at $80,000 per year with annual escalations.

The redevelopment plan sparked public outrage with more than 4,000 Sarasota residents signing a petition opposed to the plan. The City staff supported the contract at the meeting saying it would accomplish much needed renovations to the bathrooms, pool and overall facility and would provide a shade structure.

Opponents fought the plan for both philosophical and pragmatic reasons. Dozens of members of the public said they were against the expansion of the commercial activities, opposed a bar scene that will serve hard alcohol and implored the city to protect the integrity of the site as a family-centered public beach.

Others said the terms of the contract were simply egregious to the public interest and amounted to a “sweetheart deal” that would allow the owners to have access to a complete parking lot, a restaurant site and 2.3 acres of land to control for a fraction of what it would cost in the private sector.

Opponents lost out in the lease vote with the city commission voting 4-1, with Vice Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch voting against the plan. Commissioner Willie Shaw at the meeting after the vote asked his fellow commissioners to allow a revote because he had grown opposed to the contract, but the majority would not allow him to do so.

The issue continued throughout the year because the applicant would also need a Major Conditional Use approved for the restaurant to be allowed by the city commission as well for the project to proceed.

In September 2018, the city Planning Board, which makes a recommendation to the commission, voted 4-1 against the Major Conditional Use request. There was more than five hours of debate and hundreds of residents in opposition at the meeting. The opposition presented a petition with more than 3,200 signatures and said the restaurant plan is incompatible with the residential neighborhood, will not meet Federal Emergency Management Association requirements, and will add an unacceptable amount of traffic, alcohol-related activity, amplified noise and ultimately undermine the primary use – the beach.

The applicants, Gavin Meshad and Troy Syprett of Lido Development Partners, said the plan will retain the character of the pavilion, enhance the pool area, add parking spaces and “be respectful of turtles.”

At the end of the meeting toward midnight, the Planning Board voted 4-1 recommending denial.

The issue and the final vote on the Major Conditional Use by the City Commission will be taken up at 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 14, 2019. If the commission agrees with the findings of its advisory board, the plan will not continue. If that happens, the city has $1.4 million in its budget to renovate the restrooms and improve the facility.

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