Applicant seeks to end Lido pool plan

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The sea of residents dressed in red made clear their united opposition to the plan to allow a waterfront restaurant and bar at the publicly-owned Lido Beach Pool and Pavilion at last week’s Sarasota City Commission hearing.

The board was scheduled for a final vote and the fate of the plan and the beach hung in the balance.

But the anticipation quickly gave way to a sense of elation after the attorney for the applicant said his clients no longer wish to move forward with the plan and want to cancel the lease that the City approved last year.

Sarasota Attorney Bill Merrill asked the Commission to continue the hearing and avoid a final vote and said, “We needed to be realistic about the situation and given the residents’ opposition and the odds are the redevelopment could be significantly delayed and likely appealed, we hope to work out some arrangement seeking reimbursement for the things they (clients Gavin Meshad and Troy Syprett of Lido Partners, llc.) have done.”


Terms of the deal

In short, Meshad said if his clients were reimbursed by the City for expenses incurred in their attempt to gain city approval for the project, they would agree to withdraw the plan.

“Sadly, they were invited to participate in the process but they feel now it is in the best interest of the community and themselves and because of likely inevitable litigation we feel it would be beneficial to see if that deal could be struck.”

Commissioner Willie Shaw, who has spoken out against the plan to allow the 250-seat restaurant and tiki bar and rental cabanas at the 2.4 acre-site, asked,  “In my confused state can I ask what we would be reimbursing?”


Offer emerges…

At this point in the meeting, Sarasota Attorney John Patterson, who represents Mark Walsh, a vocal opponent to the plan and owner of the Lido Beach Resort, read a statement wherein Walsh offered to donate $175,000 to the City if the City maintains control of the park and simply renovates the existing facility to standards the community can embrace.

Patterson read to the Commission the following letter outlining the offer from Walsh:

“We and literally thousands of residents have shared reasons for our opposition with you, most recently in a formal Response to the Applications before you for the new expanded development of the Pavilion. We support the applicant seeking to continue the hearing on the Applications with a goal of withdrawing them and terminating the lease. We support the applicant’s request for reimbursement by the City of its out-of-pocket expenses if it withdraws the Applications and terminates the lease.

Logan Acquisitions (the entity owned by Walsh), along with many residents, want to see the right thing done at the Lido Pavilion, consistent with our position regarding the City’s comprehensive plan, codes, and with a good and inclusive process for a plan for the Pavilion that we and the community support.  We believe we can all work together with staff, the neighbors and the community to find a balanced solution that would be supported by the City of Sarasota.”    

“We urge you to support keeping Lido pavilion to its current scale of use. Logan Acquisitions is willing to work with the Mayor, Commissioners, City Manager and staff, and citizens to achieve this goal. Logan Acquisitions is prepared to make an initial contribution of $175,000 and host a community-wide fund raiser to help make the Lido Pavilion a facility that will be right for Lido Key, and one that the citizens of the City will embrace and be proud of for decades to come.”

After the letter was read, the packed chambers burst out in applause.

Commissioner Shaw moved to continue the matter to the Feb. 19 meeting. The City attorney, Robert Fournier, said he will report back on the status of the agreement to terminate the lease.

The mechanics of the issue are both simple and complex. The applicant can seek or request to terminate the lease from the City.  Any payment by the City to facilitate the termination must be approved by the Commission. The payment for withdrawing the lease would be predicated on a tactical decision on behalf of the Commission.

Both the City attorney and Merrill intimated that if the proposal to build the bar/ restaurant was approved, it likely would bring challenges and litigation from the more than 5,000 opponents who signed a petition against the plan as well as from Walsh and other property owners who believe it undermines the integrity of the Lido beach community and zoning codes.

If the City were to simply vote down the final Major Conditional Use application — the final hurdle necessary for the project to move forward — that could be challenged by the applicants. Either way, the city could find itself in litigation.

The other consideration the City must factor is the $175,000 offer made by Walsh, which could offset any financial impact to the City or taxpayers.

The residents were surprised because they showed up at the meeting to weigh in on the vote the Commission was scheduled to make on whether the plan to allow a waterfront restaurant, tiki bar, rental cabanas and event area is compatible with the existing beach and the surrounding residential communities. The City approved the lease, which granted a 10-year term with 20 years in options, to allow the duo to renovate the dilapidated pavilion last spring and to allow the additional expansion of uses. The last vote was to be the Major Conditional Use consideration.

The Major Conditional Use approval is the city’s mechanism in its Zoning Code to determine if the bar, restaurant, event lawn, and hard liquor environment along with the live music acts are compatible with the neighboring residentially-zoned properties that surround the beach.

The opponents have implored the City to simply renovate the existing facility and not expand the commercial footprint and activities at the site. If the lease is withdrawn and the plan for the restaurant and bar go away, the City has $1.4 million in its Parks Budget earmarked to renovate the restrooms and improve the facility. The City recently renovated Payne Park and several other City properties and the consensus in the community has been for the City to simply repair the restrooms, renovate the main building and roof, add a shade structure and maintain the pool.

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