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Sarasota Planning Board blesses Selby Gardens plan in 3-2 vote

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens at long last received a vote of support from the Sarasota Planning Board following a hearing that spans several weeks.

Supporters of the project, who donned green throughout all of the lengthy and contentious meetings, were thrilled when just before midnight last Wednesday, Planning Board Chair Eileen Normille announced the 3-2 vote in favor of the plan. Normille cast the deciding vote of support.

At issue is Selby Gardens’ $92 million plan that includes a five-story parking garage and rooftop restaurant. Opponents, many of whom were neighbors, argued that the plan for the restaurant would create a new primary use that would increase traffic and congestion, especially on Orange Avenue. Others said the structure will be too tall and out of proportion with the Hudson Bayou neighborhood.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens President and CEO Jennifer Rominiecki, said the garage will benefit the mission of the gardens by allowing more space – up to 50 percent more – for botanical gardens by moving parking from surface land to the vertical structure.

The garage has been dubbed a “Sky Garden” by Selby, and the organization says the restaurant will serve to help its financial stability going forward.

Selby will next bring the proposal to the Sarasota City Commission at an October 28 meeting at 1:30 p.m. Two issues that will be discussed and voted on are: the overall plan as well as a necessary zoning amendment to accommodate the plan.

On the Planning Board, Normille, Damien Blumetti and David Morris voted in support of Selby and Patrick Gannon and Kathy Ohlrich voted against the proposal.

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