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Selby scales back plan to appease residents, City Hall

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is back in City Hall and in the community with a scaled-back redevelopment plan.

Last week, Selby Gardens officials and representatives spent two hours showcasing a proposal that reduces a planned parking garage on the site from 75 to 45 feet and curtails some of the commercial activity that perturbed neighbors.

Last fall, the Sarasota City Commission voted 4-1 against a master plan that in addition to the 75-foot garage provided for a rooftop restaurant and event facility that would be open evenings and during hours when the Gardens were closed. More than 100 residents and neighbors filled the commission chambers decrying the plan as incompatible with the neighborhood due to traffic and in both scale and its reliance on the commercial restaurant venture to provide what Selby called “fiscal diversity” for the organization.

The most recent proposal describes a restaurant that will only be open during operating hours of Selby Gardens. It also will be located at ground level instead of as a rooftop destination. Neighbors raised concern over noise emanating from balconies and unimpeded due to the height in the previous proposal.

The presentation last week was made by Selby’s planning consultant, Chris Cianfaglione of Kimley-Horn. Although Selby says the proposal in the works is not a finalized master plan, the organization has declared it is no longer seeking a change to the City’s comprehensive plan. That issue of changing the comprehensive plan was spurred by the commercial restaurant agreement.

Residents at the meeting still expressed concern over traffic as well as the mass of the parking garage.

Others at the meeting accuse Selby of becoming more of an event center than a botanical garden. To that charge, Jennifer Rominiecki, President and CEO of Selby Gardens, said that events including weddings, galas and numerous types of special occasions are all a part of the legacy and history of Selby Gardens.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens will continue to define its plan as well as raise funds toward the eventual redevelopment. Selby officials say the aging infrastructure of the Gardens does not adequately house nor protect the expansive collection of rare plants. Additionally, Selby wants to eliminate the ground surface parking and through that consolidation create more space for exhibits. The tradeoff is the height of the parking structure and for some the expansion of the event facilities and capabilities on the site.

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1 Response for “Selby scales back plan to appease residents, City Hall”

  1. Plan is getting better. Presentation hurts itself by not focusing on the benefits from the Master Plan – improvement to the basic infrastructure like drainage and storm water management, the conversion of surface parking areas and circulation to additional garden areas and pedestrian circulation, new and improved greenhouses to preserve specimen plants, solar rooftop energy to supply heating and electricity to the complex and public access to areas now enclosed and inaccessible to the public.

    The new proposed restaurant/cafe will be an entrance only “accessory use” and will be appended to the garage. The location of the restaurant is somewhat peripheral and inconvenient to the activity centers and attractions of the botanical gardens and would be located closest to a heavily trafficked and noisy Mound Street. This is the least convincing element of the new proposal.

    The applicant should submit an operational plan for the garage to assure neighbors and visitors that the access and circulation and operation of the garage will minimize impacts to the adjacent neighborhood and traffic congestion in the vicinity of the site. The applicant should supply information regarding peak accumulation of parking demand at the gardens by time of day and days of the weak by season.based on counts. The applicant should be asked to develop ideas for reducing peak accumulation through proper scheduling of events and perhaps an app informing potential visitors of when the parking lot is full and near full so that visitors can plan their visits to the Botanical Gardens when there is less crowding of the facility..

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