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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

City attorney says St. Armands parking lot sale could cost taxpayers

Sarasota City Attorney Robert Fournier wrote a memo last week saying that the City’s plan to sell a 2-acre parking lot at St. Armands Circle could end up costing taxpayers more money than they make from the actual sale.

Fournier said that the City officials have indicated that the offer from JWM Management to buy the 2-acre Filmore Drive parking lot that sprawls behind Alvin’s Island, will likely include a charge-back to the City for the cost of building a parking garage and enclosing the 268 parking spaces currently on the site.

In short, Fournier said the cost estimate of $30,000 per parking space would mean a credit would be owed of more than $8 million toward the purchase of the land. It is therefore possible taxpayers could end up owing the buyer money.

“Presumably, this is a result that the City Commission would not want to happen,” wrote Fournier.

The whole issue has come about since JWM Management and Daiquiri Deck owner Gavin Meshad indicated last summer that they wish to build a hotel and grocery store on the site. In August, the commission was advised by Fournier that they could simply ask for proposals over a 90-day period and sell to whichever applicant they felt had the most merit. Fournier said a competitive bid process may be preferred but was not mandatory.

The City Commission has been working with JWM Management and agreed to simply request any other proposals from anyone interested in purchasing the property over a 90-day period that started last August.

To date, JWM Management is the only entity that has submitted a proposal, although others are reportedly pending.

Numerous residents have spoken out against the idea of allowing a hotel on the site, as well as changes sought by Meshad and the St. Armands Circle Business Improvement District to allow height increases, as well as hotel rooms above the first floor throughout the circle, and increase density to 150 units per acre for tourism.

Surrounding residents have lobbied the City for years saying their neighborhoods have been inundated by VRBO conversion homes and tourists who make noise in the otherwise serene residential communities.

The Circle was specifically zoned without the allowance of hotel rooms, with City leaders in the past desiring to keep a limited hotel presence along the Gulf front, which is what exists today.

The City Commission voted 4-1 to invite the proposals to sell the property and on Monday, Oct. 4, will discuss the issue of the parking lot sale and specifically the value of enclosing spaces and the cost, and likely Fournier and staff will be seeking direction on how or if to proceed.

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