The city of Sarasota has decided against considering a proposal that could bring boutique hotels and condo units to St. Armands Circle.
A board that represents the circle’s property owners would like the city to update the circle’s zoning regulations, envisioning that hotel rooms or condos could be located on the second floor of some buildings. The first floor would continue to be occupied by businesses.
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For hotels to be allowed on the circle, the city would have to amend its Zoning Code. But, on Monday, city commissioners unanimously denied the St. Armands board’s request to have city planning staff develop zoning amendments. They expressed concerns about traffic, and some worried about increasing development on the barrier islands.
St. Armands proposal meets opposition
The St. Armands Business Improvement District’s board of directors, which represents the circle’s property owners, came up with the proposal. The board sees flaws in the city’s current zoning regulations for St. Armands.
“Our zoning needs to be cleaned up on St. Armands,” said Tom Leonard, the board’s chair. “There’s some holes in it.”
The board proposed that the code be amended to promote mixed-use development in the district. Hotels, for example, would be allowed on the second floor of buildings on the circle. Leonard said he thinks the circle could be home to a few small boutique hotels.
Condos are another aspect of the business improvement district board’s proposal. Residential uses are currently allowed on St. Armands Circle. However, Leonard said the requirements for the number of parking spaces that must accompany a residential property make it impractical for property owners to install condos there.
Some residents of St. Armands and Lido keys expressed concerns about the board’s plan during Monday’s City Commission meeting. A lawyer representing the Lido Key Residents Association said the proposal would increase density on a barrier island that already has traffic and parking issues.
City Commission deliberates
City commissioners also expressed qualms. Commissioner Erik Arroyo pointed out that “traffic is a problem” on the barrier islands. And hurricanes were a concern for some commissioners.
“We just had a warning shot from Hurricane Ian,” Commissioner Debbie Trice said, “so I would be questioning any increase in development on the barrier islands.”
During the discussion, the city’s planning director, Steve Cover, said his department wouldn’t be able to work on the St. Armands proposal until 2024. The department has other assignments to work on in 2023.
Commissioners ultimately denied the proposal. Leonard said he plans to continue to work with the merchants, property owners and residents on the issue.
“Maybe we come back in another year, and it’s a different outcome,” he said.
Anne Snabes covers city and county government for the Herald-Tribune. You can contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @a_snabes.