Sarasota denies plans for boutique hotels and St. Armands Circle condos

The City of Sarasota has decided not to consider a proposal that could bring boutique hotels and condo units to St. Armands Circle.

A council representing the owners of the circle would like the city to update the zoning regulations of the circle, considering that hotel rooms or condos could be located on the second floor of certain 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 change its zoning code. But on Monday, city commissioners unanimously denied St. Armands council’s request to have planning staff draft zoning changes. They expressed concerns about traffic and some worried about increased development on barrier islands.

St. Armands Proposal Meets Opposition

St. Armands Circle is a popular dining and shopping district.  The neighborhood around the St. Armands Key shopping circle, known as the Ringling Estates, was one of the first

The St. Armands Business Improvement District Board of Directors, which represents landowners in the circle, presented the proposal. The council sees loopholes in the city’s current zoning regulations for St. Armands.

“Our zoning needs to be cleaned up in St. Armands,” said council chairman Tom Leonard. “There are holes in it.”

The council proposed that the code be changed to promote mixed-use development in the district. Hotels, for example, would be allowed on the second floor of circle buildings. Leonard said he thinks the circle might house a few small boutique hotels.

Condos are another aspect of the business improvement district council’s proposal. Residential uses are currently permitted on St. Armands Circle. However, Leonard said the requirements for the number of parking spaces that must accompany a residential property make it impossible for landlords to put condos there.

Some residents of St. Armands and Lido Keys expressed concerns about council’s plan at 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.

The municipal commission deliberates

St. Armands Circle is a popular dining and shopping district.  The neighborhood around the St. Armands Key shopping circle, known as the Ringling Estates, was one of the first

City commissioners also expressed qualms. Commissioner Erik Arroyo stressed that “traffic is a problem” on the barrier islands. And hurricanes were a concern for some commissioners.

“We just got a warning shot from Hurricane Ian,” Commissioner Debbie Trice said, “so I would question any increase in development on the barrier islands.”

During the discussion, city planning director Steve Cover said his department would not be able to work on the St. Armands proposal until 2024. The department has other assignments to work on. in 2023.

The commissioners ultimately rejected the proposal. Leonard said he plans to continue working with merchants, property owners and residents on the issue.

“Maybe we’ll 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.

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