Four high-density hotel developments are proposed on Siesta Key that would add more than 500 rooms and 1,000 temporary guests to a resident population of less than 7,000.

Despite universal opposition from siestas, businesses, and all major stakeholders, the Sarasota County’s Advisory Planning Commission recently recommended building an eight-story 170-room hotel in Siesta Key Village (on less than an acre) – and also a 120-room, seven-story Hotel on Old Stickney Point Road (near Key’s busiest intersection).

These hotel proposals will be put to a binding vote during the Sarasota County Commission hearings on October 27th and November 2nd. Here are some reasons everyone in Sarasota County should be interested in suggested Siesta Key hotels:

It just gets tougher for you to enjoy Siesta Key’s beaches.

These two hotels have no beachfront property and are more than a mile from the public beach. Their locations are near other beach access points that lead to private beach areas (90% of Siesta Key’s beaches are privately owned).

Historically, private beach owners have been generous in allowing the public to use their properties. But after seeing record levels of unsupervised crowds lately – and grave concerns about the prospect of high-density hotels nearby – these beach owners are now reluctantly preparing to post “No Trespassing” signs around access to restrict their beach areas.

As a result, the 1,000 new hotel guests will have to find their way to Siesta Key’s only public beach – and compete with the county’s residents for limited parking and beach space.

The goal of some Sarasota County executives to increase tourism revenue will come at the expense of the Key’s already strained infrastructure. This will also limit the availability of beaches for residents across the county who have long traffic delays to the island already in the main season.

The planning commission wants to lift all existing room-per-acre density restrictions across the county – not just on Siesta Key.

In 1999, the Siesta Key Community Plan was developed by the district leaders with significant input from residents and stakeholders. This interactive process led to our existing land use regulations.

However, at the recent hearings, planners were guided by their personal bias that Siesta Key needs new hotels – no matter how oversized and inadequate they may be – rather than using our existing codes and master plan as a guide.

It should concern all Sarasota County residents that the county planners’ agenda, which is to use these Siesta Key applications to remove hotel density restrictions across the county, is being carried out without due process or input from county residents.

The district’s planning staff has accepted property developers and rejected due process.

For a year the property developers, the Sarasota County Commission, and the county’s planners and attorneys consistently reassured the public that these hotel applications would require a change in the master plan to limit such an increase in density and intensity.

They have also assured the public that the hotel requests would require an “overwhelming” approval – at least four out of five votes – from the commissioner.

But weeks before the first hearing of the planning commission, we found out through public inquiries that the planning staff of the district had approved the legal interpretation of a property developer and had requested that the change request be withdrawn – and that the approval of only a simple majority of the commissioners’ committee be required.

Aside from relying on a false legal premise, the way the county staff operates is a due process failure.

We are not against development and we are open to real boutique hotels. But even the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce – a business organization that endorsed the concept of hotels on Siesta Key – is opposed to these specific high-density hotel developments; in fact, the Chamber recently submitted alternative code changes for review by the county.

We ask the Sarasota County leadership to consult with community stakeholders before setting precedents on site-specific developer applications. We demand a break in this process, which was piecemeal, reactive and developer-led.

We don’t want to hold up renovation, intelligent growth or even hotels for siesta. We just want our district leaders to respect and follow our existing codes and guidelines. If changes need to be considered, they should only be made after a process of community input, impact studies and proactive planning.

In addition, a comprehensive traffic study should be conducted to analyze the impact of multiple high-density hotels on beach access, pedestrian safety, and emergency access.

If you share these concerns, it is not too late to get involved.

Visit our website – – and click on the “How can I help” tab.

Or, you can email the Sarasota County Commissioners to raise your concerns and ask them to reject these petitions. You can find the Commissioners’ email addresses on our website.

Mark Spiegel is President of the Siesta Key Coalition, Inc. It is a nonprofit that represents 71 neighborhoods and condos on Siesta Key.