Selby Gardens Addresses State Pushback

Planning

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY MONDAY BUSINESS EDITION MONDAY JUL 1, 2019

The Florida Department of Transportation leveled a number of questions to the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens about scope and scale with its master site plan. That comes on the heels of Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoing $600,000 for the plan.

But officials with the city and cultural institution say they will continue moving ahead with the plan.

On June 20, the state DOT responded to a traffic impact analysis and identified inconsistencies between land uses and sizes identified in the study compared to those is pre-application meetings with the department. State officials issued a number of queries to Selby Gardens to address regarding how the plan will impact U.S. 41, a state road. Of particular note, state officials questioned the size of a controversial parking structure.

“The volume projections for the development suggest the parking garage is significantly oversized,” reads the permit review from FDOT. “… Further, the study concludes that the applicant should provide a detailed parking plan demonstrating how full capacity parking demand for special events will be handled in order to minimize impact to traffic on the adjacent streets.”

Lynn Bates, vice president of external communications for Selby Gardens, said the review was part of a normal planning process as the plan seeks state approvals. She shared a communication sent by Selby officials to neighbors addressing the concerns. That email noted the FDOT process as a “highly technical review process,” and noted the questions coming back from the agency were part of ongoing communications, not final determinations about the project.

“This is an important part of the process to ensure FDOT accurately understands applicants’ methodologies and it is common for there to be multiple rounds of comments, responses and adjustments based on these communications,” reads a message from Selby Gardens CEO Jennifer Rominiecki to neighbors.

Selby officials have already agreed to add a turn lane on Orange, combine two existing driveways and, subject to FDOT approval, close the egress from the proposed Sky Garden to Orange after business hours. The facility also plans to build a new multi-use recreation trail with a dedicated public access easement and will maintain a public Bayfront park while opening existing facilities like to Oak Oval Parklet, Glades Garden and Hammock Arrival Garden for the public.

The communications with FDOT won’t impact the separate site plan approval process with the city, according to City of Sarasota spokesman Jason Bartolone.

“Per state law, a municipality cannot hold up its own approval based on the approval of a state or federal agency,” he said. The Planning Board will consider the plan on Sept. 18, with a potential second meeting set for Sept. 25 if needed. After the Planning Board weighs in, the matter will head to the City Commission.

As for the veto from the governor, Selby officials say they will work to make up the funding with private fundraising. The veto was part of DeSantis slashing $131 million from the state budget, much of it local spending projects.

“We will communicate with the Governor’s office so that we can work closely with him and his staff,” Bates said. “Although we did not receive the funds from the State, we do not foresee that it will affect the timing of our Master Plan.”

Rendering courtesy Selby Gardens.

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