The Bay Park developers find ways to speed up approval process
SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) — Phase One of the redevelopment of The Bay Park in Sarasota ended with great success last year. Now, the nonprofit tasked with developing the property is working to move on to the next phase.
Transforming the 53-acre city property is expected to take 15 to 20 years, according to The Bay Park’s Chief Operating Officer Bill Waddill.
“Our most recent partnership agreement reflected in a number of places, the desire to deliver more park sooner at less money to the public,” Waddill said.
The Bay Park Conservancy went before the commission Monday to ask for changes to the approval process in hopes of streamlining it.
They first asked to rezone the nearly nine acres on the north end of the property, which is the existing Centennial Park and 10th Street Boat Ramp. The rezoning, which was approved by the commission in a 4-1 vote Monday, changed the space north of the canal from “Open Space-Recreation-Conservation” to a “Metropolitan Regional” classification, which opens up the door for possible commercial development.
The nonprofit also wanted to bypass public hearings and sought “administrative approval” on development projects smaller than 10,000 square feet. This could be anything from restaurants to retail space.
“Under 10,000 square feet, they wouldn’t have to come back to the city commission. It would be administratively approved by our staff, but that would also mean that they would not have to do a public hearing. So if it avoids coming to the commission, then you don’t have to notify the public, you don’t have to send out mailings, and sometimes it makes sense and sometimes it doesn’t,” said city commissioner Erik Arroyo.
Commissioners approved the change in another 4-1 vote, but with administrative approval allowed for projects 5,000 square feet or less. Additionally, the city specified that any possible residential uses under the new zoning change would be restricted to work/live housing for performers or artists visiting the area for performing arts shows.
The only unanimous vote Monday was relating to the boat ramp. The city directed The Bay Park Conservancy to bring back changes to its master plan to expand the boat ramp, provide space for docks, two piers, and a water taxi stop among other changes staff may advise.
This move came as several individuals from the boating community filled the commissioner chambers, expressing their concerns about the changes and how they would impact the boat ramp long term.
Waddill says the boat ramp and the brick and mortar establishments are not a part of the park’s Phase Two. However, they do have plans for food trucks.
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