Democratize Lido Beach

Guest Correspondence

Sarasota residents last month got a look at the proposed site plan for Lido Beach Pool & Pavilion during the city's neighborhood workshop. What began with the intention to improve bathrooms has morphed into major changes. The proposed site plan looks more like a private club than a public facility. While the site plan monetizes promised basic improvements (like shade), it also creates a destination restaurant that promises to strain the already limited parking. The plan promises to price out and reduce beach access for the residents this facility is supposed to serve.

Only those who live within 500 feet of Lido Beach Pool & Pavilion were notified about the neighborhood workshop, consistent with the City’s current neighborhood workshop rules. But it would have been a simple matter to notify all of the people who attended the City Commission meetings about the Lido lease. Neighborhood workshop attendance was sparse compared to those packed City Commission meetings, and no doubt a function of lack of notice rather than lack of interest. One Lido Pavilion regular who attended the neighborhood workshop said she learned of the meeting on Facebook. The City’s official notice at Lido Pavilion was so obscure it failed to capture her attention.

The new site plan includes shade structures—cabanas—for pool patrons. There are 15 cabanas planned, which will accommodate six people each. The applicants (Troy Syprett and Gavin Meshad) were asked how much they plan to charge for cabanas. Their answer: $100 a day. There were audible gasps and groans from the audience. Most residents cannot afford such an indulgence.

According to one City Commissioner, today the restaurant at Lido Pavilion seats 100 patrons, leaving some parking for those who just want to use the beach (the parking lot capacity is about 300 vehicles). The proposed site plan includes a 39-seat tiki bar, with a 200-seat restaurant, and I imagine the (potentially) 90 patrons sitting under their $100 per day cabanas will expect food service as well. Employees will need parking, as well as the pool patrons who don’t fork over $100 for a cabana.

Those parking demands don’t include special events, like weddings, which will take place on the special events lawn. The proposed site plan is untenable due to parking issues alone. When asked, the applicants said they have not studied the impact their plan will have on traffic or parking.

It’s worth nothing that the justification offered for approving the applicants the problematic lease (see my prior columns) is the millions that were going to be invested by the applicants in our public facility. We heard $3-4 million. At the neighborhood workshop, we heard the investment will be $2 million. Really? Bear in mind - the City has $1.25 million set aside for Lido Pavilion improvements, and decided to farm this out. Do we really need a private partner?

It is vital that our public beach facilities foster community. All residents should have access and feel that they belong. Creating a private club atmosphere with $100 a day cabanas is the antithesis of belonging. We must democratize, not privatize the beach, Commissioners. Deny this site plan.

Cathy Antunes is host of "The Detail" on WSRQ.

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