Bendersonville at the Bridge

Guest Correspondence


How much density and intensity makes sense near a natural traffic bottleneck? Sarasota County may be pushing their luck and playing fast and loose with the health, safety and welfare of the community with the potential approval of Benderson Development’s request to build 479 residential units and 140,000 square feet of retail space at U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road. This intersection is already jammed during season, when a “Don’t Block the Intersection” electronic sign appears, threatening a $166 fine for those who “block the box.” The south bridge to Siesta Key at the west end of Stickney Point Road is the natural bottleneck, which creates the traffic backup. There are only two bridges providing access to Siesta Key. That reality is unlikely to ever change.

Traffic flows best when a road network is laid out and functioning as a grid—an interconnected system of routes giving us many alternatives to drive from one place to another. Numerous roads laid out east to west (Fruitville Road, Bahia Vista, Bee Ridge, Clark) and north to south (Honore, McIntosh, Tuttle) take pressure off of main thoroughfares like US 41. These north to south routes even help reduce local driving trips on I-75.

Congestion is also reduced when grid road networks exist in residential neighborhoods. Narrow neighborhood streets naturally force cars to slow down, and wide neighborhood streets create the perfect conditions for speeding. Offering residents a grid of narrow streets to enter and exit their neighborhoods provides safe traffic flow. A larger community grid road network does the same for a city or county. 

But there are places where a grid is impossible. There are places where all traffic must be funneled onto one road. If you want to get to Siesta Key’s beaches via a route south of Bee Ridge Rd., you must drive through U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road, and travel west on Stickney to cross the south bridge. There is no other option.

Benderson’s lots on the northwest corner of U.S. 41and Stickney Point have been vacant for over 10 years. Before being cleared, there was a Shell gas station on the corner and mobile homes behind the station. The current zoning allows for 300 mobile homes or residential multi family (townhomes, apartments) units, and some office or professional development. The current zoning would add about 4,000 car trips to the existing 45,000 cars at the congested corner.  Benderson’s request would add at least 8,000 more car trips.   

At Thursday’s Planning Commission hearing, Commissioner Robert Morris understood the unique problem at that corner. “It’s too much for there,” Morris said. “It might make sense to me somewhere else. But because you have that intersection, but because you have that bridge, it’s a unique situation.”

Benderson Development can ask to build more, but Mr. Benderson is not entitled to build more.  You wouldn’t know that listening to Planning Commissioners, who voted to recommend the project. Good Planning prevents traffic nightmares. Good planning includes saying “No.”

Cathy Antunes is the host of The Detail.

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