A maximum of four 145-foot-tall buildings are planned for the proposed Aqua by the Bay development, according to an engineering report dated May 16.
The number of buildings exceeding the maximum height of 35 feet allowed became a point of contention during the commission’s Land Use meeting earlier this month, prompting the commissioners to refer the controversial development back to the planning commission.
Two sentences in the staff report were misinterpreted from the applicant’s proposal: “Two multi-story buildings, with heights greater than 35 feet, for multi-family residents are proposed,” page seven of the staff report reads. “One building is 75 feet tall and five stories; the other building is 145 feet tall and thirteen stories (10 stories over parking).”
“We have two building types,” Ed Vogler, the attorney representing developer Carlos Beruff, clarified during the May 4 meeting. “I’ve not read it to be two buildings, and I thought that would be a wrong impression. ... We do not know how many buildings. That is subject to later designs.”
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A height analysis of Aqua by the Bay completed by King Engineering and dated May 16 states there would be “a maximum of four 145-foot tall structures.” But the report doesn’t indicate how many of the other building type, which is now stated at a maximum of 95-feet in height, there would be.
Misty Servia, with King Engineerings, declined comment Friday afternoon about the document.
“The clustering of residential units is planned for Aqua by the Bay and is realized by providing a variety of residential options, including multi-story buildings to create a traditional Florida community with an urbanized feel,” the report states. “Placement of the tallest buildings in the central portion of the site mitigates potential external impacts to the surrounding properties. ... The setbacks, along with the careful placement of buildings, will ensure the waterfront vista is protected and enhanced with interesting and architecturally significant buildings.”
During the hearing in May, commissioners expressed concerns with the uncertainty on the number of tall buildings.
“That’s what’s troubling to me right now,” Commissioner Charles Smith said.
Commissioner Robin DiSabatino agreed: “That’s the one major thing that I’m having concerns about.”
Aqua by the Bay, which is Beruff’s latest proposal to develop 2,894 homes on 529 acres between El Conquistador Parkway and Sarasota Bay, just to the south of 53rd Avenue West, is scheduled to go back before the planning commission on July 13 and the county commission on Aug. 16.
“It is important to remember that the more desirable the land, the bigger the incentive is to allow for taller heights so that more land area remains open and green,” the King Engineering report states. “Simply put, height, done right, contributes to a dynamic and thriving community.”
Stuart Smith, with Suncoast Waterkeeper and Sierra Club, said the height analysis fails to address the commissioners’ concerns.
“This is a non-answer,” Smith said. “Staff and commissioners should insist on a Preliminary Site Plan as well as a revised General Development Plan. Even one gigantic high-rise is too many on this low-rise coast. ...Mr. Beruff is asking for a special finding to let him violate the county’s height limit. Essentially it’s a favor. Commissioners can just say no, and they should.”