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Burns Square Parking Lot For Sale; Closed to Public

A once leased parking lot by the city on Dolphin and Orange avenues is closed off and for sale by owners Michael Saunders and Co. The lot is a liability issue, the company said.

Burns Square shoppers and residents are wondering why a former city lot is chained off on Dolphin and Orange avenues.

The once free parking lot is now chained off because owns the lot, says it needs repairs and – if you’re interested – it’s for sale.

Folks have emailed both the city and Patch inquiring about the lot.

“Exactly where are the movie patrons for , and the customers for the dozens of shops and restaurants in the neighborhood expected to park?” Jack Vinales of Jack Vinales 20th Century Classics antique store wrote to City Manager Robert Bartolotta in an email. “There is very limited street side parking, and the city sponsored lot on Laurel and Orange was always well utilized.”

Nicole Wipf wrote to Patch that she might have to move.

“This is a problem for those of us who live downtown and have no other place to park,” she said. “My husband and I live in the Dolphin Building (above Burns Court Cafe) and we may have to move – there's simply no place for us to park.”

The city leased the lot from Michael Saunders, but that agreement expired Oct. 31, 2010, Bartolotta said in an email to Vinales.

“The lot was not being used very much other than by private employee parking,” he said. “Since we could not charge for a private lot, the lease was not renewed.  Since that time Michael Saunders has elected to manage their lot as a free parking lot.”

The Saunders lot is in disrepair and had to be closed for safety reasons, Saunders spokesman Tom Heatherman told Patch.

“We’re facing liability issues there. If anyone should get hurt, the liability would fall squarely on our shoulders,” he said.

The company was threatened with a lawsuit after someone fell in the lot, which has potholes in it, he said.

The lot is for sale, but Heatherman said he wasn’t sure where the company is in the sale process for that lot.

“We’d love to come to an arrangement with somebody,” he said.

Free short-term parking on the streets is available, Bartolotta said, and businesses can rent spots for employees at the State Street lot, too.

James Lee December 17, 2011 at 12:30 PM
i think the city should buy the lot in question, repair it and then fill it full of parking meters that could be removed from Main Street. In that way, this lot would be paid for by the people who park there and Main Street would have less parking meters to bother customers who want to shop on Main Street!
Denise Kowal December 17, 2011 at 12:32 PM
The Burns Square Property Owners Association conducted 2 charrettes, once with Ramon Trias and again with Bill Dennis both respected New Urbanist Planners. The city received plans and information on the critical needs for civic parking in the Burns Square area. The city adopted the Master Parking Plan that prioritized Burns Square #3 and #5 of the eight projects approved in that plan. The Orange and Laurel Civic Parking Structure was approved to be constructed by 2008 with 580 spaces. That plan was a direct result of the City of Sarasota Master Plan and in accordance with the vision approved when that plan was adopted. In 2010 a parking structure was approved to be built adding another 200 space for the Burns Square area. The city has been briefed numerous times on the lack of possibilities in the Burns Square area and how it is critical for them to purchase something for the civic parking structure that has been adopted through numerous plans and visions. The time is now for them to negotiate and purchase the Michael Saunders lot because there is no other options. Continuing to 'wait', which is what essentially the management and the commission voted for in 2009 when Michael Saunders gave them a very fair deal that was under the fair market value for the property, was not in the interest of our visions as a city. Otherwise the Burns Square area will remain an area scattered with private parking lots that does nothing in creating a walkable and sustainable district.
Denise Kowal December 17, 2011 at 12:37 PM
If the City of Sarasota purchased the Michael Saunders lot and built us a parking structure as they have done with the Palm Avenue Civic Parking Garage, Whole Foods Parking Garage and now in plans to RFP the #2 Master Parking Plan structure for State Street lot the city already owns THEN Burns Square would be more than happy to enter into the Parking Plan that calls for metered on-street parking. That is the way the plan was written and that is what the Burns Square Property Owners have always agreed with when the plans were adopted back in 2004.
Stephen Aiken December 18, 2011 at 03:02 AM
No! The government should not buy it. Let all the people that are complaining that they have no other place to park pool their money and buy it and charge for parking. Or let Dolphin Building (above Burns Court Cafe), that faces to possibility of losing tenants buy it. Or let the dozens of shops and restaurants in the neighborhood, who may lose customers, pool their money and buy it.
Denise Kowal December 18, 2011 at 10:10 AM
Respectfully, the City of Sarasota has studied with it constituents the reasons and purpose behind land banking for civic needs such as parking. They have purchased the built every civic parking structure in the city limits thus far as part of creating a more sustainable, walkable and urban downtown and is consistent with every city planning model. The #1 priority Palm Avenue was purchased and built by the city and #2 land is owned and is out for RFP by the city and #3 Burns Square is not even in the land banking stage yet. It would be impossible for the property owners and the merchants of any single area of our city to purchase and built a civic parking facility nor is it their responsibility. Parking is a civic responsibility of the city and they have adopted that responsibility through the Master Plan and the Parking Master Plan - studies and final plans that included our entire community with the help of the most highly respected urban planners in the world.
James Lee December 18, 2011 at 11:17 AM
People still go downtown to shop? For what? I thought that those stores and restaurants were there for the tourists! I couldn't give a rat's fanny about Burns Court! That's their problem!
Jim Malec December 18, 2011 at 01:30 PM
Some of the comments to this article illustrate why Sarasota may never be a truly great community. Too many residents seem to simply want the city to be a quiet place to grow old. Whether we're talking about the ridiculous noise ordinances, the lack of initiative put into building civil structure for our youth, or whether or not people who live downtown have a place to park their car, the overriding sentiment seems to be something akin to, "Go screw yourself." No community can ever live up to its full potential when its population thinks like that. Here we have the libertarian Stephen Aiken urging the city not to do something that would be a benefit to the community because he is ideologically opposed to taxation, while James Lee seems to think this community can build itself on the backs of the box box retailers. Both positions are unfortunate. Small businesses are the engine of the economy, and the death of Sarasota's downtown would be a catastrophic loss for this city and county. The city should absolutely buy the parking lot--not only does it provide overflow parking for an entire downtown district, it serves as the only available parking (paid or otherwise) for dozens of residents in a multi-block area. As one of those residents, I just want to say that this is our city too. We deserve to have a place to park our cars, so that we can live here, go to school, go to work, and pursue our passions.
Denise Kowal December 18, 2011 at 04:38 PM
It is also interesting to note that those who do live downtown in the buildings take up a very small footprint on this planet and are the most sustainable and efficient out of the multiple ways humans decide to make home. Providing civic parking for residents and businesses both small and large is highly important to protecting our natural resources by using less energy that produces less pollution while supporting commerce and a sense of place we call community - a more walkable community, less sprawl, smaller structures, preserves historic structures and provides security and the list goes on. I suggest reading the Sarasota Master Plan 2020 as well as the City of Sarasota Parking Master Plan for further information.
Stephen Aiken December 18, 2011 at 05:21 PM
"Parking is a civic responsibility of the city and they have adopted that responsibility through the Master Plan and the Parking Master Plan " Denise no parking is not a civic responsibly. It is the responsibly of the merchant that benefit from it. If the city as a master plan that prohibits free enterprise, in the form of for profit parking lots than the city needs to update its master plan. Free enterprise is what this country was built on.
Stephen Aiken December 18, 2011 at 05:24 PM
Jim Malec, It makes me sad to know people that can't, or don't, read respond to other peoples comments. I don't know who read the article and comments to you-but I didn't see any comments that said "Go screw yourself." as you claim. I had a good laugh at the way that you twisted my comments. Yes you are absolutely correct when you say "Small businesses are the engine of the economy, and the death of Sarasota's downtown would be a catastrophic loss for this city and county." That is why business should pay for what is in their benefit. They should not get a free ride at the expense of the tax payer-most of whom don't even live or work in that area. So to some it up this statement of yours is only partly correct "Here we have the libertarian Stephen Aiken urging the city not to do something that would be a benefit to the community because he is ideologically opposed to taxation" Yes I am a Libertarian, as you claim what we advocate are free market solutions. We don't believe that government should replace free enterprise but government should remove impediments to free enterprise. In other words as I state above "If the city as a master plan that prohibits free enterprise, in the form of for profit parking lots than the city needs to update its master plan. Free enterprise is what this country was built on." Government is usual the problem NOT the solution. For those that are interested in finding out about Libertarian-ism please visit lpf.org
Denise Kowal December 18, 2011 at 05:49 PM
Stephen, Nobody implied free enterprise was prohibited - you are missing key considerations and I am sorry but I cannot teach you urban planning through this thread. I hear your sentiment and you seem to state it is simplistic but it is not. The city has a CRA zone and has TIF Funds as well as many other funding sources that are not citywide taxes paid but paid for by the businesses and the property owners in downtown. The benefits far outweigh your concerns but again... I cannot teach you all this on this thread and even if I did you seem closed to trying to hear this view. I would suggest joining the Congress of New Urbanism and maybe take the Smart Code workshop among other urban planning tools to help understand the reasons behind the benefits of Civic Parking facilities. OH... and there are mechanism that put some of that cost on development but that is another story...

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