| Sarasota Herald-Tribune
SARASOTA COUNTY — Developer Gary Kompothecras is pitching a seven-story, 120-room hotel at Old Stickney Point and Peacock roads that may usher in a hotel renaissance on Siesta Key, and he’s seeking the community’s help to craft his project.
The problem? Neither Kompathecras or his team has formally indicated when they wanted residents to show up to provide feedback, something that has riled stakeholders and made some legal experts question whether this is a violation of Florida’s open government laws.
A published notice by the developer indicated the meeting date was to be determined. But according to Sarasota County, the meeting is proceeding as planned on Wednesday.
Florida requires local governments and other public agencies to publish notices of meetings, hearings and workshops seven days before the event.
Workshops are also required in the early stages of the local development process and help county staff formulate suggestions for elected officials to consider before they make a final decision on a development proposal.
Robert Medred, the head of Genesis Planning and Development, applied for the workshop on behalf of Kompothecras, the founder of 1-800 Ask Gary and prominent Republican donor.
While Medred did publish a notice of the workshop on Nov. 20 in the Herald-Tribune, the notice only indicated that the meeting “will be held via Zoom on November TBD” at 6 p.m.
A review of the county’s public meeting calendar on its website, which was linked in the notice, did not initially list any information about the public workshop. The county only recently included the workshop on its calendar.
Michael Barfield, a paralegal and Florida public records expert, says that dates are required on notices and to not include them is a violation of Florida’s open records laws.
“There are rules for giving a date on the notice,” said Barfield. “Otherwise, how would the public know where to show up and when to go?”
The county, however, disagrees.
“This is not a Sunshine violation as this is not an advertisement for a public hearing,” said Michele Norton, the county’s senior planning and zoning manager. “It’s an advertising error that requires the applicant to start that advertisement process over, as a date and time are required.”
Norton said that Medred “erroneously posted the wrong advertisement” and would have to re-advertise that the posted meeting will take place on Wednesday.
But Medred hasn’t started the advertisement process over again and is pressing ahead with Wednesday, the date he initially included on his application that was filed and approved by the county, records show.
In advance of the meeting, Kompothecras’ development team is also required to send out mailing notice to property owners within 750 feet of the project.
They are also required to send notice of the meeting 10 days in advance.
Anecdotally, few, if any, of the stakeholders have received any notice, said Mark Spiegel, who represents the Siesta Key Coalition, one of several groups opposing the project.
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