By Rachel Hackney Brown/Bob Stein
Miniature golf course update
The couple who hope to create an 18-hole miniature golf operation on Siesta Key’s Calle Minorga appeared before members of the Siesta Key Village Association (SKVA) in September, seeking a letter of support if the organization’s board felt that appropriate. “We see this as just an adjunct to all your businesses here,” Mike Driscoll explained of the concept.
No neighborhood workshop date has been set yet, Driscoll told SNL after the Sept. 6 meeting, but he let the SKVA members know that their support during that session would be much appreciated.
Driscoll said he and his wife, Debbie, wanted to introduce themselves to Village merchants. If any SKVA members have visited their Fish Hole operation on Lakewood Ranch’s Main Street, he continued, they have seen “we build a very [natural] looking place. Our golf courses kind of look like a park,” Driscoll added.
The theme for the Siesta golf course would be The Fishing Village, he noted. Imagine the 10,000-square-foot lot on Calle Minorga transformed into “pretty botanical gardens,” he said, “with koi fish and turtles.” Moreover, he pointed out, the goal is to create “a very family-friendly but also neighborhood-friendly operation.”
In Lakewood Ranch, he explained, The Fish Hole works with about 30 businesses to advertise specials for restaurants and shops on its scorecards, encouraging families to visit those places after they play rounds of golf.
In response to a question about parking, Driscoll explained that the current plan includes 13 vehicle spaces, two spots for motorcycles and a bike rack, for a total of about 16. He hopes guests also will be able to park on the side of the street, Driscoll continued, and county staff has suggested the possibility of parking in the alley behind the property.
County staff members said no traffic study would be needed, he noted, because they agreed with Driscoll that the golf course would not be anticipated to be a destination attraction.
Robert Lincoln, the Sarasota attorney representing Driscoll in the development plan, told SNL in August that the expectation is that people would play golf before or after dining and shopping in the Village.
Driscoll said during the SKVA meeting that he has been working with county staff on the necessary rezoning and special exception necessary for the project.
Homelessness issues have diminished greatly
A month after the Village gazebo was the focal point for homelessness issues on Siesta Key, the situation has improved significantly, Michael Shay, the liaison between the Siesta Key Village Association (SKVA) and the Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp., told Lt. Donny Kennard and Sgt. Jason Mruczek of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office on Sept. 6.
“I don’t know what the Sheriff’s Office did,” Shay began during the September SKVA meeting, but “all I want to say is, ‘Thank you.’”The discovery was made on the morning of Aug. 4 that someone had defecated at the gazebo, Shay continued, “and [the Maintenance Corp.] had to spend money to have the whole gazebo steam-cleaned.”
Sheriff’s Office personnel also addressed what was becoming a regular situation of homeless people sleeping in the gazebo, Shay added. “We have not had a problem since [early August] that I have seen. I’m in the Village every morning around 5:15,” Shay pointed out. One person was sleeping in the gazebo two nights ago, Shay said, but not that morning. “I don’t see them in the morning in the Village at all,” Shay told the approximately 20 people present for the meeting.
SKVA Vice President Mark Smith — who also is on the Maintenance Corp. board — explained that the Sheriff’s Office sent representatives to the Village “to administer what help they could to these folks.” The Salvation Army also was planning to send some of its staff to talk with the individuals, Smith added. Nothing nefarious was done, Smith said.
He hoped he had not implied anything of that sort, Shay responded quickly. “I believe that the folks that wanted help got help and those that wanted to avoid help are doing so,” Smith noted.
Issues with the homeless were being reported on the Key prior to the gazebo incident, Kennard explained. The Sheriff’s Office representatives offer resources to help individuals, he added.
With funding support from the County Commission, the Sheriff’s Office operates a program called SHIFTS to assist the homeless. Its case workers can help individuals with behavioral health issues get into programs to address their needs, and the program provides beds so people do not have to sleep on the streets.
Siesta property owner Paul Parr also commended Kennard and Mruczek for handling a growing concern of condominium owners across from Siesta Public Beach: Homeless people were lingering around the picnic tables next to Beach Road.
“Your efforts there have been stellar,” Parr said. Some homeless individuals are still seen in that area, Parr continued, but they do not stay for long.
Kennard pointed out that the Sheriff’s Office’s personnel treat all people the same in Sarasota County. Some people will not accept help when it first is extended to them, Kennard said, “but that doesn’t mean they won’t change their minds tomorrow.”
Off-season maintenance schedule
During his routine update on Village upkeep, which was part of the September SKVA meeting, Michael Shay pointed out that Buccaneer Landscape Management has dropped to a four-day-a-week schedule, which it will maintain until February. That correlates to the official end of the summer season, Shay indicated. He serves as the liaison between the SKVA and the Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp., which pays for the upkeep.
In response to a question, Shay said Sunday is one of the days a Buccaneer crew is in the Village, which means workers collect garbage that day from the cans in the area.
SKVA President Wendall Jacobsen noted that Buccaneer’s employees “did a great job” picking up trash before then-Tropical Storm Hermine passed by Siesta Key the previous week.
Although some issues arose with the garbage collection in July, Shay continued, he kept a close eye on the situation in August. “There hasn’t been a [recent] problem,” he added.
The ‘joys’ of Village maintenance
As the liaison between the SKVA and the Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp. — which is responsible for funding the Village upkeep — Michael Shay has to deal with more than just making sure everything looks good.
One example of ancillary matters arose during a recent SKVA meeting.
Shay explained that he received a letter from a woman who had hit one of the bollards on Ocean Boulevard that provides light at Village crosswalks. The incident occurred in May, he noted. It was the second time the bollard near the Coldwell Banker real estate office had suffered that fate, he added.
The woman wrote that her car had sustained $2,500 in damage from the collision. “She claims that she didn’t knock it over,” Shay said. “She said the bollard hit her.”
“Of course. It jumped out,” Peter van Roekens, the Terrace East Condominium Association representative to the SKVA, replied with a smile.
When Shay talked with the woman, he continued, he told her he was going to pass along her information to the county department that handles such issues. Then she told Shay, “‘well, maybe I don’t need to get paid for [the damage].’” County staff works with Shay and the Maintenance Corp. on the Village upkeep. The county paid for the bollards a couple of years ago. Two new ones were on order, Shay noted.
Boardwalk Eats and Sweets
The restaurant, located at 217 Avenida Madera, opened its doors last year with a different menu for locals and visitors. Board Walk Eats and Sweets’ menu featured food one would find at local festivals, funnel cakes, deep fried onion petals and more. The doors to the restaurant closed mid-September.
New Liquor store to open in the Village
Morton’s Siesta Market located in the Siesta Key Village plans to open Siesta Village Liquors by mid-October. Morton’s took over the adjoining space previously occupied by Siesta Key Hardware. The previous owners of the hardware store announced closing the store this past summer to retire.