Island Chatter – December 2020

Southwest Airlines to offer flights into Sarasota Bradenton International Airport

Southwest Airlines announced plans to add service to the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport in the first quarter of 2021, in a recent regulatory filing.

The addition of the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport to its network map is the latest in a growing trend of destination additions for the Dallas-based carrier as it looks to bulk up service to leisure-heavy locales with business travel not expected to return any time soon.

Sarasota Bradenton International Airport will mark the 10th Florida airport for Southwest.

Gulf & Bay takes steps to ensure owner access to beach

New signs that the management of the Gulf & Bay Club erected on Siesta Beach close to three weeks ago have sparked a bit of discussion among visitors to the island’s shore.

They were also the topic of comments during the Nov. 5 meeting of the Siesta Key Association (SKA).

The signs note Florida Statute 177.28(1), which makes a distinction between “private” beach and “public” beach. Section 177.28(1) says, “Mean high-water line along the shores of land immediately bordering on navigable waters is recognized and declared to be the boundary between the foreshore owned by the state in its sovereign capacity and upland subject to private ownership. However, no provision of this part shall be deemed to constitute a waiver of state ownership of sovereignty submerged lands, nor shall any provision of this part be deemed to impair the title to privately owned submerged lands validly alienated by the State of Florida or its legal predecessors.”

In the Gulf & Bay Club’s case, its signs note that the condominium complex’s private property extends 94 feet to the Mean High Water Line.

This week, when the SNL contacted the Gulf & Bay Club for comments, the SNL was directed to Darrel Peters, a member of the complex’s board of directors.

What prompted the initiative, he explained, “was the growing number of people from the public beach” who have been making their way over to Gulf & Bay’s property “and setting up their gear for the day.”

The problem began after county staff completed the improvements at Siesta Public Beach Park in early 2016, he noted. With more parking spaces on the southern side of the park site, Peters said, more people headed toward that area of the beach, closer to where the Gulf & Bay Club stands.

The condominium complex has 392 units, he pointed out. “Folks like to get down and use the beach and be close to the shore,” Peters added.

The Gulf & Bay Club is one of the largest condominium complexes on Siesta.

Asked if management has received complaints since the signs went up, Peters replied, “I would say, ‘No,’ nothing that I would consider unusual.” He added that he believes people generally do understand the reasoning behind the action.

Moreover, Peters noted, “We haven’t forced people to walk in the water” to go past the complex’s part of the beach. Everyone is welcome to cross the property, he added; they just cannot set up “tents and awnings and all their beach paraphernalia …”

He also pointed out, “We’re all fortunate because the beach has accreted. It’s grown deeper over the years.”
Anyone who has looked at photos taken of the shoreline in the 1970s can see how much more beach exists these days, Peters said. Nonetheless, he noted, the walk to the water is longer, which is another reason more people had begun setting up camp on the Gulf & Bay part of the beach.

During the SKA’s meeting on Nov. 5, President Catherine Luckner pointed out that managers of condominium complexes south of Stickney Point Road long have put up signage — and even ropes, on occasion — to prevent members of the public from accessing the private areas on that portion of the beach.

When Siesta resident Nora Patterson still was serving on the County Commission, the SNL saw her take questions on the issue from time to time. Patterson patiently would explain that Mean High Water Line was the figurative line of demarcation between private and public beach property.

Condo Council members strongly opposed to hotel plans

On Aug. 27, the Siesta Key Condominium Council sent a survey to its members, asking their views about a proposed 170-room hotel — with a restaurant, bar and shops — that has been proposed on four parcels between Beach Road and Calle Miramar, just a short walk from Ocean Boulevard, near Beach Access 5.

The height of the building would be 80 feet above base flood elevation, which has been in the 18- to 19-foot range on the Key in the past several years. Thus, the hotel likely would be taller than 90 feet.

Altogether, the Condo Council has reported, 239 surveys were completed, representing individuals and homeowner associations. “All voted against the proposal,” a news release said.  

Many respondents, the release noted, expressed fears that, if constructed, the hotel would exacerbate the congestion with which homeowners already contend near the intersection of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road during tourist season.

“One person said, ‘Please do not sell out our beach again,’” the release added.

Another wrote, “As a Sarasota resident, I am against the proposed changes that would forever turn our small piece of paradise into a congested commercial traffic jam, and run off our long term guests accustomed to quiet, peaceful family comfort.”

The following are other samples of comments:

• “During the high season when I occupy my condo, the traffic is already horrendous.”

• “WE ARE AGAINST THE PROPOSED CHANGES.”

• “We have been longtime owners (and our parents before us) across from the beach on Siesta Key since the 1970’s. We cannot let this happen. Thanks for your efforts to prevent this.”

• “We are the owners of a property on Stickney Point Road since 1986. This is used only by our family as a second residence. We are seasonal residents who fell in love with Sarasota and Siesta Key beaches. Over the past few years our enjoyment of the beaches and other attractions on Siesta Key have been diminished due to traffic congestion caused mainly by major changes to various building codes. Traffic congestion on Stickney Point Road during the ‘season’ greatly diminishes our access to and from our condo.”

During the Nov. 5 Siesta Key Association meeting, President Catherine Luckner talked of the ongoing efforts of the SK Coalition, which was organized during the summer to fight the hotel proposal. The intersection of Beach Road and Ocean Boulevard — close to the planned site of the 80-foot-plus-tall hotel — is “one of the worst [the developers] could possibly pick on Siesta Key,” Luckner pointed out.

Serious accidents are not uncommon in the vicinity of that intersection, she said.

The Coalition members have stressed that they are not opposed to development on the barrier island; however, they believe any new projects should comply with the Siesta Key Overlay District zoning regulations that long have been in place. For example, those rules restrict the height of any new structure to 35 feet above base flood elevation. To go higher, the County Commission has to approve a Special Exception.

When the SNL checked in with county staff in early November about the status of the hotel proposal, a representative of the Planning and Development Services Department reported that the formal application had not been submitted.

Prior to the deadline for this issue of Siesta Sand, staff added that the hotel project team also had not submitted a request for the required neighborhood workshop before the formal application can be turned in to Planning and Development.

The owner of the parcels that comprise the 0.96-acre site of the planned hotel is Louise Khaghan of New York City, the preliminary application said. The long-time lessee of the property is Robert T. Anderson Jr., a RE/MAX real estate agent whose company SKH 1 LLC, is listed on the application.

Several persons on the Key have told the SNL that Anderson has been making presentations to groups about the proposal, working to gain support for it.

City of Sarasota beats Siesta in ‘TDT competition’

For years, the accommodations on Siesta Key that collect the county’s 5% Tourist Development Tax (TDT) — or “bed tax” — have won the figurative fiscal year competition among all county locations for the amount of money turned over to the Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office.

Last year, though, the City of Sarasota prevailed for the first time, a fact noted in the Tax Collector’s Office’s final report for the 2019 fiscal year, which ran from Oct. 1, 2018 through Sept. 30, 2019: “Traditionally, the City of Sarasota and Siesta Key are the locations with the highest collections. For FY19 as of 12/31/19, the City of Sarasota generated the highest percentage of collections at 30.62% (compared to 29.73% in FY18) followed by Siesta Key with collections of 29.71% (compared to 31.08% in FY18).”

And based on the final collections for the 2020 fiscal year — which ended Sept. 30 — it appears the city has won again.

The most recent data from Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates and her staff show the city barely edging out Siesta, however. City accommodations accounted for 27.77% of the fiscal year total, while Siesta entities collected 27.74%, the report says.

Ford-Coates and her staff also note that, thanks to audits and other enforcement actions, figures may change from month-to-month. In other words, Siesta ultimately could eke out a win.

Whither the Rockbridge during the Eta event?

With county and city emergency management staff members keeping an eye on where Eta would go the second week of November, the SNL thought about the crew on the Rockbridge dredge that had been removing sand from Big Pass to renourish Lido Key Beach.

As a result, the SNL asked Sarasota City Engineer Alexandrea DavisShaw where the dredge and its crew members would ride out the storm.

In a email, she wrote, “They have moved into the place the Contactor has identified as the safe harbor spot. I would expect them to stay there for the next several days.”

The contractor is Cottrell Contracting Corp. of Chesapeake, Va.

Early on the afternoon of Nov. 9, Ed McCrane, emergency management chief for Sarasota County, offered comments on Eta’s winds and rain at that time. Areas of the county were seeing gusts of 10 mph to 20 mph, he said, with some sustained winds of 20 mph and 30 mph.

At that point, he noted, weather forecasters were expecting Eta to stall after “traversing to the west and south into the Gulf of Mexico.” Although modeling indicated a turn to the north later in the week, McCrane added, no one could predict with certainty what Eta would do.

By Nov. 11, with Eta having taken a turn back toward Southwest Florida, tropical storm force winds and rainfall were battering the county. The highest gust reported at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport on Nov. 11 was 52 mph, the SNL learned by reviewing National Weather Service records for the location.

In a Nov. 11 Facebook Live video, McCrane urged people to stay out of the Gulf of Mexico — thinking of surfers’ attraction to the conditions, no doubt. “It’s amazing to see those waves crash,” he said, but he advised people to stay indoors, if at all possible.

The lifeguard stands on the county-operated beaches were moved back from the shoreline in an effort to protect them, Jamie Carson, manager of communications, added in the Facebook Live segment.

Surfline, which provides online reports on conditions at numerous county beaches, listed the surf height at 6 to 10 feet near Point of Rocks on the southern part of Siesta on the afternoon of Nov. 11. The wind speed was 30 knots, Surfline added.

About 9 p.m., the Sarasota Police Department closed Siesta Drive just east of the north bridge to Siesta Key because of high water. Genevieve Judge, the department’s public information officer, told the SNL on Nov. 12 that no major damage was reported in the city in the aftermath of the storm.

Lights on again

Last month, it was reported that one streetlight in Siesta Village was out, and the Florida Power & Light Co. streetlight at Beach Access 5 was no longer shining at night.

Lisa Cece, Sarasota County’s special district coordinator, who serves as the county liaison to the Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp., told the SNL she would work to remedy those situations.

And, indeed, she was successful, according to a reader who expressed enthusiasm for her efforts. As of last week, the reader reported, both lights were back on

Reality show “Siesta Key” gets greenlight for 4th season

The MTV reality show has officially been renewed for a 4th season. Production for the show will start locally in late November. However, the cast and crew will eventually move to an international resort to film the majority of the season’s episodes. The location of the resort has not been announced.

A premiere date for season has not yet been announced.

Halo Arts Project has two upcoming events – one virtual & one in person

On Wednesday, January 27, 2021 from 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., you can participate in the Angels for Artists Virtual Art Auction from the comfort of your own home. This fun online event is a great opportunity to add exceptional art to your home/office collection and support the Halo Fellowship Program. Bids start at $75 and select pieces will have a “buy it now” price. Artwork will be previewed on Wednesday, January 6, 2021.

Angels for Artists Events help support the Fellowship Awards Program. This year’s theme: “COME TOGETHER 2020 – Quite the Year” provides artists with a 10”x 10” canvas to explore their feelings and express themselves. They create their artwork which is donated to be auctioned in support of the program. Last year, 110 canvases were donated and purchased in the gala event.

On Thursday, January 28, 2021 from 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the MARA Gallery 1421 5th Street, Sarasota. Halo Arts Project will have on display over 50, 10”x 10” canvases. It will be socially distanced following all Covid-19 guidelines available for purchase at silent auction bidding.

The artwork is lively, sometimes edgy, sometimes traditional, but never ordinary.

For more information or request visit: haloartsproject.com 941-328-8052 or info@haloartsproject.com

Halo Arts Project Inc., founded in 2019, core values are to embrace diversity and support a diverse range of visual artists, applaud innovation and challenges, and strive to work for artists who establish their roles as part of a larger community of artists and citizens, deriving a sense of purpose, aesthetic, social or both.