More North Beach Road updates

| March 1, 2017

Bollards finally in place

Sarasota County’s chief engineer, Isaac Brownman, confirmed on Feb. 2 that the long-awaited bollards were installed in late January at the southern end of North Beach Road.

Dennis and Wendy Madden had been working on the project for months, Dennis Madden told SNL in late December 2016. He and his wife were among three sets of property owners on North Beach Road who petitioned last year for the county’s vacation of a 357-foot segment in front of houses they own.

The property owners’ attorney, Charles D. Bailey IIII of the Williams Parker firm, promised the commissioners bollards would be erected to prevent vehicular traffic on the stretch of road that has been closed since 1993 because of repeated storm damage.

Linda Valley, a supporter of Siesta resident Mike Cosentino — who has fought the County Commission’s May 11, 2016 approval of the road vacation petition on a 4-1 vote — mentioned the bollards during the Jan. 25 County Commission meeting.

Brownman added in his note to SNL — sent via county spokesman Drew Winchester — that the Maddens obtained a county right of way use permit to erect the structures. The effort was coordinated with the county’s Transportation Department, Brownman noted.

Limiting appearances before the County Commission

Ever since the latter part of May 2016, Siesta resident Mike Cosentino has been a regular speaker at County Commission meetings, using Open to the Public segments to press his case that the board violated its Comprehensive Plan in voting on May 11, 2016 to vacate a 357-foot segment of North Beach Road.

In more recent months, Cosentino has addressed the board more than once during a meeting. That action led to a request from Commissioner Charles Hines to the Office of the County Attorney.

Cosentino stepped to the podium on the afternoon of Jan. 25 — one of a number of people utilizing the Open to the Public period, because a discussion on the proposed Siesta Promenade was the first business item for board that afternoon. The Benderson Development project was not the focus of a public hearing. Therefore, anyone wishing to comment on it had to speak during Open to the Public.

Cosentino told the commissioners he was out of town the previous day for a funeral, which was the reason he did not appear before them that morning. “I’m sure you all missed me,” he added and then chuckled.

Before Cosentino could say anything further, Hines turned to Deputy County Attorney Alan Roddy.

His understanding, Hines said, is that under the board’s Administrative Rules of Order, an individual can speak on any topic during Open to the Public. However, the individual may not offer comments on a specific subject more than once during a meeting unless the board grants the person additional time. “Is that accurate?” Hines asked Roddy.

“I would have to check on that,” Roddy replied. “I’m sorry.”

Hines then pointed out that Cosentino already had appeared before the commission that morning to discuss the North Beach Road vacation. “He’ll probably stay and speak again a third time,” Hines added, referring to the Open to the Public period provided at the end of that afternoon’s agenda. Nonetheless, Hines continued, he did not hear the commissioners grant Cosentino permission to talk about North Beach Road more than once on Jan. 25.

“I’ll let it go today,” Hines said, “but I’d like [the rules] reviewed.”

Chair Paul Caragiulo concurred, asking that the board have the information prior to its next meeting, which was set for Tuesday, Feb. 7, at the R.L. Anderson Administration Center in Venice.

When Cosentino began speaking again, he indicated he had planned to address all the board members. Instead, Cosentino continued, “Mr. Hines, I guess we’ll just stay with you.”

That morning, one of Cosentino’s supporters who has preceded him in numerous Open to the Public appearances had responded to questioning from Hines about one particular facet of the North Beach Road issue. It focused on whether the segment the board vacated actually is on the waterfront. Hines argued that it is not. Lots stand seaward of the road, Hines told Linda Valley of Siesta Key. The property owners who petitioned for the vacation of the portion of North Beach Road own those lots; part of their agreement with the county regarding the road vacation was the stipulation that they never would attempt to build on those parcels.

Valley insisted that the lots were not buildable, anyway. Hines disagreed with her.

Cosentino and Valley continue to point to part of the county’s Comprehensive Plan that was in effect on May 11, 2016. Parks Policy 1.1.13 said, “The County shall not vacate road segments on waterfronts along any creek, river, lake, bay or Gulf access point and shall encourage right-of-way use of these areas for coastal beach and bay access.”

In response to a SNL question about the Office of the County Attorney’s determination regarding the board’s Administrative Rules of Order, county spokesman Jason Bartolone provided a copy of the rules. In a Jan. 30 email, Bartolone wrote, “Section II.3(b) on Page 14 [addresses] speaking twice on the same subject at the same meeting, and II.2(7) on Page 13 addresses redundancy.”

The first section he referenced says, “No person may speak more than once on the same subject at the same meeting unless granted permission by the Board.”

The second section to which Bartolone pointed reads, “All public comments shall avoid personal attacks, abusive language and redundancy.”

By the way, when Cosentino made his first appearance at the Jan. 25 County Commission meeting, he was wearing an eye-catching item of clothing. “I got you guys a new jacket so you could see me coming,” he joked.

The white linen jacket has “RBR” stitched on both lapels. “RBR” stands for Cosentino’s nonprofit organization, Reopen Beach Road.

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