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Q & A’s for Sarasota County Commission District 4 candidates

The Siesta Key Condominium Council (SKCC) whose membership includes about 90 condos on Siesta Key and some 7000 doors, strives to keep their membership informed and engaged in issues that are important to Siesta Key. To provide Siesta Key voters information on the Commissioner Candidates position re critical to Siesta Key issues as identified by the SKCC Membership, a 4-part questionnaire was submitted to the Candidates prior to the August 28 primary election.

The questions were developed by the Council as being pertinent to Siesta Key and the responses are un-edited, that is, as was received from the Candidate. The two candidates that won the primary are Wesley Beggs, Democrat and incumbent Alan Maio, Republican.

Democrat candidate Wesley Beggs

  1. The County Commissioners in early 2018 authorized changes in the Siesta Key District that allowed for changes in setback and height restrictions for a specific property on Old Stickney Point Road. Actual construction plans are now subject to Commissioner Approval. What is your position re the setback and height issues that brought about the changes relative to actual plans for the site?

Wesley Anne Beggs Response:

Although the plans are still subject to the commission’s review and approval, I was disappointed to see this decision go through. I think the Board’s vote opened the door for more projects on Siesta Key that do not suit the needs or wants of the community. To so many, myself included, reducing the setback only fuels local residents’ concerns about over-development in our area. The existing Siesta Key Overlay District zoning regulations have allowed the key to develop well and maintain some of their characteristic island charm. 

  1. Other properties zoned commercial (including teardowns) may be considered by developers as candidates for the same “local treatment” as the Old Stickney Point property received from the Commissioners. What is your position re extension of setback and height codes for other Siesta Key commercially zoned properties? 

Wesley Anne Beggs Response:

I think it is essential that the Board of County Commissioners approach development on Siesta Key and our other barrier islands very carefully. We live in an era in which we know our sea level is rising and we are reaching a critical moment where we need to ask ourselves a very serious question: should we continue to build out these islands? It’s one thing to honor existing zoning and property rights, but can we afford to award exceptions that stress our infrastructure, harm our ecosystem, and jeopardize safety in severe weather?

  1. The city of Sarasota has now been successful in obtaining from the State of Florida permission for dredging of Big Pass in accordance with almost all of the Army Corp of Engineers provisions. Siesta Key property owners have fought this on multiple fronts due to the potential damage to the iconic Siesta Key Beach. What is your position on this issue and whaaction would you recommend the Commission take on this issue?

Wesley Anne Beggs Response:

Dredging and renourishing beaches is a short-term solution to a long-term problem. This is an expensive process and the sand will almost certainly be swept back out into the Gulf as we saw with the renourishment in 2015, but doing nothing puts homes and public infrastructure at risk. I would like to see a greater emphasis on preventative measures we can take like establishing more plant species that can help build up the dune area and stabilize erosion. Seagrass restoration projects protect the longevity of our beaches and increase shoreline resiliency to storms. I believe the county should be included in the conversation and disagree with Stephen DeMarsh’s assessment of the Comprehensive Plan policy regarding dredging activity. Environmental Policy 4.6.1 does not distinguish between public and private endeavors, it simply states that all beach nourishment projects require approval by the Board. 

  1. The development of the property on the corner of Stickney Point and US 41, commonly called the Siesta Promenade is of grave concern to the property owners on Siesta Key, due to safety and traffic issues. The developer continues to push intensive development with little concern for the SK impact. What is your position on this property and what action, if any, would you recommend the Commission take on this issue? 

Wesley Anne Beggs Response:

I live very close to the Stickney Point/41 intersection and can personally attest to the dire traffic situation, especially in season. I am deeply concerned with the consequences this project could have on our traffic, safety, and quality of life. I look forward to attending the August 23rd neighborhood workshop where Benderson’s project manager will present the plan and listen to residents’ concerns. Siesta Promenade seems to contribute to our frustrations about overdevelopment without addressing any of this community’s needs. Just north of this site another retail plaza is already under construction and the Landings plaza still has empty storefronts.

Republican candidate and incumbent Alan Maio

  1. The County Commissioners in early 2018 authorized changes in the Siesta Key District that allowed for changes in setback and height restrictions for a specific property on Old Stickney Point Road. Actual construction plans are now subject to Commissioner Approval. What is your position re the setback and height issues that brought about the changes relative to actual plans for the site? 

Alan Maio Response:

The question is not accurate. The change allowed for requests of changes and applied to all properties on Old Stickney Point Road, not just a specific one. Further, the Special Exception process requires a neighborhood workshop, a public hearing before the Planning Commission, and another public hearing before the County Commission before construction plans can even be started. As to my answer: The text amendment that was approved for all of Old Stickney Point Rd is to allow design flexibility and allow proposed buildings 35’-45’ to ask to be allowed to be closer to the street property line than the 25’ foot setback dictated in the zoning code. This will allow a pedestrian connection to shops and restaurants and not force the parking lot up the sidewalk. Buildings 85’ tall will still be setback at least 25’ or greater from the sidewalk. 

  1. Other properties zoned commercial (including teardowns) may be considered by developers as candidates for the same “local treatment” as the Old Stickney Point property received from the Commissioners. What is your position re extension of setback and height codes for other Siesta Key commercially zoned properties? 

Alan Maio Response:

One of the goals of Siesta Key Overlay District (SKOD) was to allow and encourage shops and restaurants to be built close to the sidewalk so that parking would be in the rear of the property. Gidget’s Coastal Provisions and the Summer House Restaurant in Siesta Key Village are excellent examples. Both had their parking grandfathered in and both are built 2’ from the sidewalk, not 25’ back that was dictated in the zoning code before SKOD. The height and square footage of any proposed building on Siesta Key is dictated by  the amount of on-site and right-of-way parking available. A building cannot be built larger than the number of parking spaces it can fit on its property or on the street adjacent to it, which acts as a size restrictor. 

  1. The city of Sarasota has now been successful in obtaining from the State of Florida permission for dredging of Big Pass in accordance with almost all of the Army Corp of Engineers provisions. Siesta Key property owners have fought this on multiple fronts due to the potential damage to the iconic Siesta Key Beach. What is your position on this issue and what action would you recommend the Commission take on this issue?

Alan Maio Response:

I have heartily supported the County paying for the peer review that brought up legitimate questions on the dredging. I pushed hard for an environmental impact statement that is much more detailed than what had been done, and we sent a comprehensive letter under my name as Chairman of the BOCC to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S Army Corps of Engineers. We were roundly rejected, and they will not be doing an EIS, which absolutely should be done to understand what the impacts will be on Siesta Key.

  1. The development of the property on the corner of Stickney Point and US41, commonly called the Siesta Promenade is of grave concern to the property owners on Siesta Key, due to safety and traffic issues. The developer continues to push intensive development with little concern for the SK impact. What is your position on this property and what action, if any, would you recommend the Commission take on this issue?

Alan Maio Response:

I cannot comment as this is quasi-judicial question before the County Commission.