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Siesta Key Island Chatter February 2019

Staff report

Siesta Key jewelry store launches product to benefit Mote Marine Laboratory and red tide research

Silver City jewelry store on Siesta Key has created a line of jewelry to assist with red tide research efforts at Mote Marine Laboratory. Known as the “Tide Away” collection, many of the pieces feature marine life such as manatees, dolphins and sea turtles.

Silver City is proud that 25% of all sales from this line are donated to Mote to provide support for their vital red tide research programs. Come share the vision with Silver City to save our beaches and our marine life and to channel funding towards world-renowned research at Mote Marine Laboratory.

View the Tide Away collection at www.SilverCitySarasota.com or visit the store on 6539 Midnight Pass Rd. on Siesta Key.

St. Michael’s Women’s Guild Fashion Show

All are welcome to attend St. Michael the Archangel Women’s Guild Fashion Show and Luncheon on Wednesday, March 20 at Laurel Oak Country Club off Bee Ridge Road.  Check-in begins at 11:00 and the

Program begins at Noon. Fashions are provided by P.J’s on Main Street. Price is $50.00 Per Person. Call Carol at 941-349-2016 for reservations.

Ridership numbers

The ridership numbers for the Siesta Key Breeze trolley for November and December 2018 were reported at a meeting with the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce on January 10. The number of riders for November was 19,580 with 4,482 riders on November 10 and 11, the weekend days of the Crystal Classic sand sculpting event. The number of riders for December was 18,351. The last six days of December starting on the 26th through the end of the year was 9,515 averaging 1,586 riders a day during the Christmas/New Year’s break.

Ride the SK Breeze Trolley Free, Sun-Thurs 10 am to 10 pm and Fri-Sat 10 am until midnight, 30 minute service 7 days per week including holidays.

Work proceeding to enhance ADA access at Beach Access 2

In December 2018, the paper reported that county staff was working on a project to make the beach more accessible to persons with physical disabilities. The focus was Beach Access 2, at the western end of Avenida Messina.

Staff was hopeful that the project could be completed before Christmas. After hearing from an island resident in early January, that was not the case; the county staff was asked for an update.

The Sarasota County Public Works Department project, which includes relocating the handicap-accessible (Americans with Disabilities Act) parking space, was delayed from completion late last year because of the need for an Emergency Services (Fire Department) safety review of the proposal, Brianne Grant, county media relations specialist, reported in a Jan. 14 email. “This was done to ensure that the new parking layout would not hamper [Emergency Services] operations,” she explained.

With Emergency Services staff having cleared the plans, she continued, staff was awaiting the final design of upgraded signage, which must correspond “with the accessible design of the parking. We hope to have this review completed within 2 weeks,” Grant added. “We do not yet have an anticipated date for project completion at this time.”

Condo Council February membership meeting

The Siesta Key Condo Council will hold a membership meeting on February 19, 3 pm at the Siesta Key Chapel, 4615 Gleason Ave. The first speaker will be discussing Fire Station #13:  Michael Regnier Sarasota County Fire Chief 2018 Statistics and Future Plans.

The second speaker is Johnathan Lewis Sarasota County Administrator; he will discuss the State of the County, Legacy Trail, Siesta Key Trolley and Siesta Key Beach Paid Parking.

SOSS2 seeking help with legal bills

In its Newsletter 51, sent out on Jan. 14, Save Our Siesta Sand 2 (SOSS2) is seeking assistance to cover the expenses of the federal lawsuit it has filed in an effort to prevent the dredging of Big Sarasota Pass. (See the related story in this issue.)

“Our legal bills continue to mount,” the newsletter says. “We will be requiring expert witnesses to testify and have set a goal of $100,000. At the end of the year with matched funds we had raised approximately $57,000 towards our goal. We thank all those who contributed and especially those who have created our Matching Fund. But we are still short of our goal by $43,000 and we are counting on you to support our efforts. Remember our singular purpose is to prevent the dredge of the protective Big Pass shoal and we need your help to succeed.

Matching funds are still available so donate now at www.soss2.com/donate. Thank you again for your most generous help!”

Invitation to 4ocean Beach Cleanup in Siesta Key

On February 23rd, 4Ocean will be hosting a large beach cleanup on Siesta Key from 9am-11am. This free event will be an amazing opportunity for students, organizations, citizens, and educators alike to come together as a community and make a joint effort to help keep Siesta Key clean and beautiful.

A press release went on to say, “We would love to have you be part of our Education Village at the event. This education village includes tents/setups from other local organizations that are present during our cleanup event. This will allow cleanup participants to not only learn about how single-use plastics are greatly affecting ocean life, but it will also give them a chance to connect with local organizations like yourself and discover how they can become part of the solution. Please let me know if this seems like something that your staff would be interested participating in, and I would be happy to provide further information. The link to our event page can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/events/226506648271801/ We’d love to have you!”

Dec. 27 crash takes out county railing again

When the Dec. 27, 2018 accident occurred in the sharp curve on Ocean Boulevard north of Gleason Avenue, Michael Shay, the Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp. manager reported, the county’s railing in the curve was knocked down once again.

It has been just a few months since county staff had to replace the railing because of a traffic accident. That previous incident was in early October.

The only positive news this time, Shay added, was that the wall erected by the owners of the home in that curve appeared to have been spared.

An inquiry was made online for the report from the Florida Highway Patrol; the report will not be available until 60 days after it was filed.

Trying to lighten the mood

During the day-long County Commission hearing on Siesta Promenade, on Dec. 12, 2018, a few light moments ensued amid all the serious public testimony from residents opposed to the mixed-use project.

For example, one speaker, named Annie Brooks, told the board at the outset of her comments, “I’m a little nervous. This is not my thing.”

Brooks then talked of ordeals through which she has suffered, getting on and off the Key via Stickney Point Road. The current traffic situation was troubling enough, she emphasized, without adding the 414 new residential units, a 130-room hotel and 140,000 square feet of retail and commercial space planned at Siesta Promenade. (Benderson Development proposes to construct the project at the northwest corner of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road.)

At one point, Brooks noted that Commissioner Alan Maio represents District 4, which includes Siesta Key. “You want to be known as the Al Maio of traffic?” she asked him. “I wouldn’t.”

The remark prompted laughter among the people filling the Commission Chambers in downtown Sarasota.

“You seem so nice,” Maio told her with a smile, “and you had me till that.” More laughter rang out.

“I’m sorry,” Brooks responded. “I didn’t mean it that way.”

She also told the commissioners that when Benderson Development bought the approximately 24 acres on which it plans Siesta Promenade, most of the site was zoned for 9 dwelling units per acre, as a mobile home park formerly stood there. The company was seeking approval of a Critical Area Plan on Dec. 12, 2018, which would allow it to build up to 25 units per acre.

Referring to Benderson Development President Randy Benderson, Brooks continued, “He knew what he was buying. He shouldn’t expect more. If I buy a Honda, I don’t drive out with a Porsche.”

After Brooks concluded her testimony, Chair Nancy Detert said, “Good job for somebody who was afraid to speak,” eliciting more laughter from the audience. “You got over that [fear] pretty quick,” she added to Brooks.

Along with such light moments prompted by speakers themselves, as the hearing went on, and Detert continued to call the names of people who had signed up before the meeting started at 9 a.m. that day, it was apparent a number of folks had left.

One card Detert pulled out of the stack was signed by Robin Williams. That person did not respond when Detert first called the name. A short while later, Detert gave Williams one more chance. When she still heard no response from the audience, she quipped, “Still dead?” referring to the famous actor Robin Williams who died in August 2014. More laughter rang out in the chambers.

“Sorry,” Detert said.

Coupons for food lovers

In this month’s edition discount coupons are being offered by The Oaks and Station 400. Station 400 is offering $5 off your next visit and The Oaks is offering $5 off a $25 purchase. Both ads are located on page 19.

SKA makes request of the county

As the directors of the Siesta Key Association (SKA) await a Circuit Court judge’s ruling on their latest hearing in an effort to stop the proposed dredging of Big Sarasota Pass, they have sent a letter to County Administrator Jonathan Lewis seeking help on related points.

Dated Jan. 8, the letter says the SKA “requests notification and a copy of any request (past or future) by the City of Sarasota, its agents or joint permittee to Sarasota County or its agents for a permit, approval or exception/exemption to the need for a permit” to undertake activities involving the Lido Beach Renourishment Project.

On June 18, 2018, the city and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) received a Joint Coastal Permit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to dredge up to 1.3 million cubic yards of sand from Big Sarasota Pass to renourish about 1.6 miles of South Lido Key Beach.

The SKA letter cites the number of the FDEP permit and notes that its “implementation can include but is not limited to” the removal of sand from the pass, the construction of two groins on Lido Key; mitigating the destruction of seagrass in Big Pass that is expected to result from the dredging operation; and utilizing the county’s Ted Sperling Park on the southern end of Lido as a means of temporary access to the renourishment area.

The letter proceeds to provide a summary of the SKA’s efforts in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court, including the latest hearing on the nonprofit’s motion for a Writ of Mandamus to compel the city to request county permission for the dredging of the pass.

During the Dec. 20, 2018 hearing on the Writ, SKA attorney Kent Safriet of the Tallahassee firm Hopping Green & Sams argued to Circuit Judge Andrea McHugh that a specific section of the County Code of Ordinances makes it necessary for the city to seek county permission for work in Big Pass, which never has been dredged.

Accompanying the letter was a copy of Section 54, Article XX, of the County Code, upon which the SKA has based its motion for the Writ. Parts of that section are highlighted, underscoring the SKA’s court arguments.

And speaking of the last SKA court hearing …

Near the end of the Dec. 20, 2018 hearing on the SKA’s complaint in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court, what might be called a tiny bit of brouhaha erupted, surprising SKA members who were present.

The SKA’s attorney, Kent Safriet of the Tallahassee firm Hopping Green & Sams, and John R. Herin of the GrayRobinson firm in Fort Lauderdale, attorney for the City of Sarasota, had been exchanging points in their arguments about the fact that the City of Sarasota is a co-permittee with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in the Lido Renourishment Project.

They jointly applied for, and received, a state permit for the dredging of Big Sarasota Pass.

Herin had been telling Circuit Judge Andrea McHugh that the USACE is the entity that will handle the actual sand removal and replenishment of the Lido Key Beach. The city applied jointly for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) permit, Herin added, in the event that no federal money would become available for the project, and the city had to go it alone.

Yet, Safriet pointed out, Herin said during an earlier hearing in the SKA’s case — in April 2017 — that the city might withdraw from the permit process, which was still underway at FDEP at that time.

“It’s like co-conspirators,” Safriet told McHugh. “Either one can pull the trigger.”

“I respect Mr. Safriet,” Herin said later. “But I do take issue” with Safriet’s use of the term “co-conspirators.” Herin added, “We’re not conspiring with anyone. … I don’t make those kinds of references …”

McHugh then told Herin and Safriet, “I have found all of you to be very thoughtful and respectful.”

A third attorney had participated in the arguments that day: Kevin Hennessy of the St. Petersburg firm Lewis, Longman & Walker, which represents the Lido Key Residents Association in the case.)

“You’re all very talented attorneys,” McHugh added, noting that she would not want to see the hearing devolve into a bad situation.

UF/IFAS director follows up on SKA questions

In December 2018, Lee Hayes Byron, director of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension and Sustainability programs in Sarasota County, and two of her colleagues provided Siesta Key Association members with a plethora of information about water quality initiatives in the county.

As they were taking questions after their remarks, several matters came up for which they did not have immediate answers. Byron promised to undertake the necessary research and let the SKA directors know the answers.

The following is material Byron emailed to Catherine Luckner, the SKA vice president.

When street sweeping was mentioned as one of the county’s strategies to keep nutrients out of the waterways, an audience member said she had not seen a street sweeper on Siesta in a long time.

Sarasota County connector roads are swept monthly between midnight and 7 a.m.  Siesta Key’s connector roads are Beach Road from Columbus Boulevard to Midnight Pass Road, Ocean Boulevard from Beach Road to Higel Avenue, and Old Stickney Point Road from Midnight Pass Road to the end of the street.

Sarasota County residential roads are swept quarterly from 3 a.m. to 3 p.m. Roads on Siesta Key were swept and inspected most recently between Nov. 28 and Nov. 30. The parking lots at Siesta and Turtle beaches are swept quarterly or as needed.