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Siesta Key Island Chatter

Daiquiri Deck 25 years on Siesta Key

Daiquiri Deck, famous across Sarasota and Manatee counties for its slushy beverages teeming with booze, celebrated its 25th anniversary of frozen drinks, pub grub and more at its Siesta Village location in August with throwback prices, hourly prize raffles, giveaways and live entertainment. Daiquiri Deck, 5250 Ocean Blvd., Siesta Key; 941-349-8697.

Ripfire Pizza on Ocean Boulevard

The new pizza restaurant in the former Jo-To location at 5218 Ocean Blvd. cleared a big hurdle in mid-May when it received its Sarasota County alcoholic beverage permit — at a cost of $215. However, as August began it still had not opened.

Then, about noon on Aug. 2, the new restaurant’s Facebook page posted the following: “Ripfire is hiring! Email jobs@ripfirepizza.com for more information!”

“Everything’s coming together,” business owner Gus Escalera At that point, he did not want to offer a definitive date for when the restaurant would open its doors. “We’re hoping for August,” he added with a laugh.

Siesta business partners Jim Syprett and Jay Lancer purchased the Jo-To parcel on May 1, 2017 for $1,350,000 and then took a few months to decide on their new tenant. In the meantime, they began remodeling the building.

On Aug. 29, 2017, county staff received a permit application for the reconstruction; the permit was issued on Oct. 4, 2017 for the creation of a new front façade, new plumbing and electrical systems and a new air conditioning system. The permit was modified in February of this year to include interior renovations specifically for Ripfire, county records show.

“Rough” inspections and then final inspections of the gas and mechanical systems and the plumbing began in June and were wrapping up in early August, the permitting records said. The structure failed its final commercial electrical inspection on Aug. 10, however.

Asked if any issues in particular had contributed to the long timeline for the work, Escalera responded, “Anybody who knows construction can tell you,” things usually do not happen as fast as an owner would like.

For one thing, Escalera continued, the original building was old. (Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office records note it dates to 1974.) During construction, Escalera said, workers had to contend with some unexpected situations. “The building was completely, 100% renovated,” he pointed out.

Nonetheless, Escalera added, “It’s going to be probably the prettiest restaurant on the Key” when those doors opened for business. The restaurant is located at 5218 Ocean Blvd.

Waiting mode in Big Pass case

Because the Siesta Key Association (SKA) had no meeting in July, the August session gave Vice President Catherine Luckner the opportunity to bring members up-to-date on the status of the nonprofit’s latest legal challenge to try to prevent the dredging of Big Sarasota Pass.

The SKA was awaiting the filing of supplementary material by its own attorney and then responses from the City of Sarasota and the Lido Key Residents Association (LKRA) in a 12th Judicial Circuit Court case, following a July 23 public hearing.

The SKA filed a verified complaint in March 2017, arguing that the City of Sarasota violated Sarasota County’s Comprehensive Plan by not seeking county approval of the proposed sand removal from Big Pass to renourish about 1.6 miles of South Lido Key Beach.

The Thursday night before the July 23 hearing, Luckner said, the city’s outside counsel — John R. Herin of GrayRobinson in Fort Lauderdale — filed an amended Motion to Dismiss the SKA complaint. It added up to 301 pages, including exhibits and a copy of the city’s original, April 2017 Motion to Dismiss in the case, based on the records kept by the Sarasota County Clerk of the Circuit Court and County Comptroller.

Kent Safriet of the Tallahassee law firm Hopping Green & Sams, was out of the office that week, Luckner continued. “He actually came and stayed here that weekend” before the July 23 hearing, she continued, so he could work on his response to the city’s action.

What is unusual about the city’s amended motion, Luckner told the approximately 20 people at the SKA meeting, is “It appears that the city is attempting to require that the county enter into this conversation.”

The SKA’s complaint is termed “verified,” she explained, because it deals only with facets of the applicable law. Therefore, any response has to stay “within the four corners” of what has been filed, she added, referring to other legal terminology.

Yet, the city was arguing — as of July 19, she noted — that the county “is an indispensable party” to the case. Last year, she pointed out, the city did not want the county involved.

Circuit Court Judge Andrea McHugh laughed at one point during the July 23 hearing, Luckner added, when Safriet told her, “‘This is kind of a political hot potato.’ … He told the truth on that one, and I think she agreed.”

“We’re not asking for the county to be interviewed [or] deposed,” she continued. “We are very certain that we have the basis and the foundation to be heard.”

When Alexandra Coe of Sarasota, a candidate for the District 2 County Commission seat and a guest at the SKA meeting, asked what the SKA would like for the county to do, Luckner replied, “Uphold their own Comprehensive Plan. … There’s two areas that we’d like to see removed [from the borrow area list for sand],” Luckner added. “They’re not necessary; we know that from an engineering standpoint, and, also, the Comprehensive Plan indicates that the city does not have the right to dredge without agreement from [and] quasi-judicial oversight of the county.”

Luckner was referring to Borrow Area B, which is close to the northern part of Siesta Key, and the easternmost 1,200 feet of Borrow Area C. In issuing the city and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers a permit for the dredging of Big Pass for the Lido project, Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) Secretary Noah Valenstein ruled on June 18 that those areas could not be touched from April to September. On that point, he upheld the recommendation of Administrative Law Judge Bram D.E. Canter, filed on May 8 after Canter weighed expert testimony and evidence in a Florida Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) proceeding held in Sarasota in December 2017. One of the expert witnesses for the SKA and Save Our Siesta Sand 2 testified during the DOAH proceeding that spotted sea trout spawn in those two areas of the pass between April and September each year.

Following Canter’s release of his Recommended Order, the SKA filed Exceptions in the DOAH proceeding, asking that FDEP eliminate the two sand borrow areas altogether from the city/USACE list. That effort, as illustrated by Valenstein’s decision, was not successful.

“It was declined quite aggressively by the city,” Luckner said of the SKA’s request in the Exceptions. “I was surprised in a way, because I would have thought if they wanted to do some friendly dickering about the whole situation, that would have been an easy thing for them to do, easy because they don’t need the sand in one of those areas and easy because the 1,200 feet where we have the seagrass has very little sand it.”

“One of the things that tells me,” she continued, “is that it’s more than about the sand, because it would have been easy to give those [borrow areas up]. … That was our ‘tell.’”

In response to another question, Luckner said, “I would like to see [the county commissioners] implement their Comprehensive Plan. If they would veto [the dredging of Big Pass], that would be great. They’ve not been asked, and they probably don’t want to be asked at this point …” After all, she noted, the county commissioners represent city of Sarasota residents, as well. “It’s a very difficult situation.”

Then Luckner brought up a scenario related to County Attorney Stephen DeMarsh’s assertion on July 10 that the environmental policy in the county Comprehensive Plan which has been the foundation of the SKA’s verified complaint does not deal with public dredging initiatives.

Does that mean, Luckner asked, that if the City of Miami comes up with “a really great idea” and wants to haul sand away from a Sarasota County waterway for a public project, “we can’t say anything?”

Invitations declined

Vice President Catherine Luckner also noted during the August SKA meeting that she had emailed Commissioners Alan Maio and Charles Hines about the SKA’s July 23 hearing, asking that they consider attending it or — if neither was able to do so — that they send “designated County Staff.”

In that July 9 email, a copy of which county Communications staff provided, Luckner wrote that the hearing was set from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. on July 23. “This doesn’t involve any testimony,” she pointed out.

Maio — who represents Siesta Key as part of his District 4 territory — replied, “Unfortunately, I’m out of town for a few days beginning the evening of 7/19.”

Hines wrote, “Thanks but no I will not be available then as I will be out of town. Also I will not be attending the hearing as the County is not in this case.”

Luckner did extend her appreciation on Aug. 2 to the many SKA members who attended the July 23 hearing. She noted that it was the largest turnout for any of the legal proceedings the nonprofit has pursued, including the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings proceeding held in Sarasota in December 2017.

Connie Lewis moves to a new location

Connie Lewis, LMT and Aesthetician, formerly of Massage Experience Siesta Key, is pleased to announce her new location at Spalypso. She continues to offer therapeutic massages and her popular facial sculpting at her new location, just as she’s done the past 20+ years at the spa she’s owned and managed in Davidson’s Plaza in the Village. Call 941-350-7495 to receive the high-level service her loyal customers have come to expect. Spalypso is located at 7037 S. Tamiami Trail Suite C, 34231.
MM33422 MA17597

Checking the beach for Red Tide

Some of our beaches are experiencing red tide and fish kill. So before you head out to a beach you may want to visit the following website for the most up-to-date conditions: https://visitbeaches.org/

Plaza Mexico coupons

If you love Mexican food, it’s time to visit Plaza Mexico. Plaza Mexico is offering two discount coupons, $5 off for Dinner and $3 off for lunch. Take advantage of the coupons located on page 5 of this month’s edition. Plaza Mexico is located in the Southbridge Plaza, 1894 Stickney Point Road.

Big Water Fish Market to open a village store

The one of kind popular fish market /restaurant located in the Crescent Plaza on the south end of Siesta Key is opening a second location in the former Donut Experiment at 217 Avenida Madera, sandwiched between Solórzano’s Pizzeria and Sub-Zero, target date sometime in September. Big Water Fish Market opened its doors 6 years ago and has been a popular destination for local residents and visitors since it opened. The restaurant is located at 6641 Midnight Pass Road, open 7 days a week. www.bigwaterfishmarket.com, 941-554-8101.

A distinct decline

During the Aug. 2 Siesta Key Association (SKA) meeting, long-time member Margaret Jean Cannon mentioned at one point that the number of registered voters on the island has been decreasing. She cited that fact in the context of the increasing number of multi-story houses being constructed for tourists, indicating that fewer property owners actually live on the Key.

Rachel Denton, communications and voter outreach manager for the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Office replied to a request for this information. The number of registered voters on Siesta Key for 2008, 2013 and 2018 provided prove Cannon is correct. The figures follow:

  • 2008 — 8,202 registered voters as of 12/1/2008.
  • 2013 — 7,739 as of 11/1/2013.
  • 2018 — 7,136 as of 8/1/2018.

SKA, Condo Council members encouraged to attend workshop

Both the Siesta Key Association and the Siesta Key Condominium Council sent out email blasts to their members in mid-August, encouraging them to attend the required Aug. 23 workshop as Benderson Development seeks county approval for its Siesta Promenade project.

The proposed mixed-use development — with 414 condominiums/apartments, a 160-room hotel and 140,000 square feet of office/retail space — would stand on about 23 acres at the intersection of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road.

“This is the one and only meeting that Benderson is required to hold to present the project and to ‘hear Sarasota residents’ concerns,” the SKA email blast said. “County staff will be in attendance.”

The message added, “If you are concerned about the effects of this project on Siesta Key, please make every effort to be there.”

The Condo Council email blast noted, “It may be that Benderson is trying to fast track the application to get it heard prior to the election, or at least before the new commissioners start their terms.”

At least one member of the County Commission — Paul Caragiulo — is not seeking re-election.

However, in the District 4 race, Commissioner Alan Maio is running for a second term on the board. He was facing a primary opponent, and the winner of the primary will square off against a Democrat in the November election.

“[V]isit our Siesta Promenade Project Page for more information from SKA,” the SKA email blast said.

Two Florida House candidates set out their positions on Big Pass dredging

SKA Vice President Catherine Luckner and her husband, Robert — a member of the nonprofit’s Environmental Committee — let the News Leader know that they had been in communication with two of the candidates for the Florida House District 72 seat about the SKA’s opposition to plans for dredging Big Sarasota Pass to renourish South Lido Key Beach.

Both Luckners have undertaken considerable research on behalf of the SKA to underscore the nonprofit’s concerns about the potential for damage not only to the waterway but also to Siesta Key if millions of cubic yards of sand are removed from Big Pass over the proposed 50-year lifetime of the renourishment initiative.

The candidates are Democrat Margaret Good of Siesta Key, the incumbent, who is unopposed; and Ray Pilon of Sarasota, a former House member who is facing Jason Miller of Sarasota in the Aug. 28 Republican Primary.

During a meeting with Good, Robert Luckner told the News Leader, he and Catherine explained why the SKA believes the project should not proceed without an in-depth environmental analysis having been undertaken. (See the related story in this issue about Save Our Siesta Sand 2.) They also believe the City of Sarasota — which is a joint applicant with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the project permit — needs Sarasota County permission to dredge the pass.

Good responded in an Aug. 8 email, “Thank you for meeting with me. Issues surrounding the health of our coastal waters and Sarasota Bay are of upmost interest to me. Once I have studied the issue further, I can then determine what role, if any, I can contribute to the conversation.

“Again, thank you for your level in engagement in such an important issue to our community,” Good added.

In an Aug. 14 email, Pilon wrote the Luckners, “I support your stance 100 [percent].”

Help needed for the Crystal Classic

With the Siesta Chamber preparing for the 2018 Crystal Classic International Sand Sculpting Festival, which will be held Nov. 9-12 on Siesta Public Beach, the Vendor Village already has been sold out, Chamber Executive Director Ann Frescura reported during the Aug. 15 members meeting.

Maria Bankemper, whose family owns the Best Western Plus-Siesta Key Gateway hotel and who serves as the chair of the Crystal Classic, pointed out that this was the earliest that all the Vendor Village spots had been taken, Frescura said. The festival began in 2010.

“That’s a good indication of the interest in that event,” Frescura added.

The Chamber is seeking volunteers, as usual, to assist with the Crystal Classic, Frescura said. “It takes an army to pull this one off. … There’s nearly 300 people that are needed for all the positions and all of the time slots,” she continued. “If you can give your time and energy, we sure appreciate it.”

Frescura also asked the meeting attendees to encourage friends and loved ones to volunteer. For more information about volunteering please contact MIa at 941-349-3800 or on the website at www.siestakeycrystalclassic.com.

Gulf Gate shop now offering CBD products

Wild Ginger Apothecary is Sarasota’s Community for Health + Wellness. The Apothecary has been successfully providing sustainable, ethically produced and non-toxic products for beauty, home and nutrition to the health conscious consumers of Sarasota since October of 2014.

Wild Ginger Apothecary also offers classes and workshops for a variety of audiences on topics that cover lifestyle, creativity, health and more in the Studio + Lounge.  The shop now features a CBD Boutique area featuring hundreds of hemp oil CBD products.

Wild Ginger Apothecary: Studio + Lounge community for health + wellness; Nicole Leffler, Owner. 6557 Superior Avenue 34231, 941.312.5630 www.wildgingerapothecary.com

Save Our Siesta Sand 2 formally demands an Environmental Impact Statement for the Lido Beach nourishment project

On August 14, 2018 Save Our Siesta Sand 2 formally demanded of the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a full analysis of the contemplated Lido Key beach nourishment project in the form of an Environmental Impact Statement (commonly referred to as an “EIS”), providing the Corps one last chance to fully examine the consequences of dredging a pristine ecosystem before commencing with legal action.

The dredging project is one of the largest contemplated in the State of Florida. It spans a 5 decade time frame and seeks to dredge 1.3 million cubic yards from Big Sarasota Pass.

“Given the sheer size of the project and the fact that it contemplates dredging an area that has never

been dredged before, there are many unanswered questions about the impacts to not only the natural ecosystem, but also the local economy that depends on tourists flocking to Siesta Key’s famous white sand beaches.” noted attorney Jane West who is making the formal demand and simultaneously preparing to file suit in federal court.

“We don’t expect the Corps to do the right thing here – which we view as a legal obligation to thoroughly examine the economic, environmental and navigational consequences of this dredging  project in Big Sarasota Pass.”

Because the project is considered “major federal action” under the National Environmental Policy Act, a comprehensive analysis of the effects must be thoroughly analyzed. So far, several

Environmental Analyses (“EA”) have been performed, but they are dated. While the Corps may be working to update the EA, the level of review in such an update fails to take the requisite “hard

look” at the effects of a Project in the same manner that an EIS contemplates. Sarasota County previously made a demand for an EIS but the request fell on deaf ears.

“We have seen numerous instances where the Army Corps has caused serious and irreparable environmental damage despite what their models predicted. We must prevent this damage from

happening to Siesta Key and we are speaking for thousands of Siesta Key residents, visitors and business owners who feel the same way.” stated Peter van Roekens, Chairman of Save our Siesta Sand 2.