Siesta Key Round Up

| February 1, 2017

By Rachel Brown Hackney
SarasotaNewsLeader.com

Siesta Key Association Meeting

The guest speaker for the February 2 SKA meeting will be new County Commissioner Nancy Detert. All are welcome to meet the new commissioner. The meeting will be held at St. Boniface at 5615 Midnight Pass Road Room F on Siesta Key at 4:30 PM. For more information about the Siesta Key Association go to www.SiestaKeyAssociation.com

Siesta Key Condo Council meeting

The Siesta Key Condo Council will hold its next meeting on February 21 at 3:30 PM at the Siesta Key Chapel 4615 Gleason Ave. Topics covered will be Save Our Siesta Sand 2 update(Big Pass Dredging), Siesta Key Sheriff’s Office report and Siesta Key Fire Station #13 Capability/Statistics. The main speaker will be Mike Angers from Brown & Brown Insurance Company. Mr. Angers will discuss Current/Future Market Conditions On SK, Flood Insurance Changes- Rates/Zones, Assoc. Responsibilities VS Owners Responsibilities, Subrogation against the Association, Self-insured Retentions for Associations and Deductibles & Coverage Enhancements, followed by Question and Answer Session.

February 14 (Tues): Say I Do, 5-7pm

A romantic beachside renewal of wedding vows, offering couples a beautiful backdrop to express their continuing love and commitment to one another. Couples renew their vows at this non-denominational sunset ceremony then enjoy wedding-themed refreshments. Couples receive a beautiful certificate to commemorate this very special ceremony. Cost is $10. Per couple. Call 941-861-7275 to register.

February 14 (Tues): Valentine Stroll, 5-8pm

Residents and visitors are invited to stroll through Siesta Village which will be adorned with Valentine cheer. There will be something for everyone including live music throughout the Village and candy kisses which will be distributed by the merchants. Participating merchants will be displaying red and pink balloons outside of their businesses. Siesta Key Village offers romantic destinations for you and your sweetheart and lots of fun for the whole family. If parking is a concern, there will be pedicab and golf cart cab services from the Siesta Public Beach parking lot to the Village. For more information visit the website at: www.siestakeyvillage.org or call Helene Hyland at 941-685-2274 or e mail at helenehyland@comcast.net.

February 25 & 26 (Sat/Sun) February Craft Fair in the Village, 10am – 5pm

Join us at the 23rd Annual Siesta Key Craft Festival and take in the sand and the sea along Ocean Boulevard and Beach Road as you discover wonderful creations from more than 100 crafters exhibiting and selling their work in an outdoor gallery. From photography, paintings, sculpture, jewelry and more showcased from local and traveling crafters, your visit to Siesta Key is promised to be a feast for the senses. This spectacular weekend festival is not to be missed, Free admission.

St. Michael's Fashion Show

St. Michael's Women's Guild will present its Annual Spring Fashion Show and Luncheon on Wednesday March 15 at Michael's On East, 1212 East Avenue S., Sarasota. Fashions will be presented by Talbots.

Registration will begin at 11 AM with a cash bar and viewing of silent auction items. Luncheon to follow at noon. The cost for this event is $45 per guest or $100 per patron. For more information, contact Kathy at 941-349-1281 or Mary at 941-346-1008. Reservations and payment deadline is Friday, March 10.

A cry for help from Sunrise Cove

Regraded parking lot at old Turtle Beach Park lot via Carolyn Brown Jan. 17 2017 smallSunrise Cove residents, who live next to Turtle Beach Park on south Siesta Key, remained frustrated in early January with the Sarasota County response to complaints they had aired through emails and in person to the County Commission, one of them told SNL.

However, as it turned out, a commissioner’s vow in December 2016 that staff would take another look at their situation apparently “fell through the cracks,” with the holiday season. By early January, the county’s Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department was working on solutions.

On Dec. 14, 2016, Ed Schmidt said he was representing about 155 owners at the condominium complex — located at 8877 Midnight Pass Road — in appearing before the commission. After thanking the board for the recent $21.5-million renourishment of Turtle Beach, Schmidt pointed to a problem he hoped the board could resolve.

The older parking lot at Turtle Beach Park “has been there for 40 years, and [the construction crew] used broken shell as a matrix over there,” he explained. Traffic has crushed that shell into a powder in the ensuing years, Schmidt continued. “And that powder blows around the property, and then when it rains, it becomes a soupy mess, and we have slip hazards on the pavement there.”

Schmidt told the board that Sunrise Cove residents have complained about the situation for years “and have gotten no response.”

Another resident of the complex emailed county staff about the issue, Schmidt pointed out, and the reply from staff “is totally inappropriate and an embarrassment.”

Schmidt told the commissioners, “We’re asking for your help to make this an impervious driveway,” perhaps a macadam surface. He added that he is aware a retention pond would be necessary, but “I think there’s room to do it. I think some engineering needs to be done.” He was hopeful, he said, that the board would authorize such steps.

Commissioner Alan Maio, who represents Siesta Key as part of District 4, responded that he is often on the island, so he would take a look at the parking lot within the next couple of days. “I want to see it for myself,” Maio told Schmidt.

Additionally, Maio continued, he expected Deputy County Administrator Steve Botelho would ask for staff of the county’s Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department to assess the problem.

“Your patience is probably, at this point, exhausted,” Maio added to Schmidt. “But just take a breath and get a little more patience.”

Maio did note, “The minute we pave [the old lot], we lose parking spaces.” Nonetheless, he suggested the possibility of piping stormwater from that lot to an existing retention pond on the park site.

“Will we get an answer?” Schmidt asked. “I am sure Mr. Botelho will require … direct contact with you,” Maio replied.

When the SNL contacted county staff in early January to learn whether the situation had been resolved — and to request copies of any emails from Sunrise Cove residents regarding the matter — county spokesman Drew Winchester provided three sets of email exchanges. However, Winchester offered no other response except the explanation that Shawn Yeager, the Beaches & Water Access Division Manager in the Parks Department, provided a Sunrise Cove resident in an email on Dec. 2, 2016. Yeager agreed with a point the writer had made — that the parking lot with the shell “is the only option for large vehicles to turn around …” He added that it has been used by buses and vehicles of similar size “for many years.”

Yeager continued, “The increased dust is likely a result of two factors. First, we are experiencing an unusually dry autumn this year. Second, there has been an increase in the truck traffic using the parking lot due to the Turtle Beach renovation project. The good news is that both of these factors are likely temporary in nature. The construction project will soon be completed, which will reduce the traffic to its normal volume, and once we get through this dry season we anticipate the dust settling and the problem being resolved. Your concern has been reviewed by our environmental specialists and there is no indication the dust poses a health hazard but we will certainly monitor the area.”

Yeager was referring to the improvements at Turtle Beach Park, which were completed recently. A new parking lot, a new playground and a kayak launch are among them.

Yeager concluded his email, “I do sincerely apologize for the inconvenience you have experienced as a result of the dry weather and our construction project.”

The resident who sent the original email and her husband replied to Yeager: “Sorry, but we do not think waiting for rain is a solution,” pointing out what Schmidt told the board on Dec. 14. The rain “on this surface turns the powder into a slippery slurry which encroaches on … the sidewalk & pavement,” the couple added.

They asked Yeager to reassess his position on the matter.

During a Jan. 4 telephone interview, Schmidt told SNL that Maio had called him on Dec. 15 to tell him that staff would take care of the situation. Schmidt heard no more until Jan. 10, he said, when he received apologetic calls from Maio and Carolyn Brown, director of the Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources (PRNR) Department.

“I do appreciate both Ms. Brown and Commissioner Maio calling me back,” Schmidt said, adding that he understood how the failure of county staff to make the call earlier, as promised, could have happened.

During his conversation with Brown, Schmidt said, Brown first explained that a crew would re-grade the parking lot, but he told her workers do that already — every six months. Brown added that a different type of shell would be put on the surface, he added, but as of Jan. 18, he had not seen that material put down in the lot.

On Jan. 11, he and Brown both confirmed to SNL, the lot was graded. “This included grading over the south apron in an effort to help clear the debris associated with the low spot in the sidewalk that collects stormwater runoff from the road, sidewalk, and parking lot.” Brown wrote SNL in an email.

Sarasota County Parks, Recreation, and Natural Resources (PRNR) staff visited the site on the morning of Jan. 11 “to assess the reported concerns,” she continued. Afterward, PRNR staff contacted the Stormwater Division of Sarasota County Public Works and asked it “to provide an additional review of the area,” she noted.

Stormwater staff visited the site on Jan. 12, she continued, “to assess the sidewalk and drainage issues observed by PRNR staff.”

“In an effort to help reduce airborne dust, PRNR staff and associated PRNR contractors have been asked not to use any blowers to clear sidewalks, shell, or pavilions of debris at Turtle Beach for the foreseeable future,” she also pointed out, adding, “County staff continues to work together to identify how to best resolve these concerns.”

On Jan. 17, Schmidt told SNL, a crew working in the area used blowers, “creating major dust clouds” at Sunrise Cove. He sent photos to Brown, he added, and she was able to identify the county department for whom the crew members worked. PRNR staff “told them to stop that process over here.”

Schmidt remains convinced that the parking lot needs to be covered with a pervious surface, such as the type of concrete used in the new Turtle Beach parking area. That seems to be the most reliable remedy for the problems, he said, and he believes the area has sufficient space for small stormwater ponds, which would be a necessary part of such a project.

Construction update

Work is proceeding “pretty smoothly” on the new Daiquiri Deck Raw Bar on Stickney Point Road, co-owner Troy Syprett told SNLThe timeline still calls for the restaurant and coffee shop to open in late March or early April, Syprett said during a Jan. 3 telephone interview. Construction began in early July 2016.

The project has had “a few hiccups,” Syprett said, but “nothing major.” Mostly, Syprett pointed out, it was difficult to keep the work going at the usual pace during the holidays.

The restaurant is a joint project with the Tush family, which owns CB’s Saltwater Outfitters. The Tushes own the land and will maintain their existing retail store on the property, Syprett pointed out during a July interview.

The 900-square-foot coffee shop with about 20 seats will take the place of the old car wash on the site, he added. The second floor primarily will be used for storage, including coolers and freezers, while the 152-seat restaurant on the 6,000-square-foot third floor will be cantilevered over the first two floors.

The newest store on Ocean Boulevard in Siesta Village opened in late January: The Sandal Factory, on the site of the former 7-Eleven store.

Jim Syprett — who co-owns the property with Jay Lancer — told SNL on Jan. 9 that he was just in the Village that morning to check on the progress, adding that he was really pleased with how the final details were coming together. The interior flooring was being laid that day, he noted, while a few exterior projects remained.

“It has a factory look,” he explained of the store concept. Inside, “you can see the underside of the roof and the [air conditioning] duct work.”

The interior also features a number of large TV screens, he said. “It should be a fun store.” Mark Smith of Smith Architects in the Village — who has worked with Syprett and Lancer on the project — explained in a separate Jan. 9 telephone interview, “The contractor’s been dong a good job.”

This has been his first experience with the firm, Smith said, and it has been a positive one. County permitting records show that the general contractor is Coral Cove Construction Inc. of Sarasota.

Along with a full line of shoes — not just sandals — the shop will feature some clothing, sunglasses and sunscreen. Syprett and Lancer’s most recent retail venture on Ocean Boulevard prior to this was Gidget’s Coastal Provisions, which stands next to the Daiquiri Deck.

“We’re thrilled,” Syprett added of the new Village business. “We’re glad to see them in there.”

Syprett and Lancer bought the property almost exactly a year ago — on Jan. 19, 2016. The 7-Eleven store had stood in that location for about 35 years.

It took a bit of time for them to decide on the type of tenant they wanted, as Syprett explained in early 2016. During the Jan. 9 telephone interview, he pointed out that The Sandal Factory has a number of other locations, all in beach communities. “They’ve been very successful.”

The company’s website lists stores in Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon and Key West; the original Sandal Factory opened in 1996.

The FDOT drainage project

Mark Smith, who also is chair of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, told SNL on Jan. 9 that he felt less concern about the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) drainage project at the intersection of San Remo Terrace and Siesta Drive than he did before Christmas.

After Ann Frescura, the chamber’s executive director, returned from her holiday break, Smith said, she was able to talk with FDOT representatives. They assured her he continued, that the contractor was going to try to keep lane closures to nighttime hours. Work was scheduled to start on Jan. 9.

“I’m going to be optimistic,” Smith added. He did understand, he said, that FDOT needed to undertake the work during the dry months.

Nonetheless, Smith pointed out, “under good conditions,” when the north drawbridge to Siesta Key opens, “traffic backs up to [U.S] 41” during tourist season. That bridge stays open 4 minutes, he added. “I’ve timed it.”

If one lane of travel on Siesta Drive is closed for 15 or 20 minutes — especially during the daytime — Smith said FDOT representatives “will hear the phone ringing off the hook.”

The $200,000 project is expected to be completed this spring, FDOT noted in a flyer it distributed in December 2016.

A court date, at last

The Office of the Sarasota County Attorney has won a court date on its motion to dismiss the lawsuit Siesta resident Mike Cosentino filed last June over the County Commission’s abandonment of a 357-foot segment of North Beach Road.

Twelfth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Frederick Mercurio has set aside 30 minutes for a hearing at 2:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 13, in the Judge Lynn N. Silvertooth Judicial Center in downtown Sarasota.

Although Cosentino filed his lawsuit in June 2016, it was not served on the county until Oct. 10, 2016 — almost at the end of the time period provided for that action.

In the meantime, Cosentino already has had a day in court on a related matter.

In September 2016, Cosentino was charged with violating the county’s ordinance that prohibits operating a motor vehicle on the beaches. A Sheriff’s Office deputy cited him for a misdemeanor on Sept. 8, 2016 after spotting Cosentino’s truck parked in the vicinity of the property Cosentino purchased last year at 10 Beach Road. The citation said the vehicle was on the segment of beach west of the intersection of North Beach Road and Avenida Messina.

A document filed in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court on Jan. 5 says the case was “downfiled to a civil infraction,” and Cosentino was given 30 days to pay a fine or to contest the citation. Judge Maryann Boehm signed the form.

A notation on the form indicates the State Attorney’s Office chose to amend the case. However, in a handwritten letter he filed with the court on Jan. 6, Cosentino continued to dispute the allegation that he had violated a county ordinance, and he requested a hearing to present evidence on his claims, which he had outlined in a motion to dismiss the case. He filed that on Dec. 14, 2016.

Cosentino pointed out in the motion that he owns the property at 10 Beach Road and that the plat “depicts a public right-of-way of sixty (60) feet that abuts [the parcel].”

Cosentino argued that, based on the plat, his vehicle was not on land that “meets the definition of ‘beaches’ or ‘dune’ as set forth [in county ordinance].”

The motion continues, “[T]here are no material facts in dispute that establish the guilt of Mr. Cosentino. As a matter of law, parking a vehicle on one’s own property cannot be criminalized without violating the takings clause of the Florida Constitution. Alternatively, even if the facts establish that Mr. Cosentino’s vehicle was parked partially on his property and in the public right-of-way, that location is not upon a beach for which criminal liability can be imposed under the Ordinance.”

It further says, “An additional constitutional question is raised by the lack of any criminal intent required to violate the Ordinance” and that “the Ordinance was not intended to criminalize ingress and egress to one’s own property from the right-of-way [or] to apply to private property at all. This is best illustrated by the officer’s Incident Report in this case where, after reviewing the property boundary line on the Property Appraiser’s website, the officer stated: ‘it would be impossible to determine the exact property line without an official survey.’”

Derek Byrd of the Byrd Law Firm in Sarasota filed the motion.

In response to it, Assistant State Attorney Justin Foster filed a Traverse on Dec. 30, 2016, arguing that “the portion of the property where Mr. Cosentino’s vehicle was parked does meet the definition of ‘beach’ or ‘dune’ as set forth [in the county ordinance].” Foster asked the court to deny Cosentino’s motion, which was 12 pages long.

In a formal response to Cosentino’s motion — also filed on Dec. 30, 2016 — Assistant County Attorney David Pearce pointed out that on Oct. 10, 1972, the County Commission originally adopted an ordinance prohibiting the operation of vehicles on the gulf beaches. Over the years, he continued, the board has amended the law to provide “limited exceptions for emergency vehicles and maintenance vehicles.
Nonetheless, Pearce continued, the code defines “Beaches” as “the zone of unconsolidated material, such as sand or shell, that extends landward from the mean low-water line to the place where there is a marked change in material, such as sand to pavement, or physiographic form, or to the line of vegetation.”

He added that Cosentino “wrongly argues that the County cannot regulate activities on private property,” and that, therefore, the ordinance is unconstitutional. That response was nine pages long.

Preserving the Siesta Promenade site

During the Jan. 12 SKA meeting, former SKA Director Russell James, pointed out that he has been a county resident for 40 years. “I’ve seen a lot of change, obviously; some good, some bad. I used to be in the construction business, so blame me for some of it.”

Then James said he believes the proposed Siesta Promenade project on the northwest corner of the U.S. 41/Stickney Point Road intersection “will have a significant impact on our Key for the rest of our lives, and I’m not a NIMBY [not-in-my-backyard advocate].”

He is convinced, he continued, that the project will be akin to The Vue Sarasota Bay, the condominium complex under construction at the intersection of U.S. 41 and Gulfstream Avenue in Sarasota. “You all have probably seen how overpowering that all is,” he added, telling the audience that he expects The Vue to exacerbate the already heavy traffic congestion in that area. “And I’m afraid we’re headed down the same road [with Siesta Promenade].”

He had asked to address the SKA board and the audience, James said, to seek the organization’s and the community’s engagement with the County Commission, to encourage it to purchase the Siesta Promenade site from Benderson. “This would be such a win for our community.”

Already, he pointed out, people have suggested the land —the former location of a mobile home residential area — be transformed into a park, possibly with the inclusion of a transfer operation for shuttles to take people to and from destinations on Siesta Key.

During the June 2, 2016 presentation Benderson’s director of development, Todd Mathes, made to SKA members about the plans, resident Rhana Bazzini told him she thought the property “would make a marvelous park.”

“The possibilities are very appealing and certainly enhance entry to our little slice of paradise here,” James said during the Jan. 12 SKA meeting.

Therefore, he continued, he wanted to formally ask the SKA to initiative a dialogue with Benderson.

As for how he proposed to pay for the purchase of the land, James said. “I don’t think there’s anybody in this room or anybody on the Key that wouldn’t pay a special tax.”

“We have the power and the numbers,” James added. “Just think of all the people who would support this.”

When an audience member asked how much Benderson paid for the Siesta Promenade site, SKA Vice President Catherine Luckner replied that the figure was about $20 million. (Based on figures from the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office, SNL calculated the total at $20,145,000.)

“Benderson deserves a fair profit,” James told the SKA audience. “But they bought it as a trailer park. … That’s what it’s zoned for.”

James added that the county commissioners “have the power to deny [Benderson’s proposal for the site].” Applause followed his remarks.

Debate over the potential hotel project

Lively debate ensued at the Jan. 12 Siesta Key Association (SKA) meeting when a resident of the Marina Del Sol condominium complex on Old Stickney Point Road brought up the County Commission’s Jan. 10 vote to authorize staff to begin work on a proposed Comprehensive Plan Amendment that could lead to a new hotel on Siesta Key.

“Are you people involved with this?” Ed Kroninger asked the SKA board members, noting that he had attended the commission meeting when the matter was discussed. “We are following it,” SKA Director Harold Ashby replied.

“We’re very much against it,” Kroninger added of the potential for a hotel on Old Stickney Point Road.

The proposed Comprehensive Plan amendment involves Future Land Use Policy 2.9.1, as explained during a Dec. 7, 2016 workshop on the initiative. The new language would modify the policy to say, “The intensity and density of future development on the Barrier Islands of Sarasota shall not exceed that allowed by zoning ordinances and regulations existing as of March 13, 1989, except that with respect to i.) lands zoned CG as of that date being redeveloped to provide transient accommodations, or ii.) lands zoned [Residential Multi-Family] as of that date and consistently so thereafter, a non-conforming duplex whose density exceeds the density restrictions of the zoning regulations and restrictions may be rebuilt within the footprint of the structure, or a non-conforming multi-family structure may be demolished and a duplex rebuilt in its place within the prior footprint of the multi-family structure without violating this policy.” [The proposed new language is underlined.]

Robert “Bo” Medred of Genesis Planning & Development in Sarasota and Charles D. Bailey III of the Williams Parker law firm had scheduled the December 2016 workshop to discuss the proposal on behalf of their client, Siesta Acquisitions LLC. (According to the Florida Division of Corporations website, the manager of that entity is Dr. Gary Kompothecras; he is a chiropractor best known for his “1-800-Ask-Gary” advertising for medical referrals to his chain of clinics.)

“We had no idea there was a meeting,” Kroninger told the SKA board members, noting that a Siesta Sand newspaper article said few people showed up on Dec. 7, 2016.

“We feel we have enough transient accommodations right now on the island,” he said.

One of the Commercial General (CG) areas where a hotel potentially could be built if the amendment ultimately won county approval encompasses about 12 acres on Old Stickney Point Road; it includes the site of the former Fandango Café as well as a self-storage building.

Old Stickney Point Road is just two lanes, and it already is quite congested, Kroninger continued, with a new Daiquiri Deck Raw Bar restaurant and coffee shop opening later this year. (That project fronts on Stickney Point Road, though the coffee shop will have an entrance on Old Stickney Point Road.)

Kroninger said he and other Marina Del Sol residents have heard that the hotel proposal would entail a minimum of six stories at the intersection of Old Stickney Point Road and Peacock Road.

“People with a lot of money can get a lot of things done,” he added.

As for the site where the Fandango building stands, he continued, “That property is a piece of garbage.”

Ashby then told Kroninger that the SKA board has not voted on a position on the Comprehensive Plan amendment.

SKA Director Joe Volpe noted that he was one of the few members of the public who attended the Dec. 7, 2016 workshop. He took the opportunity to invite Medred and Bailey to make a presentation to the SKA, he said, but, thus far, they have not asked to appear at one of the organization’s sessions.

“How can we possibly come to an intelligent conclusion?” Volpe added, referring to the lack of details offered about the potential hotel project.

“They’re moving along on this thing,” Kroninger responded. Just that week, he said, he saw surveyors on Old Stickney Point Road.

Former County Commissioner Nora Patterson — a Key resident who stepped down from the board in 2014 because of term limits — pointed out that the Comprehensive Plan, as written, was designed to prevent an increase in intensity or density on the barrier islands. Although she was not familiar with the proposed amendment, she said, if it were not approved, a developer would have to purchase older structures and then replace them with a hotel or motel.

After Kroninger pointed out that he had heard the new hotel could be as tall as 85 feet, if the amendment were approved, Siesta resident Bob Waechter replied, “There’s so much misinformation about this.” (He also was one of the attendees at the Dec. 7, 2016 workshop.)
Adding that he lives on Peacock Road, Waechter said, “We have no idea what the height is. … They haven’t gotten that far in the plans.”

It was ironic, Waechter continued, that an exception to the Comprehensive Plan had to be approved to allow the Marina Del Sol condos to be constructed. “And the neighborhood worked relentlessly to help get the Comprehensive Plan and the zoning changed so your home could be built,” he told Kroninger.

“That’s because you didn’t want Bob’s Boathouse there,” Kroninger fired back, referring to a restaurant featuring live music that was the focus of numerous noise complaints before it closed. A later version of the business operated for less than a year on U.S. 41 South, on Phillippi Creek.

“You’re right,” Waechter replied to Kroninger. “I don’t want another Bob’s Boathouse, another Daiquiri Deck, another Fandango’s on that site.”

Then Waechter told the board members, “I’m cautioning the Siesta Key Association: Take a wait and see.” If the amendment is approved, Waechter added, and a resulting hotel proposal proves “as bad as Ed thinks, I’ll be fighting with you against it.”

"This is very helpful,” Ashby said of the discussion.

The ‘no hotel’ petition

Just after the news broke late last year that a proposed Comprehensive Plan amendment could lead to a new hotel on Siesta Key, Lourdes Ramirez of Siesta Key Community created an online petition drive to stop the initiative.

The heading on the ipetitions webpage is “NO to Massive Mega Hotel on Siesta Key.”

The page says 1,000 signatures is the goal. A “Highlight” on the site, submitted on Jan. 2, notes that the 500 mark had been reached.

Among the 212 comments, one from a Sarasota resident said, “enough traffic, enough people, enough development; we don’t need more mega hotels.”

Another one, posted on Jan. 3, stated, “No more greed.”

Charles D. Bailey III of the Williams Parker law firm in Sarasota — a member of the team seeking the Comprehensive Plan amendment — emphasized to SNL at a Dec. 7, 2016 workshop that no high-rise hotel was planned. Instead, he pointed out, a boutique hotel would be the goal.

Standing room only

So many people showed up at the Jan. 12 Siesta Key Association meeting to hear the latest news about the Lido Renourishment Project that SKA Director Bob Miller had to go scouting for more chairs.

The session was held in the Parish Hall at St. Boniface Episcopal Church, which is a fairly capacious room. Still, more people kept coming through the door, and volunteers kept setting up folding chairs until no more were to be found.

When SKA Director Harold Ashby called on Miller to report on membership matters, someone responded that Miller was still out on his endeavor.

Former SKA Director Russell James, who was among the attendees, joked that when he was on the board, the SKA was lucky to have 12 people in the audience, “so this is very encouraging.”

In the end, only a few people remained on their feet at the rear of the room.

And speaking of SKA membership matters …

Siesta Key Association (SKA) Director Joe Volpe announced during the organization’s Jan. 12 session that the SKA will hold its annual breakfast meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 4, in the Community Center at St. Boniface.

Each SKA member is entitled to two tickets to the event, he added; however, because of limited space, reservations are necessary. They may be made by calling 364-4880 or emailing info@siestakeyassociation.com.

In related news, after SKA Director Bob Miller returned from his search for more chairs, he explained that people who thought their membership renewals had gone through should check their credit card statements. Unfortunately, he continued, the online renewal process has “ended up being a nightmare for us, quite frankly.”

In just one day, he said, 120 renewals out of 280 transactions were rejected by credit card companies. Part of that probably was a matter of people having received new cards with the electronic chip system embedded in them, Miller added.

Anyone who finds their membership did not renew automatically simply can sign up as a new member, and the SKA will make sure to correct its records so that person does not end up with double memberships, he told the audience.

An email blast went out to members earlier this month, he said, to explain the situation.

“You always can mail a check in,” Miller pointed out. “We’ve had a lot of calls on this already.”

No real crime trends

Break-ins at a few unoccupied units on Moonmist Circle in Polynesian Gardens were reported on Dec. 24 and Dec. 25, 2016, Sgt. Jason Mruczek of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office told about 80 people at the Jan. 12 meeting of the Siesta Key Association (SKA).

The Sheriff’s Office’s Forensics Unit did collect some evidence that detectives hope will help them arrest the perpetrators, Mruczek added.

As for the Dec. 26, 2016 “Santa Stumble” pub crawl in Siesta Village: “There weren’t any major problems; a couple of arrests,” Mruczek added. The event went well overall, he noted, “considering how many people were out there.”

The Santa Stumble was sponsored by the Siesta Key Oyster Bar, Gilligan’s Island Grill, the Daiquiri Deck and Pizza Pi.

When Mruczek asked for questions during the SKA meeting, no one posed any — an uncommon occurrence of late.

“I’m sure in February and March there will be more in the report,” SKA Director Harold Ashby joked, referring to the two months that traditionally are the busiest on the Key.

Reopen Beach Road signs

During the Jan. 10 County Commission meeting, Siesta resident Mike Cosentino complained that a county Code Enforcement officer had threatened island businesses with fines if they did not remove signs supporting his effort to overturn the commission’s May 11, 2016 vote to abandon a 357-foot-long segment of North Beach Road.

When SNL inquired about that Code Enforcement action, county spokesman Drew Winchester replied on Jan. 11 that Officer Susan Stahley, who works on Siesta Key, had provided details of Florida Statute 162 to businesses with those signs.

Section 162.06 says that if a violation of a local government code is found, “the inspector shall notify the violator and give him or hear a reasonable time to correct the violation. Should the violation continue beyond the time specified for correction, the code inspector shall notify an enforcement board and request a hearing.”

In Sarasota County, violations are heard by a Special Magistrate.

The ordinance also explains that if an inspector notifies an enforcement board that a violation has not been corrected by the set time — or if a repeat violation has occurred — the enforcement board “may order the violator to pay a fine in an amount specified in this section for each day the violation continues past the date set by the enforcement board for compliance, or, in the case of a repeat violation, for each day the repeat violation continues, beginning with the date the repeat violation is found to have occurred by the code inspector."

A fine may not exceed $250 per day for a first violation, the statute continues, and it “shall not exceed $500 per day for a repeat violation ….”

 A May 2016 report to the County Commission regarding the county’s Code Enforcement operations explained that officers have focused on issuing courtesy notices about violations before handing out official Notices of Violation, in an effort to resolve situations without having to initiate the formal process that leads to a hearing before a Special Magistrate.

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