By Rachel Brown Hackney
Let there be new lights
Around mid-October, both north- and southbound drivers on Ocean Boulevard should be alert to new warning lights at the Givens Street intersection, thanks to an initiative prompted by residents of that area and the Siesta Key Association (SKA). Former SKA President Michael Shay told SNL that the organization received an email in early April about concerns regarding traffic in that vicinity.
Explaining that he and his wife have been Siesta residents for the past 23 years, the email writer pointed out to a situation that, if not addressed soon, surely would lead to someone being seriously injured.
Both pedestrians trying to cross Ocean from Givens and drivers attempting to turn from Givens onto Ocean face traffic headed “around the sharp blind curve on Ocean,” the writer added.
“On Ocean Blvd. there is a sign warning drivers of the curve and to slow down, but I would like to think there could be a more prominent sign or flashing yellow light to get traffic to slow down,” he continued. His hope was that SKA leaders could contact the appropriate Sarasota County representatives about the situation, which “might help to expedite something being done to make it safer for all concerned.” Shay responded to the writer: “[I] agree that it is an accident waiting to happen.”
In the six years he and his wife have lived full-time on the Key, Shay noted, he has used that intersection only once by car “and won’t again!” Shay promised to contact county staff and find out what could be done to ameliorate the situation. Shay told SNL that after he stepped down from the SKA board in May, he continued to work on the issue because he had handled it from the beginning.
On Aug. 30, Shay received an email from Robert Fakhri, the county’s manager of traffic engineering and operations, who apologized for the delay in responding. Fakhri explained that staff had completed its review of the intersection and had recommended the installation of a flashing beacon for traffic headed both north- and southbound.
County spokesman Drew Winchester told SNL by email on Sept. 13 that the solar-powered lights will be installed “in about 30 days,” adding that the cost of both beacons is $4,500.
The old pier has a new owner
Mike Cosentino has recently purchased the property that is home to what everyone on the Key calls the old pier near Beach Access 2. Cosentino is the Siesta Key resident that filed a complaint of intent to sue in early June regarding the Sarasota County Commissioners May 11 decision to change the 360 ft. section of Beach Road to a pedestrian easement, allowing property owners, the Madden’s to tear down old structures and build a new six unit building.
Cosentino and his followers are concerned that the easement will eventually be closed to the public, now that it is no longer part of Beach Road. The 360 feet thoroughfare sits between Avenida Messina and Columbus Blvd. This section of Beach Road has been closed to vehicle traffic since 1993. The 60 ft. wide road has been used as a pedestrian thoroughfare for the past 23 years.
The County released an Information Sheet regarding this section with the BCC May 11 vote.
• Sarasota County Commissioners secured the continual public use of the right-of-way through the resolution adopted on May 11.
• As a result of that action, Sarasota County continues to have ownership of the easement ensuring public access.
• Petitioners must grant a utility easement, a pedestrian and non-motorized access easement.
• Vehicle traffic will not be allowed on the easement, but the public will continue to have access to the same 60-foot-wide section.
• The intent of the easement is to allow access to pedestrians, pedestrians with leashed domestic pets, bicycles, and other human-powered or low-speed electric propelled means.
• In addition, the Board of County Commissioners required a new permanent pedestrian easement that is five feet wide.
• This segment of Beach Road provides access to three properties on the landward side.
• There are platted lots on the seaward side of Beach Road, but none of the lots have been developed.
• By granting the gulf beach setback variance to the Madden’s, the county commissioners ensured no development will take place on the seaward side of Beach Road in front of the Madden’s property.
• The property owners may construct bollards, rope barrier posts or other improvements at both ends of the vacated right-of-way to prohibit vehicles. This may replace the barricades that have been in place since 1993.
A quiet Labor Day weekend
With the Florida Department of Health having issued a “no swim” advisory for Siesta Public Beach in the aftermath of Hermine’s passage through the Gulf of Mexico the last days of August and the first day of September, Labor Day weekend proved much quieter than the Sheriff’s Office had anticipated, Sgt. Jason Mruczek reported to SKVA members on Sept. 6.
The “no swim” advisory was put into effect on Sept. 1 and lifted on Sept. 5. Heavy rain events — as the county experienced last week — can lead to higher bacterial levels in the water that are unsafe for people, health experts have said. The weather itself, needless to say, also was a factor in lighter crowds at Siesta Beach, Mruczek noted.
Higher bacterial levels in the water
During Hurricane Hermine, the Siesta Key wastewater facility had a controlled willful discharge into the canal. This was necessary to avoid having partially treated water from running onto properties on the Key. The entire county was struggling to handle the massive amount of rainfall for several days. This practice is not new to the area, controlled spills happen when the tanks reach maximum capacity.
The county monitored the waterways immediately after the storm left the area, posting a no swim sign on the canal and the beach.
Speaking of Hermine …
Amid periodic squalls on Aug. 31, as Hermine began gathering herself into a full-blown tropical storm, Siesta Key Association Second Vice President Catherine Luckner announced that because of concern about safety issues related to weather and road conditions, the board members had decided “regretfully [to] cancel our monthly meeting scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 1, at 4:30 p.m.”
The next SKA meeting will be held on Oct. 6 at 4:30 p.m. at St. Boniface Episcopal Church on Midnight Pass Road. In the coming weeks, Luckner added, “we'll post [on the SKA website, www.siestakeyassociation.com] updates to ongoing projects, issues and concerns you've shared ….”
Hermine hits South Siesta renourishment area
The recently renourished south Siesta Key Beach and Casey Key appeared to have suffered more erosion than other areas of the county as a result of Tropical Storm and eventual Hurricane Hermine, staff of the Sarasota County Environmental Protection Division reported after assessments on Sept. 1, 2 and 6.
Regarding the $21.5-million south Siesta Beach initiative — which was completed in late April — county staff reported that an area at Turtle Beach showed signs of beach erosion and approximately 5 to 10 feet of dune erosion, including a limited loss of some of the recently planted dune vegetation at the south end of the project area.
Additionally, staff observed that high tide, storm surge and wave energy in the Gulf of Mexico during Hermine resulted in approximately 1 to 5 feet of dune erosion on Casey Key, Manasota Key and North Manasota Key. The storm also produced widespread coastal flooding on Siesta Key, especially in the area of North Beach Road and Avenida Messina near Siesta Village, the report notes.
Sand was deposited on beaches both from dunes and offshore sand bars in several areas, the report says. Hermine also caused limited property damage to dune walkovers and stairs, the county report notes. Many sea turtle nest markers were observed washed out, the report adds, and some nests were buried by deposited sand.
International Coastal Cleanup
Michael Shay had volunteers lined up to participate in the International Coastal Cleanup on Sept. 17, he reported during the Sept. 6 SKVA meeting. They would be working in conjunction with the Keep Sarasota County Beautiful (KSCB) staff on this global effort to clear trash and other debris from waterways, he said.
Because so many people in the past have been interested in participating in the event, he noted, KSCB has set aside a second day for the initiative. That will be Oct. 22.
Wendall Jacobsen, general manager of Beach Bazaar and the SKVA’s president, told Shay he would be happy to donate sunscreen from that business for the volunteers, as he has in the past.
Anyone interested in volunteering for the cleanup may contact Keep Sarasota County Beautiful by calling the county Contact Center at 861-5000 or visiting http://www.scgov.net/kscb. The hours on Oct. 22 are 8 a.m. to noon, with locations available throughout the county, according to a county flyer. The rain date for the event is Oct. 29, the flyer notes.
Tourist Development Tax revenue
Siesta Key continues to be the cash cow for the county. As in recent months, Siesta Key businesses that collect the tax continued to lead the way, bringing in 32.62 percent of the total $5,937,359.50 through the end of August, the Tax Collector’s Office report shows. The City of Sarasota remained in second place with 29.55 percent for a total of $5,378,156.45.
Satchel’s Last Resort Pars 4 Paws Golf Tournament
Satchel’s is hosting its Fifth Annual golf tournament Saturday November 5 starting at 1 PM. If you love animals, love golf and would love to play at The Resort at Longboat Key Club’s gorgeous Island side Golf Course, please join Satchel’s for a great afternoon of golf followed by a gourmet dinner and silent auction. For more information visit www.slrpars4paws.com Satchel’s Last Resort, Rescue, Rehab and Rehome.
Perhaps a restroom, after all, for Patterson Park
During the Sarasota County Commission’s April 27 mid-year financial review, Chair Al Maio remarked that people had asked him about the county building restrooms at Nora Patterson Bay Island Park, just west of the Siesta Drive bridge to the Key. Someone had suggested to him, after the dedication of the improved park in 2015, that a group might want to work in cooperation with the county to install such facilities on the site, he told county staff.
“A lot of people go there,” Maio pointed out of the park, adding that restrooms are needed. Nonetheless, he continued, after he explained to the person making the inquiry that “those structures are likely to be well in the air … I never heard any more.”
As it turns out, county staff has chosen to add the design and permitting of just such a project to the county’s Capital Improvement Plan for the 2017 fiscal year. Chief County Engineer Isaac Brownman broached the subject during the board’s Aug. 22 budget workshop. Staff has set aside $200,000 for work in the next fiscal year; the funds will come out of impact fee revenue generated in North County, Brownman explained.
But what about the height of that restroom?
In response to that question from SNL, county spokesman Jason Bartolone provided this answer:
“According to the architect working on the project (Guy Peterson), the proposed restroom is located within a [Federal Emergency Management Agency] FEMA Flood Zone A13,” which makes it necessary for the lowest horizontal floor elevation to be 12 feet above NGVD. (NGVD refers to vertical datum, which establishes a consistent zero point from which to measure the height of ground on which a person is standing, regardless of where the person is, according to FEMA.)
In other words, the restroom will not have to be elevated “as high as structures located on properties along the Gulf of Mexico and seaward of the Coastal Construction Control Line (CCCL),” Bartolone added. “These must be constructed above the effects of a 100-year storm (elevation +19.6 NGVD).”
Not North Beach Road
Amid all the discussion during the Aug. 23 County Commission meeting about the North Beach Road segment that has been vacated near Beach Access 3, someone apparently gave county staff the impression that another sign had been posted to warn the public away from the property.
County email exchanges show that Carolyn Brown, director of the Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department, sent a person out to check on the situation. All the employee found was a sign posted on Avenida Messina near Beach Access 2, but that sign was on private property, the employee pointed out.
County Administrator Tom Harmer then passed along that information to the commissioners, who had spent a bit of time that morning, trying to dispel the mistruths about the board’s May 11 vote.
Commissioner Charles Hines had warned Charles Bailey III, the attorney for the owners of property on either side of that 360-foot section of the road, to make certain they do not erect any signage to keep the public away.
And speaking of North Beach Road: Bailey told SNL that Dennis and Wendy Madden are proceeding with their plans to tear down the old rental structures on their parcels so they can construct a new three-story, six-unit building that will comply with all current building standards.
Answering a stormwater question
When Sarasota County staff appeared before members of the Siesta Key Association (SKA) at the organization’s August meeting to talk about the county’s new floodplain ordinance, one woman in the audience raised concerns about occasional flooding in an area just south of the intersection of Midnight Pass Road and Stickney Point Road.
Sue Honsberger with the Sarasota By the Sea Association asked the staff members whether any restriction is in place to keep a condominium association “from contributing to the flooding of the street” by releasing stormwater. Honsberger added that it appeared the one complex was trying to time the release so it would appear to be related to the afternoon downpours common this time of year.
Robert Laura, a watershed engineer for the county, explained that for any development to obtain a county building permit, it has to demonstrate that it will not make flooding worse. Perhaps the situation is linked to a maintenance issue, he told Honsberger. “Typically, runoff is directed into a stormwater pond.”
“I have been there eight years and observed it,” Honsberger replied.
Staff members asked to get her contact information, so they could check into the situation and let her know their findings.
After the meeting ended, Honsberger told SNL that the flooding was bad on two south Siesta roads — Seaside Drive and Sun N Sea Drive. “[The water] gushes right down [Midnight Pass Road],” Honsberger added, flooding Seaside Drive, especially.
When that happens, she continued, walkways at the nearby Ebb Tide motel flood right up to the units’ doors. “And I think it’s gotten worse [over the years]. … We have paid engineers. … We’re getting nowhere.”
County spokesman Jason Bartolone also looked into that matter. He explained in an email, “The Crescent is a fairly new condo/hotel development on the west side of Midnight Pass Road, just south of Stickney Point Road. The development has a permitted underground stormwater attenuation vault and is designed as both a retention and detention system (meaning it will discharge under heavy rainfall). During several rainfall events in the past three weeks, several areas in the county have seen rainfall intensities equivalent to or greater than our 100-year level of service. The discharge is stormwater runoff from the underground vault; it’s normal and expected based on the amount and intensity of the rainfall we’ve experienced recently.”
New Members to the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce
1. Kokomo Charters
2. Majors Electrical Services
3. SCENE Magazine
4. Gorilla Kleen – Exterior Cleaning
5. Blasé Bistro – formerly Blasé Cafe
6. Blasé Pizza & Craft Beer – formerly PI Pizza of Siesta Key
7. Siesta Key Winery – N- Bootleggers Moonshine Company at the Siesta Key Marina
8. Mike Sales Presents– Musician and Entertainer
9. Stay On Siesta – Property Management Company
10. Toasted Mango on Siesta Key – 2nd location
11. Cunningham Title Services
12. Made in Rome Organic Gelato – opening in the fall
13. The Italian Grill – across from South Sarasota Mall
14. Siesta Key Nails & Spa
15. Eddie’s Limousines
16. My Siesta Concierge