Siesta Key Round Up

| November 1, 2016

No complaints about outdoor displays

Coming on the heels of a nearly six-hour discussion of the Siesta Promenade project, it is no wonder the Sarasota County public hearing on Siesta Key’s outdoor retail displays went so quickly last week.

In a unanimous decision on Oct. 11, the County Commission approved the removal of the sunset date from the ordinance, which was amended in 2014. The Siesta Key Village Association (SKVA), the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, the Siesta Key Association (SKA) and a merchants group worked together to craft restrictions designed to keep Siesta Village and the South Village from essentially becoming “tacky” — or, as one SKVA member put it, taking on a Daytona Beach atmosphere.

The item was listed on the County Commission agenda as one of those “Presentation Upon Request” hearings. In other words, if no one needed to hear staff remarks, and no member of the public had signed up to make comments, a board member could just make a motion. Chair Al Maio confirmed that he had no speaker cards.

Two motions actually were required, because the board had to convene briefly as the Land Development Regulation Commission to find the ordinance to be consistent with the county’s Comprehensive Plan. After that was handled quickly, Commissioner Carolyn Mason made the motion to approve the amended Siesta Key Overlay District ordinance without any ending date for the outdoor display guidelines. Commissioner Charles Hines seconded it.

During the Oct. 4 SKVA meeting, Vice President Mark Smith had brought up the matter. As he told SNL in September, Smith said, “I haven’t had any complaints about it”; nor had county staff. When Zoning Administrator Donna Thompson asked him about eliminating the sunset date, he told SKVA members, “I thought that would be the thing to do.”

More grant money, please

In June, the county’s coastal initiatives manager, Laird Wreford, reported to the Tourist Development Council that it was possible more state funding might be accessible for the South Siesta Renourishment Project completed in the spring. On Sept. 20, the County Commission formally directed staff to go after that assistance.

As part of its Consent Agenda of routine business items, the board unanimously authorized County Administrator Tom Harmer to execute and submit a Finding Application to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) in an effort to win an extra $5,785,716. 

FDEP awarded the county $2,750,000 in 2015 for the project, a memo to the board pointed out. The new funding would come through the 2018 fiscal year Florida Beach Erosion Control Program Budget, the memo adds. The project area ran “from about 3,000 feet south of Point of Rocks to a tapering end north of the former Midnight Pass,” the memo explains. The total cost of the work was about $21.5 million. Projects approved for the type of grant the county is seeking this time “are assigned on a cost sharing percentage based on the amount of public access provided relative to the project area,” the memo says. In this case, the public access area initially was figured at 37.87%, the memo notes, but that has been revised to 41.31%.

Any further funds the county receives from FDEP will be used to reimburse the Tourist Development Tax fund set aside for county renourishment projects, the memo points out.

The resolution the board authorized for transmission to FDEP with the funding request points out that “the southern portion of Siesta Key has experienced severe and progressive beach erosion which has led to the substantial loss of the public recreational beach, threatened area roads and utilities, left residences vulnerable to storm damage, necessitated consideration of extensive coastal armoring and destroyed dune habitat, all to the extent that South Siesta Key is designated as an area of Critical Erosion by the State of Florida ….”

Speaking of south Siesta beach …

During the Oct. 6 SKA meeting, residents complained about people illegally walking their dogs on the shoreline south of Turtle Beach, especially near the Fisherman’s Cove condominium complex. “We’re aware of them,” Sheriff’s Deputy Chris McGregor replied. The problem, he explained, is that it is not easy for officers to access that part of the beach. The sand is too loose for them to use the ATVs they drive on Siesta Public Beach, he pointed out. That means a deputy would have to walk about 2 miles to reach most of the offenders. By the time the deputy could get there, McGregor added, the people and the dogs would be gone.

People also tend to bring their boats up to shore in that area, he noted, and then get out of the vessels with their dogs. Most of them probably do not know about the county ordinance that forbids dogs on the beach, he continued. “We try to educate them.” 

As Sheriff’s Office representatives have in the past, McGregor also encouraged people to call the non-emergency number to report such incidents. That is 316-1201. If they call the substation, he pointed out, it could be the next day before deputies learn of a situation, as they generally close that office at 6 p.m., unless a special event is taking place on the island. The substation is in Siesta Village. McGregor also stressed, “If you’re not sure [about how urgent a matter is], dial 911 and they’ll assess the situation.”

During the same meeting, SKA Director Joe Volpe did offer praise to McGregor and Sgt. Jason Mruczek — the substation leader — for the handling of a different issue: “You’ve done a great job of patrolling the stop signs on Treasure Boat Way.” Volpe had complained at a past SKA session about drivers failing to pay attention to those signs in that neighborhood on the north part of the Key.

However, Volpe also told the officers that the organization had been receiving complaints recently about drivers failing to halt at the four-way stop signs at the intersection of Ocean Boulevard/Canal Road/Avenida Messina in Siesta Village. Mruczek replied that deputies are trying to keep a watch on that area.

Chamber award nominees sought

Each year, the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce recognizes individual businesses and people for “outstanding achievements and service within the community,” it points out in an email blast to members. Once again, it is time to seek nominees for those annual awards; the email asks that they be submitted no later than 5 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 9.

The categories include Large Business of the Year (10 or more employees); Small Business of the Year (up to nine employees); Businessperson of the Year; and the Shining Star Award. The latter goes to “an exceptional employee” who provides an extraordinarily high level of service, the nomination form explains.

The form may be filled out online and emailed to Executive Director Ann Frescura (ann@siestakeychamber.com), faxed to 941-349-9699 or delivered in person to the Chamber office at 5114 Ocean Blvd. in Siesta Village.

The awards dinner will be held on Friday, Jan. 27, 2017 at TPC Prestancia.

Discussion decommission SK Wastewater Treatment Plant

The guest speaker for the November 3 Siesta Key Association meeting is Greg Rouse, P.E. Utility Technical Mgr. Sarasota County, the topic; Decommission of the Siesta Key Wastewater Treatment Plant. The meeting will be Thursday November 3, 4:30 PM at St. Boniface Church, Parish Hall.

Dead palms being addressed

Siesta Sand has received many inquiries about the dead palms the County recently planted throughout the new Siesta Beach public parking area. We reached out to Brad Gaubatz from Sarasota County to find out what the County is doing to address these concerns. In an October 6 email response from Gaubatz, he confirmed the County’s ongoing efforts to remedy the situation. “We have been monitoring the palms and have already replaced over 100 failed palms over the 2 year construction period. A small percentage of cabbage palms are expected to fail. At 1200 palms planted, that’s still a lot of palms. Over the last few weeks we’ve replaced quite a few trees and have more coming. One of the problems is the very high water table at the park’s elevation” Gaubatz stated.

Gaubatz went on to say, “At this time, we’re down to tree by tree decisions. Since we are well above the code requirement for the number of trees, we have 3 options on each:

1. Replace with root-regenerated palms (they have a better chance for success but cost a bit more)

2. Replace with buttonwoods which are more tolerant of brackish groundwater. Certain parking lot locations are not a good spot for a buttonwood.

3. If we feel the location just won’t support a cabbage palm, we can just remove it (and not replace).

This process will probably be an ongoing issue for another season or two until the park settles in.”

More water, water everywhere

Treasure Boat Way resident Joe Volpe was in the shower on the morning of Oct. 3 when the water flow suddenly ceased. The reason? A contractor working for Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL) had hit a Sarasota County water main as it worked to replace a utility pole. He immediately called the Sarasota County Contact Center to report the problem and then set out on his bicycle to see what he could find.

And find it, he did. The water was gushing 2 feet into the air at 721 Treasure Boat Way on Siesta Key, Volpe said. The diameter of that “geyser” was about 6 to 8 inches, he added. The street was flooded. Volpe’s wife, Lana, said the couple and their neighbors had no water service for about three hours.

In response to a request for information, county spokesman Drew Winchester said the contractor for FPL — Diversified Services of Hartselle, Ala. — damaged the 3-inch water main that serves 30 Treasure Boat residents and one house on Oxford Drive. County employees repaired the damage and distributed “Boil water” notices to the residents on Sept. 26, Winchester added. The boiling advisory is a recommended precaution, county staff has explained, whenever a water line break occurs.

The next morning, Sept. 27, Volpe again was in the shower when the water flow stopped. And, again, he called the Contact Center. Coincidentally, he reached the same staff member he had spoken with the previous day. As soon as he told her why he was calling, she replied, “Again?!”

Once more, a county crew went out to the scene to deal with the damage. At least less water was lost that morning. On Monday, Volpe said, the contractor was using what he described as “a huge drill bit,” about 2 feet in diameter. On Sept. 27, the crew members had resorted to hand tools. Nonetheless, Volpe said, “They basically dug almost the exact same location.” A retired engineer, Volpe added that he told a member of the crew, “‘If you hit [the water main] hand digging, you need to move over a little bit.’”

Bill Orlove, a spokesman for FPL, said in a Sept. 28 telephone interview that the crew was working to install eight utility poles in the neighborhood, a project that should conclude by the end of this week.

Since 2006, he explained, the company has been inspecting its 1.2 million poles statewide to test their strength. “If they don’t meet our standards, then we replace them. … We want to ensure reliable service to our customers.” That process is undertaken every eight years, he explained. “It’s a lot of poles.” Since 2006, Orlove added, FPL has inspected 117,330 poles in Sarasota County alone.

Volpe explained that he compared the size of the new poles to the old ones while he was on the scene of the work. The replacements are about 2 feet taller, he noted, and they have larger diameters. The subcontractor was using “locates” to try to avoid hitting any utility lines, Orlove added. “The placement of those poles [is] usually just inside the property line” within the right of way, county spokesman Winchester pointed out.

When asked whether FPL reimbursed the county, Orlove replied, “I can’t really address that. … We do work with the contractor and the people that we serve. … If there’s an issue, it’s corrected.” Orlove stressed, “Certainly we apologize to any customers that were involved. Our contractors and crews try to work safely and respectfully …”

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How much?

A bit of buzz was generated recently by Siesta resident Michael Cosentino’s purchase of the property at 10 Beach Road — where an aged groin juts into the Gulf of Mexico — and another submerged parcel just to the northwest of it. Just how much did he pay, people have asked.

Sarasota County Property Appraiser Office records show that Thomas A. Hamilton of 3400 Hamilton Ave. in Sarasota transferred the parcels to Cosentino “for and in consideration of the sum of [$10] and other good and valuable considerations to [Hamilton],” as the warranty deed language puts it. The document stamps paid on the exchange totaled $350, reflecting a sale price of $50,000.

Chapter 201 of the Florida Statutes, which governs the Florida Department of Revenue, says, “Documentary stamp tax is levied at the rate of $.70 per $100 (or portion thereof) on documents that transfer interest in Florida real estate property, such as warranty deeds and quit claim deeds. … This tax is usually paid to the Clerk of Court when the document is recorded. The Clerks of Court send the money to the Department of Revenue and the Department distributes the funds according to law.”

As for the “consideration” language in the deed, research found this explanation on the website deadclaim.com: “Consideration is an archaic legal term used to describe the value that changes hands as part of an agreement between two or more parties. Consideration is the ‘what’s in it for me’ element of the deal. It is what each party gives the other party as part of the bargain. Consideration could be the payment of money, the discharge of debt, the performance of services, or anything else of value.

The Property Appraiser Office records show the submerged parcel without the groin was valued at $500 this year. It encompasses 12,203 square feet. The property at 10 Beach Road — with the groin — comprises 7,569 square feet, according to county records. It was valued at $700 this year.

The Givens Street light

Regular readers will recall that county staff agreed recently that flashing beacons should be installed at the intersection of Givens Street and Ocean Boulevard, because of the potential for accidents as traffic rounds the curve on Ocean in the vicinity of Givens Street. The intersection is just north of Siesta Village.

The solar-powered lights were expected to be up no later than Friday, Oct. 14, Robert Fakhri, the county’s manager of traffic engineering and operations, notified Michael Shay, past president of the Siesta Key Association. Shay passed along that date. Shay had worked with residents of the immediate area to encourage county staff to improve safety at the intersection.

As promised, county staff did get the flashing beacon equipment installed earlier in October at the intersection of Givens Street and Ocean Boulevard, just north of Siesta Village.

However, on Oct. 14, Michael Shay — who has assisted residents with the project — notified county staff, “[T]he beacons have been in place for a couple of days & look great,” but he noticed at 5 a.m. that day that they were not blinking. Therefore, he was seeking an update.

As it turned out, one battery was missing when staff received the equipment, Shay learned. A county employee wrote him in an email, “The battery won’t be in till the first of the week. I got the contractor to go back out there and he has the [northbound] flasher working now. We will install the other one as soon as it comes.”

Update on the new Daiquiri Deck

In spite of the heavy rainfall of recent weeks, construction is proceeding apace on the new Daiquiri Deck that will stand in the South Village. The latest schedule calls for the opening of the restaurant in March or April, co-owner Russell Matthes said on Oct. 4. The slab was to be poured this week, he added; progress will be more easily visible after that. Co-owner Troy Syprett originally had hoped the latest Daiquiri Deck would be open in December. After finally getting through all the necessary permitting process with Sarasota County staff, he stated this summer, the completion was pushed back to February. As Matthes pointed out, “It’s construction,” so anticipated timelines are not always realized.

The new Daiquiri Deck is a joint project with the Tush family that owns CB’s Saltwater Outfitters on Stickney Point Road. The restaurant will be on the top floor of a structure above the second CB’s location, just east of the Stickney Point Road/Midnight Pass Road intersection.

No crime, but plenty of dead fish

Sgt. Jason Mruczek normally arrives early for the monthly SKVA meetings, but Mruczek had been delayed on Oct. 4, SKVA President Wendall Jacobsen explained when he reached the Sheriff’s Office report item on the agenda. After his arrival, Mruczek had little to report. “Everything’s been pretty quiet. No real crime trends.”

“Anybody coughing themselves to death on the beach from the red tide?” Michael Shay asked. “No,” Mruczek replied, adding, that “a lot of dead fish” had washed up on the beach in recent days. “It’s getting slightly better,” Kay Kouvatsos, co-owner of Village Café, said of the red tide effects. Glen Cappetta, owner of Sun Ride Pedicab & Historic Tours, concurred, noting that the breeze was helping.

When Jacobsen asked whether county staff had been hauling away the dead fish, Mruczek replied that the fish were being stored somewhere, but he was not absolutely certain of the location. “Fertilizing something,” Kouvatsos said.

Jacobsen reminded everyone that a number of years ago, when Siesta experienced a lot of problems with red tide, county staff stored the dead fish and related debris on the softball field next to what then was the public beach picnic area. That comment brought a few wry chuckles, as anyone who drove near that area — including this reporter — recalls the reek only too well.

Yoga on Turtle Beach

Starting November 1, 2016, residents and visitors to the south end of Siesta Key can enjoy Yoga on Turtle Beach, from 8:30 – 9:30 a.m., every Tuesday through December 27. The recent Turtle Beach renovation which was completed last spring, has greatly expanded the size of the beach allowing yoga to be possible. Julie, who has experience in teaching outdoor yoga, including SUP Yoga, in both Florida and Maryland, will present an all-levels yoga class to the public.

When: Tuesdays, November 1 through December 27, (weather permitting) starting at 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.

Where: Turtle Beach – located on the south end of Siesta Key. Class will be set up on the sands located in front of the stairs/ramp in the north side of the parking lot.

Donation minimum requested: $5.00

In addition to helping to cover the weekly beach usage fee, Julie will be donating a portion of her monthly fees to the Sarasota-based non-profit Karma Yoga Outreach, Inc., which provides free yoga to US Veterans, as well as to local children with disabilities, adults with Parkinson’s and those struggling with addiction.

More information about Karma Yoga Outreach, Inc. is available at: www.karmayogaoutreach.org

What to bring: Students are encouraged to bring their own mats or towels, along with bottled water.

For more information about registration, please visit www.chesapeakeyoga.com or e-mail Julie at: julie@chesapeakeyoga.com for more information.

Siesta Key Condo Council Meeting

The SKCC will hold its membership meeting on November 15 at 3 PM at the Siesta Key Chapel Presbyterian Church, 4615 Gleason Ave., East of Siesta Village. The guest speaker is Daniel J. Lobeck, Esquire from the Law Offices of Lobeck & Hanson. TOPIC, 2016 Legislative Session Changes;

1. Sprinkler Retrofit Requirement and Deadline

2. New Federal Standards for Criminal Screening of Sales and Leases

3. Case Law Update

4. Maintenance or Material Alterations:  The Evolving Law

5. How the County Comprehensive Plan Update Can Affect Traffic

Condominium Owners, Board Members and Condo Managers are encouraged & welcomed to attend.

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