Siesta Key Round Up

| March 1, 2017

By Rachel Hackney/Bob Stein

Letter to the Editor

My comments are in response to the front page of Siesta Sand, February 2017 issue, Ms. Hackney’s excellent article re History of Midnight Pass.

It was widely known that ‘owners’ started the campaign to fill in Midnight Pass, and many folks were unaware of names, dates, etc. However, now we learn, home owners Messrs, Solomon and Carter were so alarmed about their precious property maybe tumbling into Midnight Pass and that in 1983 Sarasota County Commission granted ‘permission’ to bulldoze and close the Pass, is beyond belief. This was an egregious act that they and local officials are to blame. Further reading, shockingly, the ‘blessed’ plan was granted without environmental studies, no baseline data, no water monitoring, etc., Without these findings, ultimately, with amazing speed (two months) the “permission’ granted, makes one believe today’s used term…..”Follow the Money”.

We moved here to Siesta Key in 2006 and were surprised when taking a boat ride south to Venice that the water is so blue and clear. From the Midnight Pass up to Big Pass the Intercoastal water is brackish, brown and murky, very unpleasant to look at. All this due to the haste and selfishness of individuals who colluded with local government, never giving thought to the ramifications that we now live with. Beach erosion on Turtle Beach, south Siesta, and now south Lido beach are ALL clear signs that this horrific act in 1983 is the absolute reason why today, taxpayers are funding these pitiful hasty decisions. Not to mention, since living here, the expense incurred by many environmental impact studies to open Big Pass….all failed.

Today, we must wonder if the go-ahead is approved to renourish south Lido Key, what will happen to Crescent Beach – our Number One tourist attraction here in Sarasota.

Ms. Patterson’s words “it’s hard to trust folks once they’ve fooled you”.

Beware, the wrath of Mother Nature, there are consequences.

Sincerely, Lynne A. Croshier

Free Pizza on the Key

Solorzano’s Pizzeria on Siesta Key will celebrate their 10th Anniversary operating on the Key. Phil Solorzano wants to thank everyone that has helped make this happen.

On Sunday March 12, FREE PIZZA from 3pm to 4pm celebrating 10 amazing years on Siesta Key. PARTY IS AT THE SIESTA KEY LOCATION located at 215 Avenida Madera, Siesta Key Village. See their current ad located on the back page of this edition.

Good news from FEMA

In late January, Matt Osterhoudt, interim director of Sarasota County’s Planning and Development Services Department, notified County Administrator Tom Harmer that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has informed the county that it is eligible to claim reimbursement for disaster-related expenses associated with then-Tropical Storm Hermine on south Siesta Key.

An approximately $21.5-million project to renourish about 2 miles of that part of the Key — including Turtle Beach — was completed in late April.

Osterhoudt added in his Jan. 24 email that staff was in the process of surveying the area “to determine the scope of the issues and a potential project.” Staff also met that week with FEMA representatives in Sarasota, he noted.

“From what we understand,” Osterhoudt continued, “there would be some level of matching funds required to move forward with this initiative.

“We will provide an update to administration when more information is available regarding the extent of the affected area, what a project could entail, the associated funding plan, and next steps,” he wrote.

In early September 2016, staff surveys of the shoreline following Hermine’s passage found 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.

SKA Annual Breakfast Meeting

The Siesta Key Association will hold its annual breakfast meeting Saturday March 4 at St. Boniface Episcopal Church, Community room. Doors open at 8:30 am for Coffee, Tea, and Juice. Breakfast Buffet starts at 8:45 am, Annual Meeting from 9:20-11:00 am.

Free breakfast for all members with a reservation, Email: info@siestakeyassociation.com or call 941-364-4880, $20 for Visitors or join at the door. Speaking at our Breakfast, The Honorable Allan Maio Commissioner, Sarasota County and Tom Harmer, Sarasota County administrator.

Laying out the facts — again
Lido Beach Renourishment meetings

SKA Vice President Catherine Luckner has continued to keep her composure even as City Manager Tom Barwin has recited — and written — a different version of his outreach to the SKA than she recalls.

As recently as Feb. 6, when Barwin provided the City Commission an update on the Lido Renourishment Project, he mentioned his efforts to “communicate with the objectors as much as we can …” He was referring to the SKA and Save Our Siesta Sand 2 (SOSS2), which have filed administrative challenges over the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Dec. 22, 2016 Notice of Intent to issue a permit to the city and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to dredge Big Pass. The SKA also has alerted the city and the USACE of the potential of its filing a complaint in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court.

In a commentary Barwin wrote for area publications last month, he pointed out, “The city has repeatedly offered to meet with those who are challenging the permit.”

When she addressed the County Commission on Feb. 7, Luckner repeated comments she also has made to SKA members, so they would know her side of the story.

Last December, she told the commissioners, Barwin called her at home “three days before Christmas weekend” and asked about setting up a meeting that week. She told him she would be free both on Dec. 21 and Dec. 23. However, she continued, she made it clear to him that she would be out of town with her mother on Dec. 22.

Although she ran out of time to finish her story that morning, she did get to complete it several days earlier, at the Feb. 2 SKA meeting.

When Barwin called her, Luckner asked him about whether any county staff members would be present. He told her, she continued, that he knows County Administrator Tom Harmer, adding, “‘We work well together,’” and indicating he would get Harmer to join them.

“I said, ‘OK.’ … Didn’t hear from him.”

When Barwin finally called again, she added, it was about meeting on Dec. 22. She found it ironic, she noted, that he would want to schedule the meeting the same day the FDEP issued its Notice of Intent — and the single day of that week she had told him she would be unable to come downtown.

“I have never frankly met the man,” she added.

Peter van Roekens, chair of Save Our Siesta Sand 2 (SOSS2), has talked of meetings he and some of his board members have had with Barwin, noting the two sides came to no agreement. That nonprofit’s Newsletter 33 — emailed members and interested parties — said Barwin “has been telling the media that we will not talk to him. We have been talking to Mr. Barwin and/or his staff since early 2013. The meetings became more frequent in 2015 and 2016. While our reasons are different, one area that we agree upon is the need for a Plan B that does not involve taking sand from the Big Pass shoal — a plan similar to the previous thirteen renourishments of Lido Key Beach.”

An SKA audience member on Feb. 2 pointed out that Barwin’s guest column in the area publications said, “We appreciate and respect the concerns that have been raised by several individuals on Siesta Key.” The man voiced strong objection to the characterization that only some of the island’s residents oppose the dredging of the pass.

“We’re the troublemakers. We’re just terrible!” Luckner said laughingly, referring to the SKA and its members.

Luckner also explained that she and other SKA members had met multiple times with City Engineer Alexandrea DavisShaw and representatives of the USACE. In fact, she reminded the audience, the SKA invited Milan Mora of the USACE, who was the Lido project manager at the time, to make a presentation on the proposal during the SKA’s December 2013 meeting at St. Boniface.

The SKA opened up that meeting to the public, welcoming residents from Lido Key, too, Luckner noted. “I don’t believe the Siesta Key Association has been a big bad meany in this, ever.”

Audience member Mark Hennessy called out thanks to Luckner for all she has done for the organization in regard to the Lido Renourishment Project, and applause ensued.

A suggestion for the wastewater plant site

With county work proceeding on schedule for the decommissioning of the Siesta Key Wastewater Treatment Plant at the end of the year, members of the Siesta Key Association (SKA) last month heard a proposal for a potential use of the site.

Philip Chiocchio told the attendees at the Jan. 12 meeting that he is chair of a subcommittee on mangrove awareness, living seawalls and living shorelines for the Sarasota Bay Fisheries Forum. That group comprises anglers, scientists and others “seeking to proactively address fisheries management and science topics in the Sarasota Bay area,” according to a Mote Marine press release.

The forum partners with Mote and the Florida Sea Grant program, Chiocchio told the audience.

He then explained that New College of Florida “cut a hole in its seawall and dug out an area upland” to create a living shoreline lagoon, “which is now a nursery.” Red mangroves and birds are making the area their home, he continued.

The New College website points out that, with funding from the state, the school in 2012 was able to replace the seawall that was constructed in 1925-26. The effort included the creation of “an intertidal lagoon with a sloping shoreline and additional intertidal habitat,” giving students and visiting schoolchildren better access for “studying the natural environment.”

If the SKA was interested in pursuing a similar project on the wastewater plant property, he said, he would be happy to provide more details at a future meeting.

It took about a year-and-a-half for the New College initiative to come to fruition, he noted. “This might just be a beautiful project for Siesta Key.”

“That’s my pitch,” Chiocchio added.

Crystal Classic has quite an economic impact

The 2016 Siesta Key Crystal Classic International Sand Sculpting Festival in November 2016 had an economic impact on Sarasota County of $8,134,000, the organizers have announced.

The figure was based on data compiled by Research Data Services Inc., a news release says. The Tampa firm has handled such research in the past for Visit Sarasota County.

Other data the release pointed to follows:

• Total attendance for all areas of the festival was 56,500. (Along with the sand sculptures, the event features a Vendors Village.)

• 31% of attendees were “day trippers,” and 28.7% were overnight visitors, totaling 59.7% in out-of-county patronage.

• Average length of stay was 7.5 nights, with 16,800 room nights generated in area lodging.

• 37% of attendees came to the Crystal Classic for the first time, which means 63% of the people were returning fans.

• Total economic impact of out-of-county visitors was $7,647,000.

The production of the 2016 festival was a partnership between the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce and Mote Marine Laboratory.

Founded in 2010, the Crystal Classic “is a collaborative community event that supports the cultural arts and celebrates beautiful Siesta Key Beach,” the release adds. The event was established as the result of discussions between master sand sculptor and Siesta Key resident Brian Wigelsworth and representatives of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, the Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department, Mote Marine Laboratory and Visit Sarasota County.

For more information about the Crystal Classic, visit www.SiestaKeyCrystalClassic.com.

New SKA director

Attendees of the Feb. 2 Siesta Key Association meeting formally met a new director for the organization: Gene Kusekoski.

“[He] has actually been working for us the better part of last year,” Director Harold Ashby noted, primarily on initiatives the SKA has begun to make bicyclists safer on the Key.

Additionally, Ashby said, Kusekoski, who has information technology skills, “has agreed to help us get our technology brought in-house — at least some of it.”

A sense of humor

County residents who have been watching County Commission meetings since former state Sen. Nancy Detert was sworn-in as a board member on Nov. 22, 2016 know she has a keen wit. It was on display on Feb. 2, when she was a guest at the Siesta Key Association meeting.

Detert opened her remarks by saying, “I never give a canned speech, so I can’t wait to hear what I have to say, frankly.”

She added that it was her husband’s idea to move to Venice 38 years ago. “I didn’t want to come,” she said. “I was young at the time, and I thought everybody here was old. And my prediction’s come true.”

Detert also told the audience that her two sisters from Chicago had just spent 10 days visiting her. Because they wanted to take tourist-type outings, she continued, she and her sisters drove to Miami. Noting that the state recorded 105 million visitors in 2016, Detert said, “Sounds great until you’re stuck at a stoplight with all 105 million, it seems like.”

She won plenty of laughs from the approximately 80 people at the SKA meeting.

New SK Chamber members

The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce would like all to welcome the following new members:

Siesta Village Liquors

Wallace, Welch & Willingham Insurance Agency

LifeSquire Gulf Coast – Personal Services

Still Waters Alternative Health Care/Wellness Spa

Sandal Factory

The Donut Experiment

Gulf Sands Beach Resort – Casey Key

Michael Saunders Real Estate – Suki Scollo – Realtor

The SKCC encourages all residents and visitors to support local businesses.

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