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Siesta Key Round Up

By Stan Zimmerman

North Shell Road joins 21st century        

It is about the only place in the county you could park in front of a fire hydrant and not get a ticket. North Shell Road is a small spur west off Higel Ave. and terminating on Big Pass directly across from the southern tip of Lido Key.

Historically it has been a parking free-for-all for people trying to use the tiny public beach at the end. It is not unusual to find 40 or more cars and pickups parked helter-skelter. But that’s all in the past. The county commission has approved a parking plan, calling for 16 spaces, including one closest to the beach for the handicapped. The existing sidewalk will be eliminated.

The idea is to make parking violations enforceable. Nearby residents regularly found their driveways blocked by visitors to the little beach.

Make a note of it

When County Coastal Zone Resources Manager Laird Wreford briefed Siesta Key residents on the development of a “post-disaster redevelopment plan,” he suggested residents and especially property owners make an electronic copy of important documents. A CD or thumb drive with copies will greatly facilitate any post-hurricane claims and reconstruction plans.

Wreford will be taking years of work by volunteers plus staffers from the county and four cities before the county commission this month as he moves the PDRP towards a completed document. He notes the key will look different because new Florida building codes and Federal regulations mean the old 1950s buildings – if heavily damaged – cannot be rebuilt as they were.

Wreford said people must accept personal responsibility for their critical information ahead of time, because finding it or reconstructing it after a disaster may be impossible.

More parking by the Fourth         

The first phase of the big Siesta Beach rehab is expected to wrap up by the July 4th  weekend. It includes 260 additional parking spaces to handle more beachgoers. Plans call for the east restrooms, picnic area and playground to still be operational for the holiday.

The first phase will also include new tennis courts and the maintenance facility. The big changes are still to come with new bathrooms and restoration of the pavilion and upgraded concessions. Ceremonial shovels started the project last January. The total price is estimated to be $21.5 million.

Siesta a top beach (again)

The website TripAdvisor’s 2014 Travel’s Choice Beaches Award puts Siesta Key Beach at the top for the 48 continental United States. It was number three overall, following two beaches in Hawaii.

Last year Siesta was ranked number two, and number 16 for beaches worldwide. This year Lido Beach came in at number 22 in the U.S. and no Florida beach made the worldwide list. The rankings come from website readers voting for their favorites. St. Pete Beach came in ninth, and St. Augustine Beach was 14th.

In 2011 Siesta was ranked the best beach in the nation by Stephen “Dr. Beach” Leatherman.

Tourist tax collections jump         

Sarasota County’s five percent tax on short-term rentals provides one hard index of the health of the area’s number one industry. Collections in the first five months of the fiscal year show a ten percent increase.

The tax is collected by hotels, motels and other rentals of less than six months. It reflects the occupancy rate and the room rate.

Release of collection information lags at least a month to give time for the collections to be transmitted to the county tax collector’s office. Through the end of February, the tax total was $6.7 million, an increase of $695,000 over the previous year.

Every year two geographic locations account for a majority of the collections. So far this fiscal year, Siesta Key is the leading producer, providing 29.22 percent of the total. The island is closely followed by the City of Sarasota at 29.07 percent.

By comparison Longboat Key (the southern half of which is in Sarasota County) provides 10.86 percent, and Venice represents 7.55 percent of the total. North Port, while it has a larger permanent population than the City of Sarasota, contributes 0.42 percent.

Condos set for Siesta Drive

Construction is scheduled this summer to build 12 condominiums on Siesta Drive between Osprey Avenue and the north drawbridge. Prices will be in the high six-figures to the low sevens.

The land was originally zoned single-family but a developer changed it during the boom before going broke. Park Shore Homes of Ft. Myers picked the land up last year for about $1 million. The tentative name is “The Enclave.”

 The design will be West-Indies style, with each free-standing unit ranging from 2,400 to 3,200 square feet.