By Rachel Hackney/Bob Stein
As for break-ins …
During the Aug. 3 Siesta Key Association (SKA) meeting, Sgt. Jason Mruczek, leader of the Sheriff’s Office substation on the Key, told the audience that 10 to 15 vehicle burglaries had been reported in recent weeks on the north end of the island.
He mentioned incidents on Higel Avenue, Treasure Boat Way and Commonwealth Drive, among others.
Most occurred late at night, he added, and “a lot of the cars were unlocked.” Mruczek reminded the audience members, “Lock your cars; don’t keep anything in plain sight.”
When Mruczek asked whether anyone had questions for him, SKA member Dave Thomas replied, “I have noticed a lot more people just driving around, kind of rubbernecking in our neighborhoods.”
Thomas added, “Some look absolutely like tourists” who have taken the wrong road. However, Thomas continued, “Others [have been] a little bit questionable.”
On Tuesday evenings, Thomas noted, he has grown accustomed to seeing scavengers scouring his neighborhood, looking for items that have been put out for Waste Management to collect on its Wednesday routes on the Key. He has learned to distinguish those drivers from others who appear to have no reason to be in the area, he indicated.
On any occasion when someone sees someone suspicious, Mruczek responded, the person should not hesitate to call the non-emergency number for the Sheriff’s Office: 316-1201. If a matter is urgent, though, Mruczek pointed out, a person should call 911.
“Definitely, keep an eye out,” Mruczek advised residents.
More information, please
Regular readers of Siesta Sand will recall that on May 18, a limited liability company filed an application for a Coastal Setback Variance to construct a three-story, single-family home and pool on property that lies west of the house located at 654 Beach Road. The construction would be on land that is completely seaward of the county’s Gulf Beach Setback Line (GBSL), which Weiqi Lin, a member of the county’s Environmental Permitting Division staff, has described to the County Commission as the figurative line in the sand “to protect the public interests and your investment.”
The GBSL was established in 1978; in recent years, the County Commission has refused to allow any homes to be built west of it.
In response to a request for an update on the status of the Saba Sands II LLC application, county Media Relations Officer Jason Bartolone wrote in an Aug. 1 email, “The project review is currently on hold, pending a response to a ‘request for additional information’ the county sent to the applicant’s team on June 26.” This project would necessitate approval of the County Commission after a public hearing, Bartolone pointed out, “because it proposed construction seaward of the Gulf Beach Setback Line, but a meeting date will not be scheduled until the application materials are deemed complete.”
Saba Sands II, whose manager is attorney William A. Saba of Sarasota, filed the application for the variance. The company also wants to use Beach Access 10, which is adjacent to the land, as access to the house, according to the materials submitted to the county in May.
50% discount being offered
Relics on the Key, selling vintage, antiques and mid-century items is offering a 50% off coupon. The 50% off coupon is located on page 40 of this edition of Siesta Sand. Relics on the Key is located in the Siesta Key Village at 5049 Ocean Blvd.
A bit of Siesta Key history
Lourdes Ramirez talked recently of the hours she has spent, poring through Sarasota County public records. Between 2005 and 2007, she informed SNL in a recent email, she had to resort to microfiche as she researched the Key’s zoning history.
Longtime Siesta residents will recall that county staff was looking into allowing duplexes on Siesta’s non-conforming lots of record, based on staff claims that those lots were designed for duplexes. In 2007, Ramirez wrote in her email, she located old files and maps to prove that those lots indeed never were intended for duplexes.
On a late July day, she continued, she was going through some of her old files when she came across minutes of long-ago County Commission meetings. Some of them, she added, had interesting information. For example, she wrote, “Did you know the first zoning code created was for Siesta Key in 1953 followed by [one for] Casey Key in 1954?” The countywide zoning code was not created until 1960, she pointed out. “Unfortunately, we only have minutes to show there was a Siesta Key zoning code in 1953,” she added. However, she does have actual records of the code itself dating to 1960.
Ramirez also sent a copy of a page from County Commission minutes taken in 1953. It lists actions by E.S. Boyd, on behalf of the Siesta Key Association, to rename some of the island’s roads. Ramirez said she believes that Boyd Park, which is located at the intersection of Midnight Pass Road and Higel Avenue — just north of the Ocean Boulevard turnoff — must have been named after this Mr. Boyd.
Dated Dec. 21, 1953, the minutes note that the regular meeting of the Board of County Commissioners was held in the courthouse with Chairman Leach calling the session to order at 10 a.m.
E.S. Boyd, president of the Siesta Key Association, appeared before the commission “to request that the 14-acre island off Siesta Key, which the county is seeking to acquire, be retained as a bird sanctuary,” the minutes read. “Mr. Boyd further stated that he believed any commercial development of the island would tend to jeopardize the value of property on Siesta Key.”
Further, the minutes say, at Boyd’s recommendation, “the board agreed unanimously to furnish section maps of the zoned area on Siesta Key for use by the Zoning Commission to aid in setting up the zoning districts.”
As for the section Ramirez mentioned in her email: Boyd asked the county commissioners to change the names of four streets on the island. Among them, he sought the renaming of “Harry Higel Avenue from the city limits to the intersection of State road 789 and 789 S … to Midnight Pass Road.” He also asked that the board rename the one-block area “at the beginning of Route 789 S” to Ocean Boulevard; and that the unpaved section of Higel Avenue “in the center of the island” be renamed Mid Island Road.
The minutes say that Commissioner Harris “expressed the view that changing the name of a street or other landmark identifying those persons who pioneered the area is a serious matter and should be publicized and advertised and allow the public to decide. The Board deferred action and asked Mr. Boyd to take up the changes with the Postal Department.”
Last year, county staff and the contractor had settled on the horizontal directional drilling method to install new sewer pipelines in the Siesta Isles neighborhood. Those lines will transfer effluent off the island from what used to be the Siesta Key Wastewater Treatment Plant; it is being transformed into a master pump station.
However, recently, as crews worked in Siesta Isles, they found they were unable to make the 90-degree turns necessary to lay the pipe by that method, Robert Luckner, a member of the SKA’s Environmental Committee, wrote in a report that SKA Director Bob Spicer delivered in Luckner’s absence during the Aug. 3 meeting of the nonprofit.
Therefore, the contractor has had to switch to the conventional “open cut” method, a county notice to residents explains.
John J. Saputo IV, a construction project manager in the county’s Public Works Division, sent SNL a notice that went to Siesta Isles residents when SNL sought more details about Luckner’s report.
No more than 40 feet of area is open at any given time, Luckner wrote, and the trench is covered at night for safety purposes.
“This will be a more disruptive construction process; however, the contractor will maintain traffic via flagmen as the road will be reduced to a single lane of traffic where pipe installation is taking place,” the notice to residents continues. “Access to driveways for those with even numbered addresses may be limited during the forcemain installation.”
The notice also points out, “Efforts will be made to restore temporary driveway access at the end of the day for the affected homeowners. The contractor will contact you prior to any construction taking place in front of your home that will impede your access.”
“In addition,” it continues, “there has been a change in pipe route at Shadow Lawn Way. The pipe will now be installed on the North (Westbound) side of the road. This change will reverse the detour necessary for ingress and egress to Siesta Isles subdivision and will eliminate the need for a temporary signalized intersection at Beach Road and [Beach Way] Drive.”
The notice explains that residents will have access to Midnight Pass Road as an exit and that they will be able to return to Siesta Isles via Beach Road and Beach Way Drive.
Luckner’s report, as delivered by Spicer, made clear that not only is the work on schedule but, in fact, “it’s ahead of schedule.”
The decommissioning of the wastewater treatment plant is planned by the end of the year, county staff members have explained numerous times in recent months. The sewage will flow to county mainland treatment plants.
Some Siesta Isles residents no doubt are disappointed that the temporary signal is no longer going to be needed at the Beach Road/Beach Way intersection. As Tony Romanus, the former longtime president of the neighborhood association, stated last year, it can be problematic for drivers to get out onto Beach Road from Beach Way at times when tourist traffic is heavy. The temporary signal was seen as a “foot in the door,” so to speak, in an effort to persuade county leaders to install a permanent traffic signal at that intersection.
Drowning victim’s autopsy
An autopsy conducted by the District Twelve Medical Examiner’s Office shows that a visitor from Pittsburgh who was found floating facedown in the water near Point of Rocks early on the morning of May 10 did indeed drown.
SNL had requested the report; it was not released until last month because of the wait on toxicology reports, according to staff in the Medical Examiner’s Office.
Beachgoers looking for shells discovered Aimee Sue Hoover, 44; she apparently had been out snorkeling by herself in the Gulf of Mexico, based on her husband’s statement to Sheriff’s Office personnel. Steven Andrew Hoover, 44, said he had not seen her for 30 to 40 minutes before her body was found, the Sheriff’s Office report said. Steven Andrew Hoover also told the responding officers that she had epilepsy, but “to his knowledge [she] had not had a seizure for over a year and was taking medication as prescribed,” the Sheriff’s Office report noted. The husband “said he did not know of any other medical conditions of the victim,” the report continued.
Several beachgoers took turns doing chest compressions on Aimee Hoover after they pulled her to shore, the report added. When the officers arrived, the report said, paramedics already were on the scene, and Hoover had been pronounced dead.
The autopsy report — signed by Associate Medical Examiner Suzanne R. Utley — says that while drowning was the cause of death, epilepsy and hypertensive heart disease were contributory causes.
The number of riders from March 20 to the end of July was 121,059. The number of riders for the month of July was 25,506 or 873 riders a day.
On August 21, Bob Spicer stepped down from the board of the Siesta Key Association. Spicer joined the board this past March. Spicer indicated reasons to pursue other interests.