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Siesta Key Village News

Key Corners update, No Bigbelly coming after all to the Village, On the brighter side of Village maintenance, Troubles with the trash and More bicyclists in the Village

By Rachel Brown Hackney
SarasotaNewsLeader.comO

An update on a Village construction project

During a March 11 interview with Siesta architect Mark Smith, SNL took the opportunity to ask about the progress of transforming the Key Corners Plaza into a completely new look with a Nantucket theme. (Smith is the architect for the project.)

Business partners Chris Brown and Mike Granthon hope to complete the project over the summer, Smith said. Unfortunately, that means they have “lost the season,” as Smith put it. Their goal had been to open before season began, he pointed out during the most recent Siesta Chamber quarterly meeting for members, which was held in late February.

It took five months for Brown and Granthon to get the necessary permits from Sarasota County staff to begin the construction, Smith added during the Chamber meeting. “They’re going as fast as they can.”

Businesses in the plaza have been struggling, Ann Frescura, executive director of the Chamber, noted, referring to the fencing around the construction site.

Nonetheless, Lisa Cece, special district coordinator for Sarasota County, who serves as county liaison to the Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp., explained that county regulations do not allow for sandwich boards in the public right of way or the landscaping beds, to advertise businesses.

However, “They can put signage on the chain link fence,” Cece added. “That works.”

Tenants in Key Corners have been making use of the fence, Frescura responded. 

No Bigbelly coming after all to the Village

In August 2018, Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce members finally thought they were on the road to achieving a quest begun almost exactly five years earlier: installing a solar-powered, compacting garbage and recycling container in Siesta Village.

The Bigbelly would replace a number of the steel garbage cans, Lisa Cece, special district coordinator for Sarasota County, explained during the August 2018 quarterly meeting of Chamber members.

The idea for placing the equipment in the Village originated with Russell Matthes, co-owner of the Daiquiri Deck restaurants, before the Siesta Chamber absorbed the merchants group called the Siesta Key Village Association.

Cece, who serves as liaison between the county and the Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp., told the Chamber members in August 2018 that, during the tourist season that year, “We were inundated with the highest volume of trash that we have ever experienced” in the Village. Her goal, she said, was to see a Bigbelly installed near The Lobster Pot, at the intersection of Canal Road and Ocean Boulevard.

Alas, the plan will not come to fruition after all, Cece reported during the Feb. 20 quarterly Chamber meeting for members.

“Bigbelly doesn’t look feasible,” she said. In working with the company’s legal representative and the Office of the County attorney over the past months, she continued, she was unable to satisfy all the demands on both sides.

For example, Cece pointed out, she would have had to estimate the number of new liners the Bigbelly would need over a five-year period. She also would have had to ensure the contract to lease the equipment had sufficient contingency funds built into it to deal with any damage — or even the destruction — of the Bigbelly.

“Beautiful,” is the word she used to describe the Bigbelly itself. “It has an app; it’s really great.”

It would have held about 150 gallons of recyclables on one side and about 80 gallons of garbage on the other. The app would have been used to determine when it needed to be emptied, she indicated.

She and Michael Shay, the Village Maintenance Corp. manager, had remained determined to try the Bigbelly on a pilot basis at the Canal Road/Ocean Boulevard intersection, she continued. However, knowing the history of accidents at that corner, she said, “The chance of [the equipment] being damaged or destroyed was real.” The owners of Village property assessed for expenses of the Village’s Public Improvement District could have been liable for replacing it, she noted.

(Just a short while earlier, Shay had related the saga of follow-up necessary after a driver hit the bollard next to The Lobster Pot in December. The bollard will be replaced, he said. The Village has a number of those posts with lights that come on at night, to help illuminate people in the crosswalks.)

“I thought the lease was the way to go,” Cece said of the Bigbelly. “Unfortunately, they just made it impossible,” she added, referring to the attorneys on both the county and company sides.

On the brighter side of Village maintenance …

On a more positive note, Lisa Cece, the special district coordinator for Sarasota County, told Siesta Key Chamber members on Feb. 20 that she had just submitted the Siesta Village Maintenance District budget for the 2020 fiscal year to county financial staff. “The revenue collection continues to drop,” she said, referring to the annual assessments owners of property in the district pay for the Village upkeep.

“You’re paying less every year,” she added, looking at some of the property owners during the meeting.

For 2020, she continued, the total assessments will be about $130,000, down from about $140,000 in this fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, 2018.

She reminded everyone that in 2017, the county advertised separate bids for Village maintenance, instead of having one business handle everything. Under the separate bid process, one vendor covers the custodial work, while the second handles the landscaping initiatives. “I think, if you all agree,” Cece added, “it’s working better than in the past.”

In advance of the County Commission’s passage of the 2019 fiscal year budget, the list of millage rates applied to special districts countywide showed that the FY19 rate for property owners in the Siesta Key Village Public Improvement District was falling by 21.46%, compared to the FY18 rate.

“I pay down the reserve fund to keep your assessments as low as possible,” Cece said during the Feb. 20 meeting.

Nonetheless, she noted, the Village does have more challenges, especially with the increasing number of excavations to add new utility lines to businesses and with the aging of infrastructure.

Troubles with the trash

Another issue that arose during the Feb. 20 Siesta Chamber meeting also was related to trash.

Lisa Cece, the special district coordinator for Sarasota County, reported continuing problems with individuals putting their personal garbage in the Village cans. A county Code Enforcement officer has visited offenders when Cece or Michael Shay, Maintenance Corp. manager, has been able to identify someone by items in the trash, Cece added.

The commingling of personal materials with Village waste, Shay pointed out, creates a problem for employees of the company that handles the Village custodial work. “The garbage pail gets filled and then becomes unsightly. … It’s not because [the workers are] not picking up [the garbage].”

One routine offender, Cece continued, was a man who lives in a condominium to the north of the Village. She and Shay realized that the man must have been stopping beside a garbage can as he drove into the Village, so he could dump his personal trash into that can, Cece said. “We pulled [that can] across the street,” she added, referring to herself and Shay. “That took care of that,” she said, as it no longer was convenient for the man to use the garbage pail.

However, the can at the southern entrance to the Village is bolted down, Cece explained. “We have one person that comes out repetitively and puts her garbage in there and doesn’t care.”

More bicyclists in the Village

Starting this month, visitors who come to Siesta Village by bicycle will have a new place to “park” their bikes.

A new seven-space bike rack was expected to be installed at Bonjour French Café by the end of March, according to reports at the Feb. 20 Siesta Chamber’s quarterly meeting for members.

Three benches had been situated in the vicinity of the restaurant, Village Maintenance Corp. Manager Michael Shay explained, but one of them had sustained quite a bit of damage. Because it was deemed beyond repair, Shay continued, the decision was made to replace it with a bike rack.

“People have been tying bicycles to the benches and the trees,” he pointed out. “We didn’t really want that …”

Lisa Cece, the special district coordinator for Sarasota County, added, “A lot more people are coming into [the Village] to have their lunch,” and many of them are riding bicycles.

She ordered the bike rack on Feb. 19, she said. It usually takes four to five weeks to get it delivered, she noted.