Siesta Key Chamber hosts Annual Children’s Easter Party & Egg Hunt
The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce proudly presents the Annual Children’s Easter Party and Egg Hunt on Sat March 31 from 9:00 a.m. until Noon. For the second year, the event will be held at – Turtle Beach, located at 8919 Midnight Pass, Siesta Key. Turtle Beach is approximately 2.3 miles South of Stickney Road on Midnight Pass. Free parking is available on site.
Activities include an Easter egg hunt, face painting, games and free photos with the Easter bunny, the Sheriff’s mounted patrol, and more!
Children ages 1 to 6 are invited to register and participate. Approximate time slots for the Egg Hunt are designated by age groups: 10:00 a.m. (2 years of age and younger); 10:30 a.m. (3-4 years of age); and 11:00 a.m. (5-6 years of age). All Easter eggs will contain prizes donated by Siesta Key Chamber Member businesses. Each child who registers will also receive a goodie bag. Children should bring something to carry their collected eggs in.
Pre-registration begins March 1, and is required for the Easter Egg Hunt and limited to 150 children. There is a $10 fee per child. Registration forms are available at www.siestakeychamber.com or at the Siesta Key Chamber Office, 5114 Ocean Blvd. For registration and sponsorship information, contact the Chamber Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 941-349-3800.
On Saturday March 31, the FREE Siesta Breeze Trolley will start at 8 am to transport families to the southern part of the key to enjoy the Easter Party. The Chamber encourages all to take advantage of this service which runs approximately every 30 minutes to and from Siesta Key Village and Turtle Beach. The trolley will resume its normal start time of 10 am on April 1.
New restaurant on Old Stickney Point Road
A new restaurant is opening up at the Siesta Key Marina, Spear Fish Siesta Grille. The restaurant is scheduled to open March 5. The restaurant will feature local seafood, island bites and craft beers. Come by land or by sea to 1265 Old Stickney Point Road.
Going out of business
Jeffrey B. Jewelry Design located at 2174 Gulf Gate Drive is closing its showroom. See the ad on page 6 of this month’s edition.
St. Michael’s Fashion Show
St. Michael’s Women’s Guild will present its Annual Spring Fashion Show and
Luncheon ROCK THE RUNWAY, on Wednesday, March 14, at Michael’s On East, 1212 East Avenue S., Sarasota. Fashions will be presented by EVELYN & ARTHUR.
Registration will begin at 11 am with cash bar and viewing of the Beautiful Basket Auction items, luncheon to follow at noon. The cost for this event is $50 per guest or $100 per patron. For more information, contact Kathy at 941-349-1281 or Mary at 941-346-1008. Reservations and payment deadline is Friday, March 9.
REMAX Alliance moves out of the village
REMAX Alliance closed the office located at 5140 Ocean Blvd. REMAX Alliance still operates an office off the Key. Rumors have been swirling for months to see what will occupy this key corner location in Davidson’s Drugs Plaza, stay tuned.
Lingering permitting issues regarding portable toilet
The environmental health administrator of the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County is working with legal counsel “to determine the best course of action” regarding Siesta resident Mike Cosentino’s installation of a portable toilet on the 10 Beach Road parcel Cosentino owns.
During a Jan. 22 telephone interview, Tom Higginbotham said Cosentino had been notified that he needs a permit for the toilet. “We have not received a permit application,” Higginbotham said.
Additionally, Cosentino has indicated to the Health Department, as he did in an interview last month, that he has no intention of applying for the permit, Higginbotham noted.
In a statement he issued on Jan. 10, Cosentino wrote, “I figure I’ve kept about 300 gallons of human waste out of the adjacent neighbors’ bushes in the short time the potty has been there.” Cosentino continued, “I think the county, not me, should be responsible for keeping such facilities at ALL public beach accesses. It doesn’t seem fair to me that the county, by its inaction, forces the public to use the private property adjacent to public beach accesses as bathrooms.”
Health Department rules do allow a portable toilet on private property, Higginbotham explained, “where there are no other facilities available, and the public must be able to access the toilet, according to state law.
“We have not seen any evidence of an overflow or spill of sewage” from the toilet, Higginbotham said. It has to be serviced at least once a week, he said, and “more [often] if necessary. We’re going to continue to monitor this,” Higginbotham continued. Someone from the department has been checking on the situation once a week, he added. If the department received any complaint, Higginbotham pointed out, it would “want to get someone there the same day.”
Thanks to “the beautiful white sand” on the beach, he noted, any overflow likely would be “pretty obvious.”
If the facility were still in place as hurricane season approached, he said, staff would be concerned about the potential for flooding on the beach.
The Health Department has a protocol in place to issue a warning if fecal bacterial counts climb to a level that would make swimming in the Gulf of Mexico — or any other body of water — unsafe for people.
However, Higginbotham expressed hopefulness that the issues surrounding Cosentino’s portable toilet will be resolved before June 1, which is the official start of hurricane season. “By then, I think we would have a legal opinion.”
Additionally, Sarasota County’s Environmental Protection Division issued a Notice of Violation to Cosentino for putting the portable toilet seaward of the county’s Gulf Beach Setback Line.
That notice gave him until Jan. 31 to remove the toilet “to a location landward of the [Gulf Beach Setback Line] and to a location consistent with other County and State regulations.”
A county spokesman reported in early February that because Cosentino had not removed the toilet, Environmental Protection staff was proceeding with issuing an Affidavit of Violation, which would lead to a hearing before the Code Enforcement Special Magistrate.
If the Special Magistrate finds Cosentino has violated the county’s Coastal Setback Code, the Notice of Violation says, the magistrate may impose a penalty of $250 per day “for each day the violation exists beyond the date set for compliance by the Special Magistrate.”
During the Jan. 4 Siesta Key Association (SKA) meeting, Avenida Messina resident Bill McLeod, who lives near Cosentino’s 10 Beach Road parcel, asked numerous questions of Sarasota County Sheriff’s Sgt. Jason Mruczek about Cosentino’s recent activities. McLeod voiced frustration about actions he indicated that Cosentino has pursued to draw attention to Cosentino’s Reopen Beach Road initiative.
During an interview with Higginbotham, the apparent divide among island residents was mentioned about Cosentino’s efforts to reverse a May 2016 County Commission decision to vacate a 357-foot-long segment of North Beach Road. “My goal is to stay out of the politics that are swirling around this,” Higginbotham said.
Master pump station nearing full operation
The last major tie-in of sewer pipeline from the north end of the island to the new master pump station on Siesta Key had been completed, Sarasota County’s Water/Wastewater Division manager said on Feb. 12 interview.
“Everything associated with putting that pump station into operation is installed,” Dave Cash said during a Feb. 12 telephone interview.
Staff was testing all the major components, he continued, with the full start-up testing anticipated to begin later that week.
When this reporter suggested he must feel almost as if he has given birth, given the years invested into the project, Cash laughed and replied, “I’m a proud papa of a new sewer pump station.”
On April 7, 2016, Cash stood at the front of a packed Parish Hall at St. Boniface Episcopal Church as he discussed the county’s initiative to transform the former Siesta Key Utility Authority plant from a wastewater treatment facility into a master pump station. The directors of the Siesta Key Association (SKA) had invited him to make a presentation on the project.
Time has gone by fast. “A lot’s happened since [April 2016].”
The trial runs that were planned would proceed cautiously, Cash explained. The goal is “a nice steady transition” without too much change, as staff worked to transfer wastewater from the Key to the mainland via a new sewer main that was installed under the Intracoastal Waterway.
“Once we stop the flow [of wastewater into the island facility],” he pointed out, “that’s it. “We can’t go back.”
By the end of February, he predicted, staff should know the date when the pump station would be fully operational. He would make certain the SKA received that news, so it could announce the date to its members, Cash added.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) permit for the plant to operate as a wastewater facility expires on June 19, he noted. The transition to the pump station should be completed well before that, he said.
Although Cash originally had hoped the project would be finished by the end of 2017, Hurricane Irma and one other major rain event thwarted that schedule. The biggest delay, he indicated, involved extra time for the curing of poured-in concrete for a wet well at the pump station site adjacent to Siesta Isles.
“Weather was a big factor with that situation.”
Still, he pointed out, “We’re not too far behind. We’re pushing pretty fast now.”
After the pump station became fully operational, he explained, staff would undertake the formal decommissioning of the wastewater treatment components of the facility, as required by FDEP. State environmental staff has to review a plan for that work and approve it before the county can begin that final step, he said.
During the Feb. 1 SKA meeting, Robert Luckner, a member of the nonprofit’s Environmental Committee, reported on the progress that had been made at the plant at that point, as he has been doing for the past months, based on his communications with county Public Works Department/Capital Projects staff.
“It’s amazing how much backup [equipment] they have in there,” Luckner added of the new pump station: “Two big electric pumps,” two small ones, a diesel generator and two independent electrical lines are among the new infrastructure.
On Feb. 1, Luckner noted, testing of the four electric pumps began.
He elicited laughter among the audience members when he told them to think about the pump station when they went to the bathroom at halftime of the Super Bowl, which was coming up on Feb. 4.
County staff members had remarked to him, Luckner said, that “the biggest surge they see the entire year” comes during that part of the Super Bowl telecast.
Make Siesta Drive Safer receives SKA endorsement
The Siesta Key Association (SKA) Board of Directors has voted unanimously to support and endorse the work of the Make Siesta Drive Safer (MSDS) Committee of the Bay Island Siesta Neighborhood Association, SKA Vice President Catherine Luckner announced on Feb. 1.
She reminded audience members at the February SKA meeting that Pat Wulf, president of the Bay Island Siesta Neighborhood Association, made a presentation about the group’s work in January. “It is an incredible effort on their part,” Luckner said. “We’re going to do everything that we can to help them get [their proposals] accomplished.”
When a comment about the endorsement was asked, Dee Reams, Make Siesta Drive Safer chair, wrote in a Feb. 12 email, “Speaking for the Make Siesta Drive Safer committee, we are very appreciative of SKA’s endorsement of our efforts … The Siesta Key Association has, over many years, consistently raised the bar for all associations in representing the interest of property owners on Siesta Key. We are humbled, grateful and encouraged by their enthusiastic support of MSDS and look forward to a collaborative relationship as we move forward.”
Reams pointed out that since MSDS was organized in April 2017, its members have held regular meetings in an effort to achieve the following:
- “Get input from Bay Island residents regarding their personal experiences with traffic crashes over the years.
- “Meet with community leaders such as [former long-time County Commissioner] Nora Patterson, [Sarasota City Commissioner] Hagan Brody, [County Commissioner] Al Maio, Bruce King [of the Sarasota Police Department], [Sarasota City Commissioner] Liz Alpert [and] Sheriff Tom Knight.
- “Gather documented information in the form of traffic crash reports from City/County [law enforcement offices] to back up personal experience stories.
- “Develop a working relationship with [Florida Department of Transportation] FDOT officials, specific to our area.
- “Put together ‘Ask List’ for FDOT, based on collected crash data, biggest perceived problem areas, and research into other municipalities with similar issues.
- “Maintain close and regular communication with FDOT, City/County [law enforcement offices], local government, state [Legislature] and surrounding communities.”
In general, she explained, the Make Siesta Drive Safer requests to FDOT have focused on the following:
- Decreasing the speed limit on Siesta Drive and Higel Avenue to 30 mph from South Osprey Drive to Midnight Pass Road.
- Addressing “the dangerous situation at the Siesta Drive/Higel Avenue intersection/curve.”
- Adding crosswalks at North Shell Road and Hamilton Avenue “and trying to find a crosswalk/sidewalk solution for neighbors/pedestrians who live and/or walk on the south and east sides of the Siesta/Higel curve.
Reams added in her email that in addition to its discussions with the directors of the Siesta Key Association, “our committee has begun the process of reaching out to other surrounding neighborhood associations such as [those for] San Remo, Granada, Coconut Bayou and others, to communicate our MSDS mission and ensure that as many residents as possible are aware of our goals to make our state roadway safer, and bring them up to speed as to what we are requesting of FDOT to do that. So far,” she continued, “as we have presented our plan at the associations’ board meetings, it has been met with very positive feedback and commitment of support.”
Beach rescue vehicle donated to Fire Department
The Siesta Key Fire Rescue Advisory Council (SKFRAC) has donated a Polaris Beach Rescue vehicle and a Stryker Power Loading system to the Sarasota County Fire Department in recognition of a “job well done” by the crew of Fire Station No. 13 on Siesta Key, Sarasota County announced.
A late resident of Siesta Key had left part of her estate to the nonprofit organization so it could buy items to donate to Station No. 13, which stands next to Siesta Public Beach, a county news release explained. “The units there frequently ran medical calls to assist on the resident in her late age and she wanted to thank them after her passing,” the release added.
Representatives of SKFRAC handed over the keys for the new Polaris ATV to Fire Chief Michael Regnier on the morning of Feb. 8 at Fire Station No. 13.
Regnier explained that the vehicle will enable rescue personnel to reach a person faster in an emergency situation on the beach. The Stryker system, he added, enables EMTs to load someone into a rescue unit without the potential of injuring their backs.
Regnier thanked the SKFRAC representatives for their generosity. “Obviously, this is something great for Siesta Key and for the Fire Department overall and for the community,” he said.
Cigarette littering signs update
The person behind the signs in Siesta Village warning people not to drop cigarette butts on the ground is Michael Holderness, a property owner and chief executive officer of SaraBay Real Estate.
“I did this,” he wrote in the subject line of a recent email. The reason? “Village floods at high tide,” he pointed out, and the butts float. “[T]wo days later they are in our wrack line on the beach. Guests just need a reminder, as they left their worries at home.”
The “wrack line” is the line of material left by high tide; it generally has plenty of seaweed and microscopic critters, along with an assortment of debris such as shells and feathers.
The signs mention a $250 fine, but Sarasota staff has made it clear that, under the provisions of a state law, the county cannot fine people for littering cigarette butts.
County staff originally planned to remove the signs. However, subsequent to Holderness’ public assertion that he had installed them, county Media Relations Officer Drew Winchester provided a detailed response in a Feb. 7 email after an inquiry, what would happen to the signs? Winchester referenced the county Code of Ordinances: “7.4.10.a.13. Exempt Signs. The following signs are exempted from the permit requirements of this section:
“i. Wall mounted, window or ground menu signs that do not exceed a maximum area of three square feet. Ground menu signs shall not be located within the right-of-way. Sandwich or A-frame style signs shall not be permitted.
“ii. Murals on a building or structure, provided that the mural does not advertise or promote any product or business. The intent of this section is to exempt murals that provide a depiction or rendering of the scenery, habitat, setting, resort environment, recreational or leisure activities or qualities of life.”
Then, Winchester cited “7.4.2. Prohibited Signs.
“c. Obscenities. Signs which are obscene are prohibited.”
He added, “The code does not address verbiage other than the above.”
Latest on the cigarette litter grant program
In conjunction with its inquiry about Holderness’ signs, we took the opportunity to inquire about the latest statistics regarding the program county staff initiated last year to try to curb butt litter.
In a Feb. 5 email, county Media Relations Officer Drew Winchester wrote, “As part of the Cigarette Litter Prevention Program (CLPP) grant, we installed (36) ash receptacles at Siesta Beach, Siesta [Beach] Accesses, Turtle Beach, and Nora Patterson & Christopher Wheeler Parks. The ash receptacles are emptied weekly and are generally anywhere from a quarter to half full. As we are heading into peak season (mid-Feb. to mid-April) we expect to see even more use. Since being installed last May, we’ve seen a 35-40% reduction in cigarette/cigar butt litter.”
Every seat is full
When County Commission Chair Nancy Detert opened the afternoon session of the Jan. 30 meeting, she looked out over a proverbial sea of Siesta residents in the Commission Chambers in downtown Sarasota.
“It’s always great to see so much public participation in our meetings,” she said, pointing out that the board members do not often have that many people at their sessions.
“Every seat is full,” Detert continued. “This is super. Thank you.”
The attraction was the public hearing on the proposed amendment to the Siesta Key Overlay District (SKOD) zoning regulations that could lead to tall commercial buildings only 2 feet from the sidewalk.
After more than three hours of discussion and debate, Detert then said, “I would like to congratulate the audience. It’s good government on display. You have been able to express your opinion. You got dressed up; you came to the meeting. You demonstrated civility and kindness, frankly. That says something about where we all live, too.”
“The best thing you did,” she continued, was to stay until the end. Most people “say their piece” and then leave, Detert pointed out. They learn about the board’s decision from the news media.
She also explained that because the state Sunshine Laws prevent the commissioners from discussing issues except during public meetings, the board discussions can appear to be “a little messy.”
“Thank you for sticking to the end and watching the deliberations,” Detert told the audience members. “Good on you.”
It was about 4:43 p.m. on Jan. 30, when the hearing ended.
Speaking of the hearing …
A good number of the Siesta residents who took the time to go to downtown Sarasota for that SKOD hearing traveled there by bus.
On Jan. 26, the Siesta Key Condominium Council sent out an email blast, advising its members of details about the upcoming consideration of the proposed zoning text amendment.
“We are asking people to attend (a big presence at the meeting will make a difference) the meeting on Jan 30th to ask the Commissioners to reject this request,” the email said.
“Since parking at the Commission building can be tight,” the email added, “there will be a bus available to take people to the meeting. The bus will be available at 12:30 pm at St. Boniface Church in the back of the building at 5615 Midnight Pass Road.”
Then the email advised interested persons whom to contact to reserve a seat on the bus, which had about 40 seats available at that time.
Based on the photos two of the meeting attendees — Lourdes Ramirez and Margaret Jean Cannon, the bus appeared to be full.
And based on the discussion of the hearing during the Siesta Key Association (SKA) meeting two days later, the commissioners can expect another big turnout of Siesta residents when the county commissioners take up the issue again on April 11.
The article that appeared in last month’s edition, “Mysterious Art project appears” stated artwork was solely placed on 162 Beach Road, a newly acquired vacant lot Sarasota County recently purchased on December 28, 2017. The artwork discussed in the article is placed on the neighboring private property 168 Beach Road.
Prior to Siesta Sand being notified of the error, an inquiry was sent to Sarasota County. In response to the inquiry about the objects, Sarasota County Media Relations Officer Drew Winchester wrote in a Jan. 30 email that some of the items had been installed on the 162 Beach Road parcel before the county closed on that land in late December 2017.
Additionally, Winchester wrote that PRNR staff was in the process of erecting temporary signage referencing the county ordinance “that obligates us to remove these items. This would provide notification of removal and give the individuals responsible for their creation an opportunity to remove [them].”
After the cairns were taken away from the 162 Beach Road property, Winchester noted, PRNR staff would take down those notices and then add “permanent dune protection/restoration signs at the site to prohibit this activity from happening in the future.”
Siesta Sand apologizes for the error to the Cooper family.
Siesta Beach named #2 Beach in the U.S. by Trip Advisor
Siesta Beach dropped from named the #1 Beach to second place on TripAdvisor’s travel website’s 2018 rankings of best US beaches.
Siesta Beach ranked second in the U.S. on the 2018 TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice list that came out February 21.
Siesta Beach is currently No. 1 in the U.S. on the current list produced by Stephen Leatherman, “Dr. Beach”.
Trip Advisor’s travel planning and booking website base its list of the top 25 beaches “on the quantity and quality of traveler reviews and ratings for beaches on TripAdvisor,” gathered from December 2016 to December 2017.
The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce would like to welcome these 4 new members in 2018
A Condo at Crescent Arms – Villa #17
3608 Midnight Pass Road, Siesta Key
Squeegee Masters, Inc.
3331 Plantation Drive, Sarasota
Ascendia Property Management
5127 Ocean Blvd. Siesta Key
Boatyard Waterfront Bar & Grill
1500 Stickney Point Road, Sarasota