By Rachel Hackney/Bob Stein
Transition to quarterly Chamber meetings
On Feb. 15, the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce conducted its first quarterly meeting for members, beginning a tradition proposed in the wake of the Chamber’s absorbing the Siesta Key Village Association (SKVA).
Last year, after SKVA members voted to approve the Chamber’s taking over their organization, Smith talked of holding the quarterly sessions. No means had been provided in the past for general members of the Chamber to ask questions about anything, he pointed out.
That first quarterly meeting was held at St. Boniface Episcopal Church, where the Siesta Key Association has its gatherings. Many of the attendees on Feb. 15 were long-time SKVA leaders.
In what might be called the last bit of SKVA business, Smith announced that evening that the SKVA had decided to contribute $10,000 to improve the Siesta Village landscaping. “That will be happening soon,” he said.
Dispelling a rumor
Russell Matthes, co-owner of the Daiquiri Deck restaurants, has said definitively that the new location on Stickney Point Road will not feature rooftop dining.
Based on rumors, this reporter took the opportunity to ask him about that during an interview regarding the new open-air trolley service. Given the height of the building on south Siesta Key, Matthes noted, the views will be great without tables on the roof.
By the way, Matthes said the newest Daiquiri Deck Raw Bar should be open by the second or third week of May. The dining area will be above the existing CB’s Outfitters shop on the same site. The restaurant project is a joint venture with the Tush family that owns CB’s and the Daiquiri Deck owners.
During a Feb. 17 update on major initiatives for the County Commission, Scott Schroyer, director of public utilities for the county, mentioned that the work to transform the Siesta Key Wastewater Treatment Plant into a master pump station would be completed in March 2018. However, as recently as November 2016, Greg Rouse, the county’s utility asset manager, assured Siesta Key Association (SKA) members that the wastewater treatment plant would be decommissioned at the end of this year.
When this reporter posed a question to county spokesmen about Schroyer’s comment, Drew Winchester checked with Schroyer and provided this response: “The construction is on schedule for completion by the end of this year.” The new pump station will be in place then, Schroyer added. “Operational tuning will occur during the first 4-8 weeks of 2018, hence my comment … about a March 2018 date. The facility operating permit expires in mid-June 2018.”
The island’s sushi hibachi steakhouse Jo-To Restaurant in the Village will close at the end of March 2017. Patrons discovered the news by reading a note left on the front door of the restaurant.
Mark Smith of Smith Architects is working with Siesta Key property owners Jim Syprett and Jay Lancer to purchase and renovate the 43 year old building.
The current property’s patron area is 852 square feet. Smith is working with the county to verify the property is grandfathered under the Siesta Key Overlay District for a restaurant, so no additional parking is needed.
Smith stated that the property will be renovated inside and out. The request to zoning includes opening up the front of the building adding two outdoor patios with major renovations inside.
Syprett and Lancer own the real estate that house Daiquiri Deck Raw Bar, Gidget’s, SKOB and the Sandal Factory.
Speaking of the wastewater treatment plant …
A Feb. 24 update on the work that will lead to the decommissioning of the plant came from Billie R. Havey, the communications staff member in the county’s Public Works Department.
Both the new water line and the new sewer main have been extended across the Intracoastal Waterway, she wrote. Additionally, the “Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) operation along South View Drive has begun. The contractor will be working Monday through Saturday,” she added, 10 hours per day, until that part of the project has been completed.
Havey noted that “an alternate through-traffic detour route [was] in place with signage during this construction.” Residents would have access to their driveways, she pointed out.
During the Feb. 15 County Commission meeting, County Administrator Tom Harmer took a few minutes during the board reports for what might be characterized as a “show and tell” segment.
He presented the commissioners photos of the bollards that the private property owners have installed on either end of the 357-foot segment of North Beach Road the board agreed to vacate — at the owners’ request — in a May 2016 vote. Those bollards and ropes were put up in late January, Harmer noted, with county staff having erected new signage in late December 2016 to make the public aware it has access to the road for any use except motorized vehicles.
The signs say, “Welcome” and “Public Access,” Harmer pointed out.
“Excellent job by our staff,” Commissioner Alan Maio responded.
Moreover, Harmer continued, “A big section of roadway also has been cleared of some of the sand that had built up there.”
Maio, who represents Siesta Key as part of District 4, pointed out that — in response to comments he has heard — he had asked staff why the sidewalk along that part of Beach Road does not go all the way to the intersection of Columbus Boulevard. The reason, he learned, was the existence of the sea grapes and sea oats at the corner, which county staff did not want to disturb from an environmental standpoint.
“So there’s a little bit of lack of sidewalk,” Maio said.
As Harmer was wrapping up his remarks, Chair Paul Caragiulo explained that he and Harmer had talked about the extra 5-foot-wide path perpendicular to the Gulf of Mexico from the vacated road segment, which the property owners proffered during the May 11, 2016 public hearing. It was seen as another means of ensuring continued public access to the water.
Because of the county’s public beach access near the southern end of the vacated road segment, Harmer explained, and all indications that the public has not hesitated to access the beach, staff believes no need exists for delineating the 5-foot path.
“Thank you for that,” Caragiulo told him.
During the Feb. 15 Siesta Chamber’s quarterly meeting, Chair Mark Smith announced that the traditional Easter Egg Hunt will be held for the first time at Turtle Beach this spring. Traditionally, it was conducted at Beach Access 5, at the end of Ocean Boulevard, Smith pointed out.
Chamber staff already has met with representatives of the county’s Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department, he continued, to work on the details of the new plan.
Along with the egg hunt scheduled for young children, the event regularly includes visits by representatives of the Sheriff’s Office Mounted Patrol and the Sarasota County Fire Department, Smith said. “Usually, we have about 200 families that show up.”
The Chamber also put out a call for volunteers to assist with the Easter Egg Hunt, which will begin at 9 a.m. and end at noon on Saturday, April 15.
A meeting of all volunteers was planned prior to the hunt, the form said.
For more details, the notice advised interested persons to contact Helene Hyland at 685-2274 or email her at email@example.com.
No. 1 again
TripAdvisor recently honored Siesta Public Beach with its No. 1 ranking for U.S. beaches and the No. 5 spot for beaches around the world, based on what it says are votes by millions of people who use the website to plan their travel.
In its note about Siesta, TripAdvisor writes, “Pristine beach that never seems to end. Photographer's dream. A place in the sun that warrants returning again and again.”
The SKA’s Environmental Defense Fund
During the February SKA meeting, Vice President Catherine Luckner and Director Harold Ashby talked about the new Siesta Key Environmental Defense Fund (SKEDF), which the organization established to assist with its legal fees to fight the dredging of Big Pass.
The SKA directors have stressed that the fund will be permanent, to allow the organization to pursue remedies in situations when the environment on the barrier island is threatened.
Over the years, Luckner said, the SKA has been fortunate that people have been donating “$20 here and $30 there” in the event money was needed for legal fees, “and that’s what we’re drawing on right now.”
By the end of that week, Ashby told the audience, the nonprofit planned to have a button active on its website to enable people to contribute to the SKEDF. After that was in place, he said, the SKA was going to send a letter to everyone with a Siesta Key zip code, telling residents and property owners about the SKA’s efforts on their behalf to preserve the pass — and to try to raise more money.
Checks made out to the SKEDF also are welcome, Ashby continued. They may be mailed to SKEDF, PO Box 35200, Sarasota, FL, 34242. All contributions are tax-deductible, he explained.
The SKA sent out an email blast earlier to its members, informing them about the establishment of the SKEDF, Ashby noted.
Audience member Mark Hennessy then asked about cooperation between the SKA and Save Our Siesta Sand 2 (SOSS2) in the legal matters. Because SOSS2 also is raising donations for its legal expenses, Hennessy continued, “Would an even tighter working relationship help?”
Luckner replied that the organizations have agreed to share expert testimony, as needed. “Why pay for it twice,” she added.
Update on the potential hotel project
A proposed Comprehensive Plan amendment that would allow hotels to be built on parcels zoned Commercial General on Siesta Key has not been submitted yet to Sarasota County planning staff, county spokesman Drew Winchester told SNL in March.
“The applicants did receive [County Commission] authorization to file a Comprehensive Plan Amendment prior to the open annual 2017 Comprehensive Plan Amendment cycle,” which traditionally is in May, Winchester added in a March 6 email. He was responding to a question. However, he pointed out, “The timing of the actual filing … is up to the applicant.”
Since word began spreading in early December about the proposal for the amendment, a number of residents on Siesta Key — especially those who live near Commercial General property on Old Stickney Point Road — have protested the idea of a hotel on the island.
After checking with Winchester, this reporter contacted Charles D. Bailey III of the Williams Parker law firm in Sarasota, who has been working as the agent for the applicant, Siesta Acquisitions LLC. (The manager of that entity is Dr. Gary Kompothecras, a chiropractor who lives on Siesta Key; he is best known for his “1-800-Ask-Gary” advertisements.)
Bailey wrote the following response in a March 7 email: “We really don’t have anything further to share at this point. In response to some feedback we received from some Siesta Key stakeholders during and following our neighborhood workshop, we are working to flesh out some of the details of a proposed hotel and seek to refine and clarify the Comprehensive Plan Amendment. We feel doing so will greatly help the discussion. We hope to recommence that discussion in the next few weeks.”
The neighborhood workshop was held on Dec. 7, 2016 at St. Boniface Episcopal Church on Siesta Key.
As Bailey and Robert “Bo” Medred of Genesis Planning & Development pointed out at that time, the proposed amendment would change the county’s Future Land Use Policy 2.9.1 to allow redevelopment of Commercial General parcels on any of the barrier islands to provide transient accommodations.
Taking her argument to a different group
“Persistent” is perhaps the best adjective to describe Rhana Bazzini, the Siesta resident who has been among the most ardent advocates of making the Siesta Promenade site a park.
On March 6, she took her fight to the City Commission. Pointing out that she is a county, not a city, resident, Bazzini nonetheless noted that the city and county have mutual interests.
Referencing public opposition to Siesta Promenade — which Benderson Development hopes to build on the northwest corner of the U.S. 41/Stickney Point Road intersection — she added that it took her only a few days to get 200 signatures on a petition against the project when she circulated it on foot. The petition talks of the negative aspects of the mixed-use development, including traffic congestion, neighborhood incompatibility and the addition of far more vehicles on a daily basis on a major hurricane evacuation route, she said.
She has continued to propose that the site become a park with a shuttle station that could provide “much needed transportation to Siesta Key and its beaches, thus mitigating the traffic and environmental issues …”
Of course, Benderson would have to divest itself of the property to allow the creation of the park, she continued. The company could donate the property to the county, sell it to the county or use it for mitigation purposes, she added.
In regard to the latter idea: Bazzini told the city commissioners, she had talked with Dru Jones, economic development coordinator of the Newtown-North Sarasota Redevelopment Team; and Jetson Grimes of the Greater Newtown Redevelopment Corp. about the possibility of interesting Benderson’s leadership in developing the Marian Anderson Place. “I have no idea if this is possible,” she said. “It’s just a thought.”
In early January, the city’s director of neighborhood and development services told the commissioners he hoped to be back before them within 60 days with proposed language for an Invitation to Negotiate regarding the development of the approximately 13-acre brownfield in north Sarasota.
Further, Bazzini said on March 6, Todd Mathes, Benderson’s director of development, has promised to arrange a meeting between her and Randy Benderson, CEO of the firm. “I’m a great believer in face-to-face [discussions],” she pointed out.
“So far,” she continued, “getting a meeting with Mr. Benderson is harder than getting an audience with the Pope. However, I have not given up hope.” She believes Mathes is a man of his word, she added.
Apologies from Cosentino
The county commissioners have become accustomed to seeing Siesta resident Mike Cosentino step to the podium to urge them to reverse a vote last year that vacated a 357-foot segment of North Beach Road. When he addressed them last week during a regular meeting in Venice, his appearance ended up taking a different turn.
First, Cosentino referenced Commissioner Charles Hines’ recent request for the Office of the County Attorney to review the board’s rules of procedure. Hines said it was his understanding that no one can address the commission on the same subject more than once on the same day without permission of the board.
“I did go back and read the rules, “Cosentino said on Feb. 28. I do stand corrected on that and appreciate you bringing that to my attention.”
Second, Cosentino continued, he wanted to make a comment to Commissioner Alan Maio. Cosentino explained that he had run an advertisement in a newspaper (the February issue of Siesta Sand), in which he had criticized Maio. That ad took Maio to task for failing to try to prevent the Critical Area Plan process from going forward for the proposed Siesta Promenade project Benderson Development wants to construct at the northwest corner of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road.
After the ad was published, Cosentino continued, it was pointed out to him that Sura Kochman favors the Critical Area Plan process. Kochman, he noted is one of the leaders of the Pine Shores Estates residents opposed to the mixed-use development.
He also had talked with Brian Lichterman, owner of Vision Planning and Design in Sarasota, who worked on more than 30 Critical Area Plans when Lichterman was a county planner in his previous career, Cosentino added; Lichterman also favors the CAP process.
“I’m actually not as [well] versed on the Benderson project as them,” Cosentino told Maio, “and I printed something about you, specifically, that may not have been correct, and I apologize for that. I want to make clear that that was not my intention. I try very hard to be credible in the things that I bring to the board’s attention,” he continued. “And I just want to make a public apology to you for printing something that I had not fully investigated,” he added, still speaking to Maio.
“That being said,” he began again and then paused. “Heck,” Cosentino told the board, “I’m going to give you guys a break. Have a nice day. Thank you.”
Another commissioner with a sense of humor
As one of the guest speakers at the Siesta Key Association’s annual breakfast meeting in March, Commissioner Alan Maio showed off his sense of humor before providing a rundown on county accomplishments over the previous 12 months.
After announcing that it was his third time speaking at that particular Siesta Key Association (SKA) event, he told the crowd of about 145, “I have done everything that [Vice President] Catherine Luckner has asked me to do for four years.” Yet, he continued, she made it clear her first and most important job at the meeting that morning was to introduce representatives of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office who were in attendance.
“Catherine, your phone calls will be returned in a little bit of a delayed manner until this time next year,” Maio added, drawing plenty of laugher. On a serious aside, he explained that his son is a deputy who often works on the Key, so he has the utmost respect for the officers and the agency.
Maio then provided everyone his email address at the county: firstname.lastname@example.org and welcomed people to contact him. “I get about 125 [emails] every day,” he added. “I read every single one,” making sure to forward them to the appropriate staff members.
Before he won election to the board in 2014, he told the audience, he interacted with county employees for about three decades. “I built everything in the world; pulled every possible permit, I think. And I have the secret backroom numbers for every one of these [staff members].”
Nonetheless, as he has pointed out during County Commission meetings, because Sarasota is a charter county, a commissioner can direct only two people on staff to do anything: the county administrator and the county attorney. County Administrator Tom Harmer reminds him of that, Maio joked.
Nonetheless, “we have fixed an awful lot of things through these emails [around the county],” Maio continued, “especially on Siesta.”
And while both Maio and Harmer were prepared to answer questions from the audience that morning, by the time Harmer completed his remarks — following Maio’s address — and long-time SKA membership director Deet Jonker was honored for his service to the nonprofit, new SKA President Harold Ashby pointed out that only 3 minutes remained.
(Harmer had joked that Maio had asked him to be sure his comments ran long enough, in an effort to prevent any Q&A period.)
Ashby then reminded the members that they can send questions or concerns to the SKA officers at any time by using the email address email@example.com. People also are welcomed to call the SKA at 364-4880, Ashby said.
Speaking of the Sheriff’s Office …
If you think you spotted previous Sheriff’s Office substation chief Sgt. Scott Osborne on Siesta in March, do not worry that you had overexposure to the sun — or imbibed too much of a certain type of beverage. Osborne indeed was helping out with the enhanced Spring Break patrols on the island.
In 2015, Sheriff Tom Knight transferred Osborne to North County to serve as a day-shift supervisor. Sgt. Jason Mruczek took Osborne’s place in the fall of 2015.
Osborne held the post on the Key for a decade.
Just before the close of the annual SKA breakfast meeting, new President Harold Ashby asked Vice President Catherine Luckner to return to the podium to recognize Deet Jonker, whom she called “a super volunteer extraordinaire” for the SKA and other organizations.
“For many years,” she continued, “he was our membership chair.” Sadly, because of health concerns, he had to stop attending meetings, she pointed out. Still, the SKA kept his name on its list of board members as if he still were serving, she said.
“Today’s our day to celebrate all the things he did for us … and to thank him for guiding us.”
She presented him an award inscribed with the following: “Our gratitude, forever, Deet Jonker, for your 15 years of service as Membership Chairman. You made it happen.”
Ashby and Luckner also pointed out that in his storied career before retirement, Jonker produced the 1984 Winter Olympics — held in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia — for ABC and that he won an Emmy for his work.
Jonker’s wife, Lynn, accompanied him to the annual meeting.
Siesta Key Chamber call for volunteers
The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce is updating and expanding their volunteer database and is now accepting applications. Volunteers are needed throughout the year for a variety of duties including the Visitors Center, events (Egg Hunt, Golf Outing, 4th of July, Halloween, Crystal Classic, Holiday Parade, etc.), special projects, and delivery of guides, maps, posters, etc. Requests for student community service hours and intern requirements will be also be considered.
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer and to request an application form, please contact Mia Leone, Visitor Center & Volunteer Manager, at the Chamber office at 941-349-3800 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Once accepted, volunteers will be added to the database and alerted as opportunities occur. Your support and community service is sincerely appreciated!
Fire Station 13 stats
During the Feb. 21 meeting of the Siesta Key Condominium Council, members heard a report on the activity at Sarasota County’s Fire Station 13, located just south of the public beach, at 1170 Beach Road.
Of the 62,774 calls the Fire Department recorded countywide last year, Station 13 handled 1,564, or about 2.5% of them.
It probably is no surprise that the majority of calls came in March, which typically is the peak month of tourist season. However, June just appeared to have edged out July for the No. 2 spot by month.
The vast majority of the calls — 1,232 — were EMS-related: vehicle accidents and medical emergencies, for example, the report showed. Of the total EMS calls, 119 involved incidents at Siesta Public Beach, the report noted, and 73 were related to vehicle accidents.
Slightly more than one-fifth of all the calls — 332 — were in response to fires, the report said. Fire alarms in general and calls about hazardous materials were included in that number, the report added.
The Key had 37 fires, but only four involved structures, and Station 13 personnel put out the latter, the data showed. The mean response time was 5:48 minutes, the report added. The station is staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with four or five people, the report said.
Meet Commissioner Mike Moran
The guest speaker for the April Siesta Key Association monthly meeting is County Commissioner Mike Moran. The residents of Siesta Key have the opportunity to meet the new commissioner. The meeting will be April 6 at St. Boniface Episcopal Church 5615 Midnight Pass Road at 4:30 PM.
Celebrate Easter as a Brit
A Very British Easter is something quite special – Easter Eggs, Hot Cross Buns, Easter Bunnies, even Morris dancing. 4 & 20 Pasty Company does none of those. They are in Florida after all.
But for 14 years they've been celebrating the start of Spring in their own very special fashion.
They have all the makings for a Great British & Irish Easter Breakfast … Pork Banger Sausages, Back Bacon, Black (& White) Puddings, Heinz Baked Beans, sliced English bread, & HP or Daddie's Sauces just get the eggs, mushrooms & tomatoes from the Farmer's Market. Easter Eccles Cakes & British Scones work too – especially with their imported British Jams, Marmalades & Clotted Cream.
They're taking orders for scrumptious Pork Pies, Large Gala Pies (the Pork Pies with an Egg in the middle) and Cocktail Packs of Sausage Rolls galore. They've also received some new imported Brit chocolate varieties. And have made a special run of home-made Easter Mince Pie Puffs … so fantastically popular at Christmas, why not enjoy them at Easter?
Have yourselves a Very British Easter folks – a real trip "Across the Pond" – without the airfare and in much better weather.
4 &20 Pasty Company is located at 5638 Swift Road, Sarasota FL 34231 Tel: (941) 927-1421 www.4and20PastyCompany.com
A new book
Long time Siesta Chamber members Bob and Eileen Parkinson of Trident Communications are launching their new book, Be As Good As You Think You Are, they and the Chamber have announced.
On March 15, Barnes & Noble in Sarasota held a book-signing event to celebrate the publication, a news release said.
“Everyone wants to be a good public speaker,” the release continued. “Be As Good As You Think You Are is an exploration of a wide variety of experiences, skills, and techniques that will guide readers in developing strong behaviors that form and strengthen their personal professional presence,” the release adds.
New Members for the SK Chamber Feb. 15-March 15, 2017
The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce would like all to welcome the following new members:
Our House on Siesta Key, 89 Avenida Messina, Siesta Key
Sarasota Fishing Fleet, 509 N. Tamiami Trail, Venice
Sand Dollar Boat Rentals, 7660 S. Tamiami Trail, Suite C, Sarasota
Island Time Rentals, LLC, 7006 Midnight Pass Road, Siesta Key.