By Stan Zimmerman
Six-year SK Village lawsuit ends
While it concerned only a small vacation of right-of-way, the issue sparked three lawsuits over the past six years. And now its settled with the county ceding the small strip of land and paying $75,000 to restaurateur Chris Brown.
His attorney Morgan Bentley elicited laughter from county commissioenrs when he said, This will be the end of six years of our relationship, and I've never seen a relationship I'd like to end more.
At issue was 804 square feet of right-of-way near Ocean and Columbus Boulevards in Siesta Village. Over the years, the issues behind the suits included a whopping 1,500 percent increase in one of Browns property tax bills, a $2,500 error in Browns parking assessment, and a question of liability for pedestrians on the disputed right-of-way.
Merchants, residents to vet outdoor displays
A county code enforcement zone sweep of Siesta Village in June was a major blow to retailers who displayed merchandise outside their shops. That's a violation of the code, so racks of clothes disappeared and so did sales.
One shop owner said her income dropped from $1,600 per day to $195 per day, and others reported similar nose-dives. The Siesta Key Village Association [of merchants], the Siesta Key Association [to residents] and the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce all became involved in the issue.
The culprit is the Siesta Key Overlay District, which provides separate rules and regulations for the island compared to the rest of the county. Siesta Key unlike most barrier islands does not have a municipal government, and is ruled instead by the Sarasota County Commission.
The commissioners were contacted by the island organizations, and decided to punt the issue back at them. If the merchants and residents can come up with agreeable language on sidewalk displays (including restaurant sandwich boards), the county commission said it would consider making changes to the overlay district.
Part of the issue concerns public use of sidewalks. If they are jammed with clothes racks and sandwich boards, walking and bicycling through the village becomes more difficult.
Turtle Beach to get more sand
Beach renourishment on the southern half of Siesta Key lasts about a decade. From December 2006 to March 2007, the county put almost a million cubic yards of sand dredged offshore to the beach between Point of Rocks and the old Midnight Pass.
Now the county has authorized the engineering to do it again with $5 million from the Tourist Development Tax. Routine evaluations show erosion along the area, and routine nourishment is now scheduled for 2015.
Assault on beach birds continues
More vandalism of the nesting area of endangered birds has been reported on the Siesta Key Public Beach. Regular readers know this has been an on-going problem this year.
This time the vandals hit the area between Beach Accesses 9 and 10, an area that had been trouble free. The Audubon Society's Chick Patrol found somebody dragged lawn furniture through the area. Ten days later the patrol found a buffer had been torn down.
While the fate of snowy plovers had been at risk earlier, with multiple nests lost due to human activity, the current focus is on another threatened species, the least tern. All of the tern nests have been lost.
Deputies and officers of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission have been monitoring the area. One FWC officer saw a person with night-vision equipment in the protected area about 11:00 p.m. one night, but the suspect ran away.
Only about 220 snowy plovers remain in Florida, according to the FWC. One small bright spot; two snowy plover chicks survived their nesting and are now fledglings learning how to fly.
Chamber moves slightly
The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce has moved. About ten paces. It is now located at 5118 Ocean Blvd, closer to the beach than the old location at 5114 Ocean Blvd. but remains in Davidson Plaza.
The new offices will include an updated visitors center.
Solar smasher proposed
Michael Shay is on a mission. He's the vice president of the Siesta Key Association, and is investigating recycling trash cans for Siesta Village. He's been prowling regular garbage pails in the village to see if there is enough recyclable material to make his dream realistic.
Its no surprise he found a large number of plastic water bottles, plus cans and glass bottles. He noted a number of stores now sport signs requesting shoppers not come in with food or beverages.
Perhaps a sign of changing times, Shay found the trash bin outside the Beach Club contained a large number of water bottles. Indeed the bar offers patrons water.
Russell Matthes, past president of the Village Association noted Venice has a solar-powered recycling bin with a compactor inside. Shay said a company similar to Waste Management services the solar recycling bin.
Matthes suggested the Village Association explore grants for such units, and perhaps ask Waste Management to send a representative to a future meeting to explain how they might handle the solar bin.