By Stan Zimmerman
The fate of North Beach Road
It is the one area of Siesta Key that demonstrates you can’t fight Mother Ocean. North Beach Road has been closed to traffic on and off since 1982. Storms continue to undermine the road.
Last year Hurricane Sandy collapsed a 150-foot section and necessitated emergency repairs. Even June’s Tropical Storm Andrea – a weak system – caused more erosion in the area.
After “Sandy,” the county commission asked for independent engineering analysis. The results are in, and it is either “revetments and a seawall” or “hold your breath.” Cost estimates are north of $2 million.
The area has been recognized for years as critically eroded. The county for years has not allowed any private construction near the area. County Commissioner Nora Patterson, who asked for the engineering studies, has been quoted as saying, “I think we have no option but a wait-and-see. At this point in time, it would be hard to justify that expenditure.”
Illegal rentals on the key
The county’s code enforcement officer said, “This summer was the worst summer we’ve had.” John Lally was speaking before the Siesta Key Association in November about the number of illegal rentals on the island.
Scams are starting to show up too. Lally noted people showed up on two separate occasions at a house on the key, saying they had rented it. It was a surprise to the owner. “The money went to Nigeria or wherever,” said Lally.
He’s been chasing owners who converted below FEMA-grade areas into rental units, and structures modified to accept a greater number of people than allowed by code and fire safety regulations.
Ramirez runs for county commission
“The commissioner for Siesta Key” was an unofficial title for four-term county commissioner Nora Patterson. But she’s term-limited, and cannot run again. Enter Lourdes Ramirez, who would like to take up the mantle.
Ramirez is a former chair of the Siesta Key Association, and now heads the Sarasota County Coalition of Neighborhood Associations. She’ll face Al Maio in the Republican primary election next year. He’s vice president of the consulting firm Kimley-Horn which does a lot of business with the County and the City of Sarasota.
Ramirez has already faced one smear tactic that resulted in criminal charges of a former chair of the county Republican Party for identity theft, as he tried to make donations in Ramirez’ name to Democratic candidates. Bob Wechter’s trial is expected next year in circuit court.
Ramirez is campaigning to support the county’s comprehensive plan, which contains “fiscal neutrality” provisions that require new development to help pay for schools, libraries, roads, public safety and other infrastructure needed to support a larger population.
Happy Birthday SKA!
The Siesta Key Association is 65 this year, and not about to retire. The group formed in 1948 when less than 500 people lived on the island. But one aspect has not changed. The SKA still tries to guide Sarasota County land-use policies, especially when they pertain directly or indirectly to Siesta Key.
Unlike many other barrier islands, Siesta remains an “unincorporated area” governed directly by the county commission. Although at times the idea of forming an incorporated town has risen, the concept never reached a take-off point.
The two hot topics at the moment for the SKA are a proposed beach renourishment project that will syphon sand – for the first time in history – from Big Pass north to Lido Key. The SKA is calling for a peer review of the Corps of Engineers plan.
The second topic under the association’s scrutiny is county treatment of outdoor merchandise displays in Siesta Village. There is a county-wide ban on showing wares outside retail shop. The SKA is thinking of asking for a change to the Siesta Key Overlay District that allows exemptions to overall county policies.
Broken Egg broken up
One of Siesta Key’s signature restaurants made famous by ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale is no more. Broken Egg owners Bob and Pam Kirscher have sold their interest in the three-shop chain. The other two are at Lakewood Ranch and Clark Road.
Soon after the announcement, the doors at the Siesta Key location were locked as new owners began renovations. It will re-open in early February as “Another Broken Egg,” one of a chain of stores from Louisiana to North Carolina.
The Clark Road store was sold to Dawn Hair, the current manager. It will keep the “Broken Egg” sign, but menus will note it is not affiliated with the “Another Broken Egg” chain.
Meanwhile the sale opens the door for the chain to make a significant expansion into Florida. It may open new stores at 35 or more locations in the state.
Kirscher said he has no plans to leave Sarasota, or retire.