Siesta Seen

Beach Road parcels’ acquisition debated during County Commission budget workshop; Siesta trolley drawing lots of riders; the Great American Cleanup on Siesta includes a ‘butt count,’ with the county having won a cigarette litter prevention grant; Avenida Milano gets a stop sign; and the Condo Council joins the Gulf and Bay Club board in opposing new hotels

A county aerial map shows the 162 and 168 Beach Road parcels outlined in red and blue, located near Siesta Village. Image courtesy Sarasota County

In October 2016, the Sarasota County Commission authorized County Administrator Tom Harmer and staff to negotiate with the owners of the parcels at 162 and 168 Beach Road in an effort for the county to buy the property. As Carolyn Brown, director of the county’s Parks, Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department, explained, if staff were successful, the property would expand opportunities for public access to the Gulf of Mexico.

Almost exactly a year earlier, the County Commission for the third time had turned down a request by Ronald and Sania Allen of Osprey to build a three-story structure on the 162 Beach Road site. Afterward, William Merrill III of the Icard Merrill firm in Sarasota — their attorney — sought the approval of the county’s Parks Advisory and Recreation Council (PARC) for the parcels to be considered for county acquisition under the Neighborhood Parkland Program and Environmentally Sensitive Lands Protection Program (ESLPP). Merrill was representing not only the Allens but also Wendy B. Cooper, trustee of the Burton M. Cooper Shelter Trust No. 1, which owns the 168 Beach Road lot.

Both parcels won the necessary PARC approval, and both were ranked as high priority sites, Merrill told the County Commission on Oct. 11, 2016.

However, the fate of those lots as county park property appeared to be imperiled last week, as the County Commission discussed ways to carve out funds to help pay for the North Extension of The Legacy Trail.

During a review of property under consideration for purchase through the Neighborhood Parkland Acquisition Program, county staff estimated the expense of the 162 and 168 Beach Road lots at a combined $2,950,000.

Commissioner Alan Maio was the first to tackle the issue on March 29: “I’m reluctant to even talk about [the parcels] because I know the Office of the County Attorney is involved in that.”

Commissioner Nancy Detert added that she did not believe the property should be under consideration for county purchase, also referencing Merrill’s threat of a lawsuit after the October 2015 board denial of the Allens’ petition for a Coastal Setback Variance.

County Administrator Tom Harmer (left) talks with County Attorney Stephen DeMarsh. File photo

Commissioner Charles Hines concurred with Maio’s remark, while Commissioner Mike Moran skirted the issue.

Chair Paul Caragiulo said only that he agreed with the board majority on the topic.

As the commissioners subsequently began voting to remove items from the Parkland Program list, Detert proposed eliminating the Beach Road parcels. “It doesn’t mean [they are] off the list forever and ever,” she pointed out.

Then Carolyn Brown told the board, “There has been an offer on [the parcels].”

“Conditioned on board approval,” County Attorney Stephen DeMarsh was quick to add.

The county could use cash or take on debt for a transaction involving those parcels, DeMarsh said.

Merrill has been in touch with county staff to arrange a meeting to discuss the issue further, Brown noted.

Detert finally made a motion to remove the Beach Road parcels from the list, with the $2,950,000 county purchase estimate to go toward The Legacy Trail. It died for lack of a second.

“Guys not feeling adventurous today?” she joked, prompting some laughter among her colleagues.

“People are reluctant to cross you,” Caragiulo teased her.

“Apparently not,” she replied.

The parcel at 162 Beach Road had an abundance of dune vegetation in May 2014. File photo

Then Hines suggested DeMarsh talk one-on-one with each board member about the status of the negotiations over the Beach Road parcels “and give us some better clarity of the status of the situation. I think that would help.”

“We would be glad to do that,” DeMarsh responded.

After learning more information about the issue, Hines continued, he might be willing to second Detert’s motion during a later budget workshop.

“As always,” Caragiulo said, “Commissioner Hines is very lucid. … Let’s move on.”

‘Breeze’-ing right along

During the April 3 County Commission meeting, Commissioner Mike Moran took a few moments to congratulate Rocky Burke, director of Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT), and Burke’s team for “just an amazing event for the trolley” on Siesta Key.

Siesta Chamber members and county staff board the Breeze on March 20 for a trip from Siesta Village to Turtle Beach. Rachel Hackney photo

Moran was referring to the March 20 ribbon cutting that launched the Siesta Key Breeze, during which he and Commissioner Alan Maio participated.

Moran also noted the email Burke had sent to the board through staff, listing ridership statistics for the first full week of the open-air circulator’s operations. “Just amazing numbers,” Moran said, adding that he expected they were “well above projections.”

In his March 28 email, Burke provided the following figures for riders, pointing out, “Great usage — especially on the weekend.”

  • Monday, March 20 — 1,028.
  • Tuesday — 883.
  • Wednesday — 1,320.
  • Thursday — 1,181.
  • Friday — 1,908.
  • Saturday — 1,561.
  • Sunday, March 26 — 2,187.

The Breeze even won a mention during the April 3 Sarasota City Commission meeting, with Commissioner Liz Alpert pointing out “how much more fun” it is to ride in an open-air vehicle of that type, and how such a mass transit service is far more likely to win fans.

Sarasota County staff also has a promo about the trolley — featuring footage from the March 20 event — airing on its government access TV channel.

By the way, during that March 20 ceremony, Maio joked that he and commission Chair Paul Caragiulo had lobbied hard for the trolley to be painted red, white and green, as both he and Caragiulo have Italian ancestry. Nonetheless, Maio acknowledged, the bright orange shade associated with the Florida Gators won out.

Great American Cleanup includes a ‘butt count’

Siesta volunteers gather with the cigarette butts they gathered on the beach on March 25. Photo courtesy Sarasota County

Siesta resident Michael Shay organized a group of 20 volunteers on March 25 to clean up three areas on the island during the first of two events scheduled this spring under the auspices of the Great American Cleanup, he told the News Leader.

Six of Shay’s volunteers worked at the beach, he pointed out, noting in an email, “The County just recently received a grant to deal with cigarette butts at the beach. They had asked me and my group to help them do a “butt count” (no pun intended) around the pavilions. We spent 2 hours and picked up a total of 2981 cigarette butts.”

In response to a News Leader question about the grant, county spokesman Drew Winchester pointed out in an April 4 email that Keep Sarasota County Beautiful was one of several communities to receive a $5,000 grant through a Keep American Beautiful initiative.

In an April 4 press release, Keep America Beautiful announced that communities that implemented its Cigarette Litter Prevention Program in 2016 achieved a 60% reduction in such trash, a 10% increase over the results of its 2015 program.

As a result, Keep America Beautiful has announced the total award of nearly $300,000 to 37 organizations in an effort to achieve even better progress this year.

Michael Shay. Rachel Hackney photo

“We are increasingly optimistic about ending cigarette butt litter in America,” said Keep America Beautiful Chief Operating Officer Becky Lyons in the news release. “Keep America Beautiful and our Cigarette Litter Prevention Program partners are dedicated to educating consumers on the hazards of litter and providing the tools to change their behavior,” she continued. “Recent cigarette litter reduction numbers show we are moving in the right direction towards making the littering of cigarette butts — and littering in general — socially unacceptable in our country.”

The release adds, “Since its establishment, the Cigarette Litter Prevention Program has consistently cut cigarette butt litter by approximately half based on local measurements taken in the first four months to six months after program implementation. Survey results also demonstrate that as communities continue to implement and monitor the program those reductions are sustained or even increased over time. Keep America Beautiful has distributed nearly $3 million in grant funding since 2006 to support local implementation of the program in more than 1,700 communities nationwide,” the release points out.

As for the other cleanup efforts on March 25: In his note to the News Leader, Shay added, “The Bay Island Siesta Association (BISA) cleaned the north end of Higel [Avenue]” and Siesta Drive, while another group “cleaned the length of Ocean Blvd!”

The second date for the Great American Cleanup will be Saturday, April 22, a county flyer says. Volunteers are being sought to work from 8 a.m. to noon. To register, visit or call the county Call Center at 861-5000.

Volunteers receive gloves as well as bags with which to collect trash and recyclables, the Keep Sarasota County Beautiful website points out. Additionally, 500 volunteer T-shirts will be available, offered on the basis of when people register for the April 22 event.

A new stop sign installed on Avenida Milano

A yellow circle marks the location of a new stop sign on Avenida Milano. Image courtesy Sarasota County

As part of the County Commission’s approval of its Consent Agenda of routine business items on March 21, it adopted a resolution to install a one-way stop sign on Avenida Milano at the intersection of Calle Minorga.

The sign has been installed, county spokesman Drew Winchester told The Sarasota News Leader this week.

The initiative came in response to a petition that the county’s Traffic Advisory Council (TAC) addressed on Dec. 12, 2016; the members recommended the County Commission approve the request.

A staff chart shows traffic statistics for Avenida Milano and Calle Minorga. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The Jan. 15, 2016 petition, submitted to the TAC by Kim Langedyk — who listed a Calle Minorga address — says, “I work on Calle Minorga and have nearly been hit multiple times by drivers failing to stop at [the Avenida Milano] intersection. It should be clear that drivers turning onto Calle Minorga should yield to oncoming traffic, but evidently, it isn’t. A stop sign would make it more obvious.”

Altogether, 15 people — including Langedyk — signed the petition. Among them was Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce Chair Mark Smith, whose firm, Smith Architects, is located at 5032 Calle Minorga.

As a staff memo to the County Commission explained, Avenida Milano is a local road with two 14-foot-wide travel lanes and no sidewalks or bike lanes. On-street parking is allowed on both sides.

Calle Minorga, the memo continued, is a local road with two 10-foot-wide travel lanes — again, with no sidewalks or bicycle lanes.

The speed limit on both roads is 30 mph, the memo added.

“The Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) provides guidelines for placing stop signs at the intersection of two local roads,” the memo says. “Stop signs should be considered when engineering judgment determines a restricted view exists that requires road users to stop to adequately observe conflicting traffic on a through street,” it notes.

Avenida Milano, the memo continues, has an average daily traffic count of 468 vehicles, while Calle Minorga’s count is 308. “According to the County’s crash database, one crash has occurred at the subject intersection within the last three years. Staff has determined that eastbound vehicles should stop to adequately observe traffic on Calle Minorga,” the release points out. “A stop sign in this location would reinforce driver expectations and enhance the safety of the intersection,” it adds.

During the TAC meeting, the memo pointed out, “two citizens spoke in favor of [the request for the stop sign].”

No to hotels

The building that housed Fandango Cafe (left) stands next to a self-storage business on Old Stickney Point Road. Both parcels are zoned Commercial General. File photo

During its March meeting, the Board of Directors of the Siesta Key Condominium Council “went on record as being against any changes to the Sarasota County Codes that would allow hotel construction on Siesta Key that does not meet the current codes for density and height,” the organization announced.

The statement was signed by Condo Council President Frank Jurenka.

A news release said the council recently received information from one of its members — the Gulf and Bay Club — that the Gulf and Bay board had passed such a resolution and was asking the Condo Council board to take similar action. Furthermore, the news release noted, the Gulf and Bay Club board had asked that the council “take steps to advise other Condo Association members [of the action], thereby raising awareness and consolidation of efforts to thwart these changes.”

The Gulf and Bay Club resolution was approved during its association’s March 23 board meeting, the release noted.

During the Jan. 17 meeting of the Condo Council, residents raised objections to a proposed county Comprehensive Plan amendment that would allow hotels to be built in districts zoned Commercial General on Siesta Key.

The News Leader is not aware of any further action having been taken on that proposal since a December 2016 workshop was held on the issue.

The Condo Council news release also pointed out that the Gulf and Bay board members planned to meet with the county commissioners to express their opposition to the proposed change in the Comprehensive Plan and that they were requesting owners of condos in their complex who are registered Florida voters to write or email their views on the matter to the county commissioners.

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office has had extra personnel working on Siesta during the spring break season. Deputies on horses and ATVs keep an eye on beach-goers. Image from the Sheriff’s Office Twitter account