Siesta Seen

Solorzanos Code Enforcement violation resolved before hearing; FL Parking Co. owner provides more information; Fire Station 13 statistics shared; Rhana Bazzini remains focused on a park in place of Siesta Promenade; Commissioner Maio shows his humorous side to SKA members; Sgt. Osborne back on the Key for Spring Break patrols; and Easter Egg Hunt reminders

Customers dine in front of Solorzanos on March 4. Rachel Hackney photo

A Sarasota County Code Enforcement case involving Solorzanos Pizzeria on Avenida Madera in Siesta Village was on the agenda for Special Magistrate Court last week, The Sarasota News Leader learned. However, the parties resolved the issue in time for the March 10 hearing to be cancelled, Kim Francel, the public records coordinator for Sarasota County, told the News Leader in a March 7 email.

And neither Solorzanos nor Davidson Sears Partnership LLP — which owns the property — ended up paying fines, Francel added.

The “Davidson” in that partnership, by the way, is John Davidson, whose eponymous drug store is in Davidson Plaza in the Village. The owner of Solorzanos at 215 Avenida Madera is listed as Philip Solorzano in county records.

Code Enforcement Officer Susan Stahley included these photos of Solorzanos from October 2016 in her documentation of the violation. Images courtesy Sarasota County

According to documents Francel provided the News Leader through a public records request, on Nov. 2, 2016, Susan Stahley, the Code Enforcement officer primarily responsible for the Key, sent a Notice of Violation and Order to Correct Violation to Davidson Sears, pointing out that the business use permit for Solorzano’s could be suspended or revoked unless the pizza restaurant complied with its provisions for a total of 30 seats: 24 outside and six inside.

That notice also included the following information: “Failure to correct the deficiencies on the date specified above” — Nov. 5, 2016 — “will result in an Affidavit or Statement of Violation to be filed [with] the Code Enforcement Special Magistrate,” with a hearing to be scheduled. If the Special Magistrate “finds a violation exists,” the notice continued, “penalties up to $250.00 per day for each day the violation exists may be imposed. Penalties up to $500.00 per day for each repeat violation may be imposed.”

The Business Use Permit issued to Solorzanos on Aug. 25, 2016, stated that the outdoor seating could not “block pedestrian pathways.” It also affirmed that six seats would be indoors and 24 would be provided outdoors.

Stahley provided photos with her notice that showed the tables encroaching on the walkways.

The Business Use Application Solorzano’s submitted to the county on July 25, 2016 says the dining establishment has 1,000 square feet. It noted a total of 30 seats and eight parking spaces and included a sketch showing exactly where the outdoor seating would be located. The form further said that Solorzanos had been in business for 10 years.

The Business Use Permit application from Solorzanos in July 2016 included this outdoor seating diagram. Image courtesy Sarasota County

On Nov. 29, 2016, Stahley followed up her earlier action with an Affidavit of Violation, noting that she had found the seating arrangement had not been remedied as of Nov. 28, 2016.

The case originally was set for a hearing in Special Magistrate Court on Feb. 10, as shown in a document dated Dec. 27, 2016.

Later, Stahley filed a petition for a continuance to March 10.

No other documents related to the case could be found, Francel told the News Leader, when she undertook a subsequent search concurrent with her seeking the update on the March 10 hearing.

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.

Fire Station 13 provided this graphic for Condo Council members. Image courtesy Sarasota County

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.

Update on parking management

Representatives of FL Parking Co. are continuing to talk with business owners on Siesta Key in an effort to expand their management services, Dan McNutt told the News Leader on March 14.

McNutt and Asher Chappell are the partners in the business, which began operating in Davidson Plaza in late February.

Parking signs have been posted in front of Davidson Plaza on Ocean Boulevard. Rachel Hackney photo

McNutt explained during a telephone interview that he and Chappell operate in six states, handling more than 200 properties, mostly in the Northeast. They have begun operations in Pinellas County, too, he said.

The goal is to ensure ample parking is available for customers of a business and then to make the other spaces available for public use, McNutt said. For example, he continued, with Davidson Plaza, the FL Parking Co. ambassador on-site ensures spots can be found for people using the shops and dining in the restaurants. That leaves about 10 or 12 extra spaces for others seeking places to leave their vehicles without fear of towing, he pointed out.

The fee is $3.50 per hour, Chappell told the News Leader in early March. A “parking station” — a vertical machine at the end of one row near the north end of the lot — is where customers pay for parking.

The pay station is surrounded by yellow posts. Rachel Hackney photo

McNutt also noted that the firm is eager to work with the free ride services on Siesta, to help patrons who want to leave their vehicles at Davidson’s easily reach destinations in other areas of the island.

The parking ambassador is able to provide directions and suggestions to visitors, as well, he noted. “We really like to be an overall service.”

When the News Leader suggested that other potential clients may be watching the service in Davidson Plaza before signing on with the firm, McNutt agreed. “I kind of think that is what is happening. … Presence and performance there will speak to the goals of our company.”

While the service will generate revenue for a property owner, he continued, the goal is to open up more areas for parking, so people “can go about their business and enjoy the Key.”

The FL Parking Co. ambassador speaks with a woman and child on March 4. Rachel Hackney photo

This reporter told McNutt of a late-morning incident on March 4, when a woman left her car at Davidson Plaza and began walking away with her son. The parking ambassador quickly explained to the woman about the new management system. Although she protested about having to pay for what she indicated would be a quick walk down Ocean Boulevard to take care of a matter, the ambassador was polite, but firm, this reporter observed.

Hiring the right kind of people is of vital importance to the firm, McNutt said. “We place a high priority on that.”

And while people may object at first to the prospect of paying to park their vehicles, he pointed out, “we tend to find, over time, people see the value in it.”

“We really appreciate Mr. [John] Davidson giving us an opportunity to manage his property,” McNutt added.

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.

Rhana Bazzini addresses the board on Jan. 25. File photo

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.

Another commissioner with a sense of humor

As one of the guest speakers at the Siesta Key Association’s annual breakfast meeting on March 4, Commissioner Alan Maio showed off his sense of humor before providing a rundown on county accomplishments over the previous 12 months.

Commissioner Alan Maio. Rachel Hackney photo

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: amaio@scgov.net 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 info@siestakeyassociation.com. People also are welcomed to call the SKA at 364-4880, Ashby said.

Speaking of the Sheriff’s Office …

If you think you have spotted previous Sheriff’s Office substation chief Sgt. Scott Osborne on Siesta this month, do not worry that you have had overexposure to the sun — or imbibed too much of a certain type of beverage. Osborne indeed is helping out with the enhanced Spring Break patrols on the island, he told the News Leader this week.

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.

Easter Egg Hunt reminder

Image courtesy Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce

With Easter just a month away, the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce is reminding families that the annual Children’s Easter Party and Egg Hunt will be held from 9 a.m. to approximately noon on Saturday, April 15, at Turtle Beach for the first time.

Children ages 1 to 6 may participate in the activities, but advance registration is required; the fee is $10, a Chamber news release notes. To register online, click here. The deadline is April 7, the release stresses.

Along with the hunt itself, children will be able to enjoy a visit by the Easter Bunny, participate in games with prizes, talk with members of the Sheriff’s Office Mounted Patrol and enjoy face painting, the release adds.

Free parking will be available at Turtle Beach Park, located at 8918 Midnight Pass Road.

The Chamber also is continuing to seek sponsors for the event. Anyone interested in helping out may contact Helene Hyland at 685-2274 or email her at helenehyland@comcast.net.

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