Siesta Seen

Capt. Styles’ home turned into rental property; restroom to be designed for Nora Patterson Bay Island Park; traffic crash damages island on Ocean Boulevard; concern continues over North Beach Road signs; and county staff investigates a complaint about stormwater

A photo on Michael Holderness' property website shows this image of Capt. Ralph Styles' former home. Image from the website
A photo on Michael Holderness’ property website shows this image of Capt. Ralph Styles’ former home (in blue) at the intersection of North Beach Road and Columbus Boulevard. Image from the website

This article was updated on Sept. 2 with new information from a reader about the former Styles house.

One of the property owners involved in the May 11 North Beach Road vacation petition — Christy Ramsey — has sold her house at 99 Beach Road for $3 million to Holderness Enterprises LLC, which lists a 7333 N. Tamiami Trail address in Sarasota.

Many Siesta residents will recall that before Ramsey owned the property, it was well known as the residence of Capt. Ralph Styles. Linda Styles sold it to Brent R. Cooper — “individually and as a Trustee of the Burton M. Cooper Credit Shelter Trust No. 1” of Rockville, Md., as county property records put it — in June 2009 for $1,650,000. Then Cooper sold it to Ramsey in July 2011 for $1.8 million.

Capt. Styles drew countless visitors to the house at the intersection of Columbus Boulevard, eager to participate in the beautiful ceremonies in which he raised and lowered the American flag.

The captain, who died in October 2008 at the age of 98, was a Pearl Harbor survivor. He also was one of the oldest living graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy. Styles served as a submarine commander in World War II and was a former assistant director of Naval Intelligence.

Capt. Ralph Styles. Image courtesy U.S. Navy
Capt. Ralph Styles. Image courtesy U.S. Navy

County records indicate that Holderness Enterprises has been buying up quite a few pieces of property on Siesta since March 2014. The first listings show the firm spent $2,550,000 on eight duplexes and a detached single-family home at 124 Columbus Blvd. Earlier this month, it purchased a single-family house at 95 Columbus Blvd. for $2 million.

The registered agent of Holderness Enterprises is Michael Holderness, a Realtor, according to the Florida Division of Corporations. The firm was established in November 2013, state records show.

Holderness’ real estate website has the Styles house listed for rent at $695 per month. However, a reader notified the News Leader on the morning of Sept. 2 to say that is an error; the rent is $695 per day.

Perhaps a restroom, after all, for Patterson Park

During the Sarasota County Commission’s April 27 mid-year financial review, Chair Al Maio remarked that people had asked him about the county building restrooms at Nora Patterson Bay Island Park, just west of the Siesta Drive bridge to the Key. Someone had suggested to him, after the dedication of the improved park in 2015, that a group might want to work in cooperation with the county to install such facilities on the site, he told county staff.

“A lot of people go there,” Maio pointed out of the park, adding that restrooms are needed. Nonetheless, he continued, after he explained to the person making the inquiry that “those structures are likely to be well in the air … I never heard any more.”

The view looks east from Nora Patterson Bay Island Park toward the Siesta Drive bridge. Image courtesy Sarasota County
The view looks east from Nora Patterson Bay Island Park toward the Siesta Drive bridge. Image courtesy Sarasota County

As it turns out, county staff has chosen to add the design and permitting of just such a project to the county’s Capital Improvement Plan for the 2017 fiscal year. Chief County Engineer Isaac Brownman broached the subject during the board’s Aug. 22 budget workshop.

Staff has set aside $200,000 for work in the next fiscal year; the funds will come out of impact fee revenue generated in North County, Brownman explained.

But what about the height of that restroom?

In response to that question from The Sarasota News Leader, county spokesman Jason Bartolone provided this answer:

“According to the architect working on the project (Guy Peterson), the proposed restroom is located within a [Federal Emergency Management Agency] FEMA Flood Zone A13,” which makes it necessary for the lowest horizontal floor elevation to be 12 feet above NGVD. (NGVD refers to vertical datum, which establishes a consistent zero point from which to measure the height of ground on which a person is standing, regardless of where the person is, according to FEMA.)

In other words, the restroom will not have to be elevated “as high as structures located on properties along the Gulf of Mexico and seaward of the Coastal Construction Control Line (CCCL),” Bartolone added. “These must be constructed above the effects of a 100-year storm (elevation +19.6 NGVD).”

Not a drunk-driving incident

Damage is clearly visible in the island at the south end of Ocean Boulevard. Photo courtesy Michael Shay
Damage is clearly visible in the island at the south end of Ocean Boulevard. Photo courtesy Michael Shay

On Aug. 23, Michael Shay, the liaison between the Siesta Key Village Association (SKVA) and the Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp. — which pays for the upkeep in Siesta Village — learned that a driver had plowed into the island at the south end of Ocean Boulevard, near Foxy Lady.

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office report on the incident — provided by Community Affairs Director Kaitlyn Johnston at the News Leader’s request — says the crash occurred at 2:32 a.m. on Aug. 23, and the scene was cleared at 3:56 a.m. The report says a vehicle was traveling southbound, heading into the left-hand curve at the 200 block of Ocean Boulevard, when it began to drift into the center double turn lane. It then hit the island, striking two traffic signs and a palm tree.

A witness told a Sheriff’s Office deputy that the vehicle — a 2012 BMW convertible — was traveling at a slow rate of speed when it deviated from the travel lane, and it then appeared to stop before accelerating into the island.

The driver — a woman — explained to the deputy “that she carefully negotiated the turn because she was afraid of being hit by other vehicles,” the report notes. “She said she looked around and was looking through the rearview mirror when she crashed.”

The sheared-off palm rests on the side of the road. Photo courtesy Michael Shay
The sheared-off palm rests on the side of the road. Photo courtesy Michael Shay

The report adds that the woman “had trouble standing and could not walk or stand without the assistance of a cane. She stood with a severe curve in her back.”

The woman told the deputy she had had numerous surgeries on her back and that plates had been inserted into her spine and neck, “making it difficult to sit up straight for long.”

The deputy wrote that he “did not observe any indicators of impairment.” After the vehicle was towed from the scene, he continued, he transported the driver to her residence, which is on Ocean Boulevard.

The report notes that the estimate of damage to the vehicle was $3,000.

In response to a request for information from her perspective, Lisa Cece, the special district coordinator for Sarasota County who handles Village maintenance issues, wrote the News Leader, explaining that county staff would pick up the sheared-off palm tree, as well as the signs, which would need to be replaced. The Maintenance Corp. will decide on the plantings that will be put in the island, she added, and Buccaneer Landscape Management — the contractor that handles the Village upkeep — would determine whether the palm was a total loss. If so, she indicated, Buccaneer would remove the base of the tree from the island.

Not North Beach Road

This sign was found on private property on Avenida Messina near Beach Access 2. Image courtesy Sarasota County
This sign was found on private property on Avenida Messina near Beach Access 2. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Amid all the discussion during the Aug. 23 County Commission meeting about the North Beach Road segment that has been vacated near Beach Access 3, someone apparently gave county staff the impression that another sign had been posted to warn the public away from the property.

County email exchanges show that Carolyn Brown, director of the Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department, sent a person out to check on the situation. All the employee found was a sign posted on Avenida Messina near Beach Access 2, but that sign was on private property, the employee pointed out.

County Administrator Tom Harmer then passed along that information to the commissioners, who had spent a bit of time that morning, trying to dispel the mistruths about the board’s May 11 vote.

Commissioner Charles Hines had warned Charles Bailey III, the attorney for the owners of property on either side of that 360-foot section of the road, to make certain they did erect any signage to keep the public away.

The house owned by the Maddens on North Beach Road has rental units. Rachel Hackney photo
The house owned by the Maddens on North Beach Road has rental units. Rachel Hackney photo

And speaking of North Beach Road: Bailey told the News Leader last week that Dennis and Wendy Madden are proceeding with their plans to tear down the old rental structures on their parcels so they can construct a new three-story, six-unit building that will comply with all current building standards.

The commission’s vacation of part of North Beach Road allowed them to combine that property with their other parcels to gain the density they needed for the new development.

Bailey pointed out that it takes time to get a permit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) for any construction seaward of the Coastal Construction Control Line; a small part of the project is seaward of that line, Bailey and county staff explained to the County Commission on May 11.

“We are proceeding full-steam ahead on design,” Bailey told the News Leader on Aug. 24.

Answering a stormwater question

An aerial view shows the location of Seaside Drive and Sun N Sea Drive on south Siesta Key. Image from Google Maps
An aerial view shows the location of Seaside Drive and Sun N Sea Drive on south Siesta Key. Image from Google Maps

When Sarasota County staff appeared before members of the Siesta Key Association (SKA) at the organization’s Aug. 4 meeting to talk about the county’s new floodplain ordinance, one woman in the audience raised concerns about occasional flooding in an area just south of the intersection of Midnight Pass Road and Stickney Point Road.

Sue Honsberger with the Sarasota By the Sea Association asked the staff members whether any restriction is in place to keep a condominium association “from contributing to the flooding of the street” by releasing stormwater.

Honsberger added that it appeared the one complex was trying to time the release so it would appear to be related to the afternoon downpours common this time of year.

Robert Laura, a watershed engineer for the county, explained that for any development to obtain a county building permit, it has to demonstrate that it will not make flooding worse. Perhaps the situation is linked to a maintenance issue, he told Honsberger. “Typically, runoff is directed into a stormwater pond.”

“I have been there eight years and observed it,” Honsberger replied.

Staff members asked to get her contact information, so they could check into the situation and let her know their findings.

After the meeting ended, Honsberger told the News Leader that the flooding was bad on two south Siesta roads — Seaside Drive and Sun N Sea Drive. “[The water] gushes right down [Midnight Pass Road],” Honsberger added, flooding Seaside Drive, especially.

When that happens, she continued, walkways at the nearby Ebb Tide motel flood right up to the units’ doors. “And I think it’s gotten worse [over the years]. … We have paid engineers. … We’re getting nowhere.”

County spokesman Jason Bartolone also looked into that matter for the News Leader.

He explained in an email last week, “ The Crescent is a fairly new condo/hotel development on the west side of Midnight Pass Road, just south of Stickney Point Road. The development has a permitted underground stormwater attenuation vault and is designed as both a retention and detention system (meaning it will discharge under heavy rainfall). During several rainfall events in the past three weeks, several areas in the county have seen rainfall intensities equivalent to or greater than our 100-year level of service. The discharge is stormwater runoff from the underground vault; it’s normal and expected based on the amount and intensity of the rainfall we’ve experienced recently.”