Cosentino erects flagpole for ceremonies at 10 Beach Road and installs port-a-john that sparks controversy; demolition on hold for former Fandango site; DOAH hearing gets off to unexpected start; administrative law judge injects some levity into proceeding; Village sign suffers over New Year’s Eve; and St. Michael’s prepares for a big festival
At noon on Dec. 17, 2017, Siesta resident Mike Cosentino planned a ceremony to mark the installation of a new flagpole at the property he owns at 10 Beach Road.
His goal, he told The Sarasota News Leader, was to begin holding the type of flag-lowering and raising ceremonies that the late Capt. Ralph Styles conducted for years at his North Beach Road home. Styles drew large crowds on many occasions before his death in October 2008 at the age of 98. A Pearl Harbor survivor, the captain also was one of the oldest living graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy.
One person who played the trumpet at those ceremonies at 99 Beach Road planned to be present for the first ceremony at 10 Beach Road, Cosentino said on Dec. 13. A special guest was to be a retired female veteran who uses a wheelchair, Cosentino added.
On Dec. 17, the News Leader received a news release that announced the plans in a more formal manner. It said that Reopen Beach Road Inc., a 501(c)(4) not-for-profit Florida corporation, would dedicate the 22-foot flagpole and an appropriately themed work of sand art by Siesta Key master sand sculptor Brian Wigglesworth “to members and veterans of our American Armed Forces.
As Cosentino’s property is near Beach Access 2, the news release directed interested persons to that location, which is at
intersection of Avenida Messina and North Beach Road just outside Siesta Village.
Reopen Beach Road is the organization Cosentino founded in 2016 to fight the County Commission’s 4-1 vote in May of that year to vacate a 357-foot-segment of North Beach Road that runs in front of Styles’ former home.
As it turns out, another addition near Beach Access 2 has sparked a lot of residents’ complaints, the News Leader has learned. A person who lives near the beach access began circulating by email a photo of a port-a-john, and questions arose about its legality at the site.
In response to a News Leader query, Sarasota County Media Relations Officer Drew Winchester reported on Jan. 3 that county environmental and zoning staff had given Cosentino until Jan. 5 “to remove the portable toilet and unauthorized signage.”
That issue and related topics were expected to come up during the Jan. 4 Siesta Key Association (SKA) meeting, the News Leader also heard this week.
A demolition in waiting
During a Dec. 7, 2017 Planning Commission public hearing, a Siesta resident noted in her remarks that the building that once housed the Fandango Café on Old Stickney Point Road was scheduled for demolition.
The News Leader confirmed that in county records. However, as of Jan. 3, county staff still had not issued the permit to Graber’s Excavating Inc. of Sarasota; the company submitted an online application to the county on Nov. 10, 2017.
A note in the file says the application failed the “Resource Protection/Air Review.”
On Nov. 20, 2017, the News Leader learned, county employee Jody Brown wrote that either a determination that the Environmental Protection Agency’s Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants does not apply in this situation “OR [Graber’s must] provide an Asbestos Survey required per County Code 54-119.”
The building on the property, which encompasses 7,514 square feet, according to the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office, was constructed in 1984. It is owned by Stickney Storage LLC, whose principal is Dr. Gary Kompothecras. Over the past year, island residents have protested Kompothecras’ plans to construct a new hotel on the Key.
Kompothecras bought the former Fandango property in August. 2016 for $1,225,000, the Property Appraiser’s Office records also show. Last year, the land was valued at $903,000, while the building was valued at $130,000. The total land area is 35,720 square feet.
The permit application also notes, “Driveway to remain. NO TREES to be removed [emphasis in the document].”
The demolition expense is listed as $26,900.
The News Leader was unable to learn this week whether county staff has had any recent communications with Graber’s Excavating that would indicate how soon the permit might be issued. The expiration date listed online is May 9, 2018.
Speaking of the SKA …
Another topic anticipated for SKA discussion this week was the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) proceeding, which began on Dec. 12 in Sarasota and ended up concluding a day early — on Dec. 18 — in Tallahassee.
The proceeding allowed the SKA and Save Our Siesta Sand 2 (SOSS2) to present expert witness testimony that challenged the plan of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to issue a permit to the City of Sarasota and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to dredge 1.7 million cubic yards of sand from Big Sarasota Pass to renourish a 1.6-mile stretch of critically eroded South Lido Key Beach.
The first day of the hearing began with more than a little confusion, as this reporter learned firsthand. The DOAH case file included a notice about the location of the proceeding, which was to begin at 9 a.m. However, many attendees focused on one phrase in that notice, “Sarasota County Justice Center,” figuring that meant the location would be the Judge Lynn Silvertooth Judicial Center.
When this reporter could not locate Courtroom 2 on the sixth floor of that Ringling Boulevard structure in downtown Sarasota, this reporter was fortunate indeed to find a bailiff who readily showed her the correct location, across the street.
The correct courtroom, as it turned out, was in the building where the Sheriff’s Office’s administrative staff used to work and where the State Attorney’s Office continues to operate.
Fortunately, too, while Judge Bram D.E. Carter entered the courtroom early on the morning of Dec. 12, he did wait until about 9 to start the hearing. That at least enabled other confused parties to find seats in the nick of time.
As for concluding the hearing in Tallahassee: On Dec. 15, Canter conferred with the parties and counsel and then made the decision to finish up testimony at the DOAH headquarters in Tallahassee. Along with the DOAH, FDEP’s offices and, in fact, the offices of Hopping Green & Sams, the SKA’s law firm, are in Tallahassee. The USACE counsel represented that federal agency’s Jacksonville District Office, while the City of Sarasota’s outside counsel was from the GrayRobinson firm’s offices in Fort Lauderdale. The Lido Key Residents Association had hired the Bradenton firm Lewis, Longman & Walker to represent it.
Interested persons who did not want to make the trip to Tallahassee were afforded the opportunity to participate in the rest of the hearing by video conference at the Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims on Parkland Drive in Bradenton, a bit north of University Parkway. Later, the DOAH staff did provide a call-in telephone number, too, as space in the Parkland Drive facility was reported to be quite limited.
And speaking of the hearing …
Those who attended the DOAH hearing found Judge Canter not only to be quite engaged in the testimony but also to have a good sense of humor.
On Dec. 18, for example, Robert Young, director of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines — a joint Duke University/University of Western Carolina initiative — was on the stand. As Martha Collins, the attorney for Save Our Siesta Sand 2 (SOSS2) was attempting to enter an exhibit into the record at one point, opposing counsel apparently had some difficulty finding the document to which she was alluding. That led to Canter dropping the second “S” in SOSS2 as he worked with Collins to clarify the number of the exhibit.
“If I refer to your client as SOS, which has a certain ring to it, would that be OK?” Canter asked Collins.
She readily agreed that that would be fine.
Thus, he was dubbing the exhibit SOS 83, Canter told opposing counsel.
A ‘symbol’ of the holiday season
Apparently, someone who may have been celebrating New Year’s Eve a bit too robustly hit the Village sign on the southern approach in the wee hours of Jan. 1.
The collision destroyed the solar panel as well as the sign, Michael Shay, manager of the Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp. reported. “The wooden light post and light are still standing!” he wrote in an email that morning to Maintenance Corp. directors and Lisa Cece, the county special district coordinator who supervises the Village upkeep. “In the dark the bushes didn’t look too bad but the sign is in pieces!” Shay added.
The good news, though, he noted, was that all the bollards that light the Village crosswalks managed to survive the New Year’s Eve/New Year’s traffic.
The Highway Patrol handled the Jan. 1 collision, but the News Leader was unable to obtain a copy of the report this week.
On a more positive note …
The Rev. Michael Cannon, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Roman Catholic Church on Siesta Key, has announced that the parish family will be holding its second Ol’ Times Church Festival the weekend of Friday, Jan, 26, and Saturday, Jan. 27, on the grounds of the church and Parish Hall, which are located at 5394 Midnight Pass Road.
This family-oriented event will kick off at 6 p.m. in the Parish Hall with an old-fashioned live auction, a news release says. The auction will be conducted by Roy Baker, an auctioneer who also is a parishioner. Among the new items that will be featured are a wine tasting for 20 people, three nights at the Lido Beach Resort during the Suncoast Offshore Boat Races, a hickory bentwood Amish rocker, and tickets to area attractions, the release notes.
Anyone who wishes to donate an item for the auction, or anyone who wants additional information about the event, may contact Baker at email@example.com or by calling 419-782-8878.
Cash or checks, with ID, will be required for payment on the night of the auction, the release points out.
The festivities on Saturday, Jan. 27, will take place from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., the release continues. Food and craft vendors, music, games, raffles and other activities will be available for all ages. Children will be able to participate in face painting, a bounce house, carnival games and gopher golf, the release says.
The Friday night auction and the Saturday events are open to all people, the release adds. Proceeds of the festival “will go to St. Michael’s support of the Catholic Faith Appeal and its many charitable outreach programs,” the release adds.
The organizing committee also is looking for volunteers, sponsors, food and local craft and artisan vendors. Those who are interested should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.