Siesta Seen

Siesta Isles’ appeal over tree removal leads to proposed county ordinance and procedural changes; Maio to offer county issues update during Condo Council meeting; Siesta Beach project does not include security cameras; SKA membership drive seeks online renewals; and new Chamber director introduces herself


A staff photo shows the existing trees along Shadow Lawn Way. Image courtesy Sarasota County
A staff photo shows the existing trees along Shadow Lawn Way. Image courtesy Sarasota County

When the Sarasota County Commission voted unanimously last month to side with the Siesta Isles Association in its appeal of a county stop-work order regarding its planting of new trees along the streets leading into its neighborhood, board members voiced vexation. They chided county staff for not trying to resolve the issue before it reached the point of an appeal.

In response to that reproach, staff has proposed changes to the County Code and procedural adjustments to prevent future Neighborhood Initiative Grant recipients from being halted in their projects, as the Siesta Isles Association was last fall when it began pulling up mostly invasive-species trees to replace them with royal palms.

During its vote on the Jan. 12 Consent Agenda, the commission unanimously approved setting a public hearing for the morning of Jan. 26 to consider the changes.

That meeting will be held at the County Administration Center on Ringling Boulevard in downtown Sarasota.

First, staff proposes a new requirement that the county’s Neighborhood Services Department staff send all Neighborhood Initiative Grant proposals involving landscaping and tree removal, replacement or plantings to the county’s Environmental Permitting team for review. That team will “evaluate the net environmental benefit and also have the opportunity to comment on any ‘right plant — right place’ concerns,” a Jan. 12 memo to the board explains.

Incorporating that early review in the grant process “now ensures that any potential conflicts are resolved prior to the grant request coming before the Board for consideration,” the memo points out.

Further, Neighborhood Services staff will send all proposals regarding the public right of way to the county’s Land Development staff “to ensure consistency with the Land Development Regulations (LDR)” that govern right of way work, the memo notes.

Additionally, the public hearing will include consideration of changes in the county’s Tree Ordinance to allow tree removal or relocation for landscaping purposes, including such action as part of “an approved Sarasota County Neighborhood Initiative Grant for work within a public right-of-way,” the Jan. 12 memo explains.

Because of “the specificity of the proposed ordinance language,” the memo continues, “it is anticipated that it would only be applicable on rare occasions.”

Condo Council meeting to feature Maio

Chair Al Maio. Photo courtesy Sarasota County
Chair Al Maio. Photo courtesy Sarasota County

The potential dredging of Big Sarasota Pass to renourish Lido Key Beach; and the proposed roundabout at the intersection of Midnight Pass and Beach roads will be among the topics Sarasota County Commission Chair Al Maio will address when he speaks to members of the Siesta Key Condominium Council on Jan. 19, the Council has announced.

Maio also will provide an update on the facilities at Nathan Benderson Park, which will host the 2017 World Rowing Championships, a Condo Council notice says.

The session will begin with registration and refreshments at 3 p.m. at Siesta Key Chapel, followed by the program at 3:30 p.m., the notice continues.

The meeting will be held in the Fellowship Hall of the church, which is located at 4615 Gleason Ave., just east of Siesta Village.

The notice adds that all condominium owners, association board members and complex managers on the island are welcome and encouraged to attend the event.

Security at the new beach facilities

During the Jan. 7 Siesta Key Association (SKA) meeting, board member Joe Volpe had a question for Brad Gaubatz, the county staff member overseeing the Siesta Public Beach Park improvements project: Have security cameras been installed around the property? (See the related story in this issue.)

“That’s a dicey issue,” Gaubatz replied, because it is more a matter of monitoring video than it is one of recording activities.

Brad Gaubatz. Rachel Hackney photo
Brad Gaubatz. Rachel Hackney photo

“The decision was made to provide conduit, should security cameras be placed [there],” Gaubatz continued. “At this point in time, the county is not putting security cameras on the facility.”

When Volpe asked if that reasoning was rooted in the expense, Gaubatz explained, “It’s really as much of an operational cost as an equipment cost.” However, he did point out that while a homeowner can go to a store and buy security cameras, “you have to have something that’s more military-grade that can withstand severe environments and vandalism” in facilities such as those at Siesta Public Beach.

SKA President Michael added, “I think there were a lot of legal issues that needed answers before anything could be done.” Installing the cameras, Shay continued, “would have been opening a can of worms …”

On a related note, Gaubatz told the approximately 30 people present that because of state regulatory guidelines regarding nesting sea turtles, the beach park project included amber LED lights at “fairly low levels.”

“We’re pushing to the foot candle — the allowable lighting by the Florida Fish and Wildlife [Conservation] Commission. They were extremely strict” on where the lighting could be installed and how much wattage it could have, Gaubatz noted.

County staff asked about using a higher level of lighting during the period when turtles are not nesting, he continued, but “[Commission representatives] said, ‘One set of lights.’”

SKA membership drive

(From left) SKA board members Dan Lundy, Deet Jonker, Beverly Arias, Catherine Luckner and Michael Shay. Rachel Hackney photo
(From left) SKA board members Dan Lundy, Deet Jonker, Beverly Arias, Catherine Luckner and Michael Shay. Rachel Hackney photo

With its annual meeting set for Saturday, March 5, in the Community Center at St. Boniface Episcopal Church on the Key, the SKA is encouraging people to renew their memberships online.

“We’re behind schedule by at least a month-and-a-half,” Membership Chairman Deet Jonker said during the Jan. 7 SKA meeting.

The reason, he explained, is that “the cost of mailing today is gigantic.”

Jonker added, “We need to come down to how we can make [mailings] more efficient, and do we want to continue canvassing all the taxpayers [on the island],” as they number about 9,000.

When someone asked how many members the SKA has, Jonker replied, “We shoot for 1,300,” though he clarified that figure represents households.

Some people think that if their condominium association is a member, he said, they automatically are members. That is not the case, he stressed.

Many older island residents do not even have computers, Jonker pointed out, so they cannot renew their memberships online. However, he said, the SKA board will continue to encourage those people who are “computer-literate” to pay online with their credit cards.

He added, “We are a not-for-profit organization.”

“And we are not raising the dues,” SKA President Michael Shay told the audience.

Problems have arisen with the online payment system, Membership Co-Chair Beverly Arias explained, if people try to charge their membership to a different credit card than the one they previously used. The icon for online payments is on the SKA’s homepage, she pointed out.

Shay also reminded the audience that their renewals entitle them to two tickets to the annual breakfast meeting, though they need to reserve space. The Community Center can accommodate only about 130 people, he added. “We hit that limit every single year,” he said, making it necessary to turn away interested people.

After the next SKA newsletter goes out, Shay continued, the board will be ready to take reservations. Just email, he said, or call 364-4880.

Although he is asked from time to time about meeting people at the SKA’s office to take a membership check or handle other business for the organization, Shay pointed out, “we’re all volunteers; we don’t have an office.”

Board member Volpe noted that the only expenses the SKA has on a regular basis are those for its CPA, mailings, and development and maintenance of its website.

The board members pay any expenses they may incur in representing the SKA, he told the audience.

Greetings from the new Chamber exec

Image from the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce
Image from the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce

On Jan. 6 — just a bit too late to make it into last week’s Siesta Seen — Ann Frescura, the new executive director of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, sent out New Year’s greetings and introduced herself:

“I am originally from Springfield, Illinois, also known as ‘Mr. Lincoln’s Hometown,’” she wrote. “My nonprofit work experience includes a combined 12 years working for the Springfield Area Arts Council and Downtown Springfield, Inc. I applaud their ongoing efforts in cultural arts and economic development. I had the privilege of coordinating many community events.” Among the latter, she noted, were First Night Springfield, Children’s Art Festival, Old Capitol Farmers Market, Downtown Bacon Throwdown and the Blues & BBQ Fest.

Frescura added, “On a personal note, I am the proud mother of three daughters, Jacquie, Mikell and Tori Jane. I also have an adorable [3-year-old] grandson, Cameron.”

Frescura continued, “I so appreciate the warm welcome from the Siesta Key community, and all the support from my boyfriend, Tim, as well as friends and family as I relocate and accept this new career opportunity.”