County moving ahead with assessments of property owners for latest South Siesta beach renourishment

Non-ad valorem tax will show up on TRIM notices starting next summer and continue for seven years

Before and after photos for the South Siesta Renourishment Project show a rock revetment that had been visible is covered again by sand. Image courtesy Sarasota County
Before and after photos for the South Siesta Renourishment Project show a rock revetment that had been visible has been covered again by sand. Image courtesy Sarasota County

A unanimous Sarasota County Commission vote on Aug. 23 will make it possible for the county to recover about 17 percent of the cost of its South Siesta Renourishment Project by assessing the property owners who will benefit from the work.

The payments — which will extend over seven years — originally were estimated to be double what individual homeowners paid for the initial beach nourishment in 2007, Matt Osterhoudt, interim director of the county’s Planning and Development Services Department, reported. However, the latest accounting of bills for the project shows they will not be that high, he added.

During his presentation, Osterhoudt explained that the tentative cost of the project is $21,925,000. Laird Wreford, the county’s coastal initiatives manager, told members of the county’s Tourist Development Council in June that the county has up to three years after completion of the construction to try to obtain another $6 million to $7 million in state grant funds.

In the meantime, Osterhoudt said on Aug. 23, staff has been planning on assessments totaling $3,732,000 to repay the loan the county took out to cover 17.02 percent of the cost. A combination of state grant funds and the county’s Tourist Development Tax revenue — set aside by ordinance for beach renourishment efforts — has covered 80.24 percent of the expense, Osterhoudt noted. The final 2.74 percent of the total, he pointed out, came in the form of $600,000 remaining from assessments imposed to pay for the 2007 renourishment of the beach.

Matt Osterhoudt. File photo
Matt Osterhoudt. File photo

Osterhoudt showed the board members before and after photos of the approximately 2-mile area of the renourishment, which began on March 9 and was completed in early May. They make it evident “how successful this project has been for the Siesta Key residents,” he noted. Even when Tropical Storm Colin passed by the county in early June, he said, “the form of the project actually held very well.”

Chair Al Maio told Osterhoudt that he joined county staff members before the project in a visit to the site, shown in one photo, where a rock revetment was visible and stairs were missing. The work had led to a “dramatic improvement,” Maio added.

The board’s vote to approve the assessments, Osterhoudt continued, would enable them to appear for the first time on Truth In Millage tax notices mailed in the summer of 2017. Then, the initial payments would start in November 2017. At any time during the seven-year period the assessments would be in effect, he explained, an individual could pay in full the amount owed. The annual interest is 3.25 percent, a staff memo says.

Then Osterhoudt introduced Roger Hettema, a certified general property appraiser in the state of Florida, who prepared the necessary Municipal Service Benefit Unit (MSBU) study to justify the assessments. Reprising some of the comments he made to the board on Dec. 9, Hettema said a number of studies have shown that maintaining beaches adjacent to people’s homes has “a very profound effect” on sustaining their property values.

Data associated with the 2007 renourishment was “really very skewed” because the project took place “right in the face of the boom/bust cycle,” he pointed out. However, a more recent renourishment project in Venice showed increased values of property after that work was completed.

His preliminary research showed that the average assessment a south Siesta resident would pay would reflect 1.3 percent of the value of the person’s property. “I would fully expect [that] will go down to at or below 1 percent,” he added, because county property values generally have gone up this year.

A graphic shows the properties that will be assessed for the renourishment project. Image courtesy Sarasota County
A graphic shows the properties that will be assessed for the renourishment project. Image courtesy Sarasota County

About nine of the approximately 460 property owners will pay about 3 percent, Hettema said, but those situations involve a lot more land and perhaps only minor improvements.

“The cost to each individual homeowner will be more than offset by … at least maintenance of their property value,” Hettema told the board.

Maio made the motion recommended by staff. It formally called for adoption of the initial rate resolution to establish the methodology for the levy of the non-ad valorem assessments and the estimated annual assessments for the South Siesta Key Beach Restoration Phase II Project District.