20151204-4 Dec 2015

City Commission mulling over park benches, four years after their removal

Homeless enhanced Sleeping in Five Points Park June 2012 cropped LOW REZDuring its meeting on Monday, Dec. 7, the board will discuss whether to put the benches back in Five Points Park

The centrally located Selby Five Points Park became the center of controversy in 2011. Benches were removed from the downtown Sarasota park in August 2011, in response to complaints from downtown condominium residents who claimed homeless individuals and other people the residents described as “vagrants” were dominating the public seating. Residents asserted that such use of the park made downtown unsafe and would lead to a decline in property values. (Read more »)

Sports tourism in county parks leads to economic impact of more than $74 million for 2015 fiscal year

beach volleyballSarasota County report shows steady climb over the past three fiscal years in dollars and events

In the 2015 fiscal year, the total economic impact on the county of sporting events held in Sarasota County parks was more than $74 million, according to a report prepared by county staff with the assistance of Visit Sarasota County, The Sarasota News Leader has learned. That figure, which represented 58 events, was up from about $49.3 million in Fiscal Year 2014 and more than $38 million in FY 2013, the report says. (Read more »)

Sarasota County among seven in the state where people do not die prematurely, study shows

Sarasota County Health Department website shot Dec. 2 2015County’s health official cites the community’s ‘social determinants’ and a broad array of initiatives as reasons for the high ranking

As Sarasota County’s health official puts it, “Place matters.” Nonetheless, Chuck Henry, who has helmed the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County since 2011, cites a broad array of factors — from general demographics to miles of walking and biking trails — as the reason Sarasota County is one of seven Florida counties where people do not die prematurely. (Read more »)

Laurel Park appeals loading dock permit on edge of neighborhood

Woman's Exchange Google Street view by Kanya Dec. 3 2015The neighborhood association opposes the city’s decision to grant site plan approval to the Woman’s Exchange

A debate that has pitted a growing nonprofit organization against one of downtown Sarasota’s most historic neighborhoods is likely to continue. The Laurel Park Neighborhood Association has appealed the city’s approval of a site plan and issuance of a building permit for a loading dock at the Woman’s Exchange, located on the edge of the neighborhood. The Laurel Park Association — which has long contended that the loading dock is not a compatible use on narrow Rawls Avenue — filed its appeal Nov. 24. (Read more »)

Fox Lea Farm trying to break out of ‘best-kept secret’ mode

Laurie Birnbach from LinkedInThe equestrian complex outside Venice already ranks third in sports tourism economic impact on Sarasota County and plans more events in 2016

Already, Venice’s Fox Lea Farm ranks third — behind only Nathan Benderson Park and the Baltimore Orioles’ Spring Training at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota — for the economic impact its sports tourism has on the county, members of the Sarasota County Tourist Development Council (TDC) recently learned. In 2014, the farm’s nine horse shows had an economic impact of about $10.9 million, and the participants accounted for 14,464 room nights in Sarasota County accommodations, Laurie Birnbach, a representative of Fox Lea Farm, said during a Nov. 19 presentation to the TDC. (Read more »)

Drainage improvement project planned in 2016 for Higel Avenue/Ocean Boulevard area of Siesta Key

Ben Quartermaine SKVA Dec. 1 2015 RBHCounty staff is seeking a permit to lay pipes in the ditches that will enable treated stormwater to flow into the Grand Canal, especially during heavy rain events

As the sand in Big Sarasota Pass has shifted over the years, and more beach has accreted on the northern part of Siesta Key, the drainage system that used to allow stormwater to flow to the Gulf of Mexico has been disrupted, Sarasota County stormwater engineer Ben Quartermaine told The Sarasota News Leader this week. As a result, heavy rain events — when about 3 or more inches fall — bring misery to the residents of about 20 homes in the vicinity of the Higel Avenue/Ocean Boulevard intersection. (Read more »)

Siesta Seen

Napolis with handicapped sign still painted over Dec. 1 2015 RBHHandicapped parking space issues remain; Light Up the Village brought more visitors than expected; some problems have occurred during fundraising events at the beach; and Village maintenance wins kudos

On Dec. 1, Sarasota County Code Enforcement Officer Susan Stahley told about 15 members of the Siesta Key Village Association (SKA) that she planned to give the manager of the Key Corners plaza on Ocean Boulevard seven more days to add back a handicapped parking space that had been removed and replace a missing sign at the existing handicapped space. (Read more »)

Visitors just keep on coming

World Class Rowing sign at Benderson April 28 2012 LOW REZTotal number up 2 percent from October 2014 to October 2015, with 8.2-percent spending increase

They just keep coming — and spending their money. The number of visitors to Sarasota County this October who stayed in paid lodging grew by 2 percent compared to the figure for October 2014, Visit Sarasota County announced this week — and that growth came without the opening of a major new mall or an international rowing event at Nathan Benderson Park. (Read more »)

Siesta Village rings in the holiday season

Light Up Village 2015 20 PeterLight Up the Village parade and festivities draw all ages to Ocean Boulevard

Fire trucks, jazz musicians, elves, Girl Scouts, martial artists, mermaids, people on bicycles, pretty young women in convertibles and Jolly Ol’ St. Nick himself: Siesta Key Village kicked off the holiday season in grand fashion on the evening of Nov. 28. The event was sponsored by the Siesta Key Village Association. The Sarasota News Leader extends its appreciation to Peter van Roekens for his photos. (Read more »)

Road closures announced in advance of Saturday’s Downtown Holiday Parade

St. Nick closeup holiday parade 2012Event will begin at 7 p.m. at Main Street/U.S. 301 intersection

The 20th Annual Downtown Sarasota Holiday Parade will be held on Saturday, Dec. 5, beginning at 7 p.m. at the intersection of Main Street and U.S. 301 in downtown Sarasota, the Sarasota Police Department is reminding the public. The parade will end at J.D. Hamel Park, which is located at the intersection of Main Street and Gulfstream Avenue, a Police Department news release says. (Read more »)

SCAT representatives to seek public comments at two workshops

SCAT bus by Beach Bazaar Dec. 1 2015 RBHEvents are set for Dec. 8 and 9 in Sarasota and Venice, respectively

Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) representatives want to hear from members of the public about how the bus service can improve, Sarasota County has announced. As part of the SCAT’s ongoing comprehensive operations analysis, department staff will host two open house-style workshops to hear people’s comments, a county news release says. At any time during the events, residents may stop in to share their views on how to improve routes and service. (Read more »)

Sarasota man arrested for selling steroids at Bee Ridge store

Lilley, Christopher31-year-old owner of Extreme Nutrition & Smoothie charged with sale of a controlled substance

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office has arrested the owner of Extreme Nutrition & Smoothie, located at 4104 Bee Ridge Road in Sarasota, for selling steroids out of his store, the office announced on Dec. 2. Since October, undercover detectives have bought Oxandrolone and Stanozolol worth nearly $500 from Christopher Lilley, 31, a news release says. Detectives obtained a search warrant, which was executed at the store on Tuesday, Dec. 1, “and located more than 600 additional capsules of both drugs,” the release adds. (Read more »)

Former Sarasota physician sentenced to seven years in prison

Rubinstein, Leonard-2Rubinstein convicted of four counts of practicing medicine with a revoked license

Former Sarasota cosmetic surgeon Leonard Rubinstein, 61, has been sentenced to seven years in prison, to be followed by nine years of probation, as a result of his 12th Judicial Circuit conviction on four counts of practicing medicine with a revoked license, the Sarasota Police Department has announced. Judge Charles Roberts sentenced Rubinstein on Dec. 2, a Sarasota Police Department news release says. The charges stem from a 2013 case, the release notes. (Read more »)

Adult and Community Enrichment program to hold art sale Dec. 9

SCTI campus July 30 2014 RBHEvent is scheduled at Suncoast Technical College

The Sarasota County School District’s Adult and Community Enrichment (ACE) program will host its second annual ACE Art Sale from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 9, at Suncoast Technical College in Sarasota, the district has announced. The sale will feature original art and fine crafts, a press release says. (Read more »)

Holiday Arts and Crafts Show returning to Englewood Sports Complex Dec. 12

Englewood Arts and Crafts show scgovMore than 105 vendor tables expected

The Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department has announced the return of its annual Holiday Arts and Crafts Show from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec, 12, at the Englewood Sports Complex. “This will be the largest craft show to-date,” featuring more than 105 vendor tables “selling unique creations such as handcrafted jewelry, holiday decorations, greeting cards, clothes and quilts,” a news release says. (Read more »)

Sheriff offering reminders for a safe holiday shopping season

Light Up Village 2015 10 PeterTips encourage people to be cautious

Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight is reminding residents about ways “to shop smart and stay safe this holiday season,” the Sheriff’s Office has announced. More officers patrol busy retail areas this time of year, a news release notes, but shoppers are encouraged to keep the following tips in mind when heading to the stores: (Read more »)