Residential parking issue added to ‘list’ for Code Enforcement

County Commission gets figures for a part-time officer

On heavy Siesta beach-use days, parking overflows into neighborhoods on Siesta Key, residents say. Photo by Norman Schimmel

The focus for code enforcement on Siesta Key shifted this week from noise to parking, as Commissioner Nora Patterson addressed neighborhood complaints during the July 10 County Commission meeting.

At tbe same time, County Administrator Randall Reid provided new information to the commissioners about the cost of extra Code Enforcement help not just on the island but around the county.

“There are people using residential parking lots essentially to ease beach parking,” Patterson said during the commissioner comments portion of the board’s regular meeting in Venice.

She had received several complaints from residents on Avenida del Mare, she said, which runs perpendicular to Beach Road. That street, she added, seemed to be the focal point for the problems.

A July 1 email to Patterson from an Avenida del Mare resident says, “Several of my neighbors charge for beach parking and put up signs on Beach Road directing traffic to our street for parking. As far as I know this is a code violation.”

The writer added that the residents who did not support the parking initiative had filed complaints and called county officials and sent them emails about the situation for the past several years.

A couple of summers ago, the writer added, a Code Enforcement officer had come to the street, issued warnings and “maybe one fine if that. He put it on us to take photos and videos on the weekends so he could enforce [the code].

“I really don’t want to spend my weekends policing my neighbors,” the writer continued, “and it has caused a lot of discord between the neighbors.”

The writer added, “Clearly there are issues with not having enough parking on the key but it is not fair to just let the residents deal with it. We pay our taxes and [the] bottom line [is] the county is not doing [its] job ….”

Patterson had responded that she was forwarding the email to Code Enforcement, adding that she believed the Code Enforcement officer who works on Siesta Key “has indeed enforced the ban on not selling parking in residential areas. There is, however, a shortage of staff to pursue all violations.”

Sandra Jones in the Code Enforcement office wrote the resident on July 5 to say she would make an appointment with Sheriff Tom Knight and his staff “to see if we can put a task force together or other viable means in dealing with both code and law enforcement violations.”

On July 11, Wendy Rose, community affairs manager for the Sheriff’s Office, told The Sarasota News Leader that no task force had been formed.

She added that Lt. Tom Stroud, who handles issues on Siesta Key, would be meeting with Code Enforcement personnel this week to review the issue on Avenida del Mare. “It appears it will remain a Code Enforcement concern, and we will continue to assist when appropriate, such as with noise complaints in [Siesta] Village. We will know more after our initial meeting with the County.”

Patterson said during the July 10 meeting that she had driven to Avenida del Mare to look at the situation. “The whole street looks like a parking lot and it’s just wall-to-wall cars,” she told her fellow commissioners.

She reiterated the point she had made in her response to the resident: “We don’t have enough code enforcement out on the weekends or really answering the phone.”

In response to a request from the Siesta Key Association, the commissioners had discussed hiring another full-time Code Enforcement officer when they held their Fiscal Year 2013 budget discussions last month.

Reid had provided them with information showing that a new full-time employee would cost $70,029.

They made no decision during that June 13 discussion, though they have another budget workshop scheduled for Aug. 20.

During her July 10 comments, Patterson said the prospect of paying overtime for a Code Enforcement officer, who could work on the island on weekends and some evenings was still under consideration. “I’m adding this [parking] issue to the list” to be addressed, she added. “Our ordinances don’t support this [beach parking in residential areas].”

Referring to Jones’ email, Chairwoman Christine Robinson told Patterson she felt the task force needed to look into the situation and come up with suggestions about solutions before the board proceeded with any action regarding overtime for a Code Enforcement officer.

“I agree with that,” Patterson said. “I’m not proposing a solution … although clearly some presence from either the sheriff or Code Enforcement is going to be necessary to create a solution.”

Patterson added that she hoped it would not take “a year or so to come up with suggested remedies.”

“You have consensus for that,” Robinson told her.

Part-time enforcement

Earlier during the July 10 meeting, Reid told the commissioners that staff had updated information for them regarding the hiring of a part-time Code Enforcement officer.

A July 9 memo from Rob Lewis, director of planning and development services, points out that the commission on May 23 had asked staff to research the cost of an employee who could work in the evenings and on weekends to enforce the noise ordinance countywide “and in concentrated [noise-] prone areas with the participation of the Sheriff’s Office.”

The memo says the estimated cost for the 2013 fiscal year of one part-time position would be $55,155 if the person worked 30 hours a week. The cost would be $38,355 if the person worked 20 hours a week.

The figures include benefits, the lease of a vehicle for the officer’s use and the cost of a laptop computer, a cell phone and uniforms.

If the County Commission chose to ask a Code Enforcement officer to work overtime — 20 hours a week — the total cost, with equipment and benefits, would be $29,000, Lewis added.

If the board authorized the hiring of a part-time Code Enforcement officer, Lewis continued, the county would hire someone who “would specialize in taking noise level meter readings and enforce the noise ordinance. The Sheriff’s Office will continue to take sound level meter readings,” as enforcement of the noise ordinance is a joint effort of the Sheriff’s Office and Code Enforcement, Lewis added.

The citation for violations was developed for use by personnel in both offices, he wrote.