Sarasota Crew application for new docks and boat slips on Little Sarasota Bay receives county approval

Structures to replace dilapidated dock and boathouse at Osprey site the youth rowing organization purchased in 2014

An aerial map shows the location of the planned docks in Osprey. Image courtesy Sarasota County

It took only about 10 minutes on April 26 for the Sarasota County Commission to approve a Sarasota Crew request for the construction of two new docks — which will have six boat slips — at 120 Bayview Lane in Osprey.

Commissioner Charles Hines made the motion, saying he was “just glad to see this is moving forward.” Given the commercial activity to the north of the property and parkland to the south, he added, “providing public access and use in that area seems to be very appropriate.”

Commissioner Alan Maio seconded the motion. When Chair Paul Caragiulo asked whether Maio had anything to add, Maio replied, “Commissioner Hines said it perfectly.”

The approval came almost exactly four weeks after Sarasota Crew was in the proverbial spotlight following a training session on Sarasota Bay. Osprey resident Donna Betts allegedly used a rifle to threaten some of the teenage female rowers as they practiced in front of her home. Betts was charged with 18 counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill. She was arrested on March 28, a day after the incident, and released from jail on March 29, with bond set at $180,000. She entered a plea of Not Guilty on April 10, 12th Judicial Circuit Court records show. On April 21, Judge Thomas Krug signed an order amending her pre-trial release order to require Betts to submit to a Personal Alcohol Monitoring device (PAM) at least once a day.

Sarasota Crew’s website explains that the nonprofit was created in 2002, and it has “grown into one of the largest rowing programs in the country,” with members having won national championships.

Although Sarasota Crew originally had its base at Historic Spanish Point, the website adds, in early 2008, it moved to new facilities at Bay Point at Osprey. That is the 5-acre home of the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast, which is on Sarasota Bay, the website says.

The construction proposal

A graphic shows the property purchased by Sarasota Crew in 2014 (in red). Image courtesy Sarasota County

An April 26 county staff memo explains that the 501(c)(3) youth rowing club purchased the approximately 3.14 acres on Bayview Lane in Osprey in 2014. The site is about 400 feet south of the intersection of U.S. 41 and West Bay Street, the memo adds.

Sarasota County Property Appraiser Office records show Sarasota Crew paid $975,000 for the site. In 2016, that office set the value of the land alone at $463,200.

The property has a single-family residence plus smaller dwelling units, the memo says. The Property Appraiser’s Office record shows a total of six residential structures, with the oldest two dating to 1948; the most recent was built in 1979.

The land is on the eastern shoreline of Little Sarasota Bay, the staff memo notes.

On Dec. 27, 2016, county staff received a Water and Navigation Control Authority permit application for the construction of two floating docks and the associated slips, the memo continues.

Because facets of the requested improvements exceeded those county staff can approve under administrative review guidelines, Environmental Specialist Chance Steed explained to the board on April 26, the matter necessitated the scheduling of a public hearing.

A site plan shows the design of the docks and boat slips. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The new construction, Steed noted, has been designed to replace “a dilapidated boathouse and dock” that stand offshore of the property. Those structures were built before 1985, the staff memo says.

To the north, he continued, a commercial dock for the Spanish Point Pub juts into the water. To the south, he said, a fishing pier has been built for residents of a condominium complex.

The new Sarasota Crew docks “will serve primarily for the launching and retrieval of rowing vessels,” the memo explains.

The proposed northern dock will be 240 feet in length from the Mean High Water Line — about 80 feet further seaward than the existing dock combined with the boathouse, the memo points out. The proposed southern dock will extend about 245 feet into the bay from the Mean High Water Line.

The memo points out that no upland rowing facilities are in place “to support the use of the proposed docks. It is staff’s understanding that the existing residential structures on the uplands will be demolished,” the memo continues; Sarasota Crew will be required to obtain the necessary county approval for any improvements to the property designed to “facilitate rowing activities at this location.”

Steed also explained to the board, “[Seagrass is] pretty prevalent” in the area proposed for the new docks. The memo says, “Direct impacts are expected to a portion of the seagrass bed as a result of dock piling installation and shading from the floating dock structures.”

An existing dock and boathouse show their age. Photo courtesy Sarasota County

Therefore, Sarasota Crew will be required to undertake mitigation, Steed noted. The nonprofit organization has proposed a 600-square-foot mitigation area “immediately landward of the existing mangroves,” he said. Native plantings, “as well as management of nuisance/invasive species on the property are intended to offset impacts to 2,960 square feet of seagrasses caused by the proposed dock construction,” the memo points out. Brazilian pepper trees and Reclinata palms will be removed, Steed said.

Additionally, the fixed walkway to the docks will be elevated and designed with grating, Steed told the board, so sunlight can filter through it to the seagrasses below.

Moreover, Steed explained, an oyster bed was found about midway of the site proposed for the southern dock. “Some signage will be required that will restrict vessel mooring in that area,” he added — a safety precaution to protect the oysters and people from any injury.

“There’s been no public comment received for this proposed project to-date,” he added as he concluded his presentation.

Although Chair Caragiulo indicated representatives of Sarasota Crew were present, they did not ask to address the board.

No members of the public had signed up to speak, either, he noted.