Sheriff’s Office personnel continuing to handle calls about complaints at Siesta Public Beach picnic shelters

A homeowners association board member of one Beach Road condominium complex across from the structures plans a petition drive to change county rules for Beach Road street parking in that vicinity

The Sunset Royale complex stands across Beach Road from the parking spaces next to the picnic shelters. Rachel Hackney photo
The Sunset Royale complex stands across Beach Road from the parking spaces next to the picnic shelters. Rachel Hackney photo

In response to continuing complaints from condominium owners who live across Beach Road from parking spaces on the street that are parallel to Siesta Key Public Beach, Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office personnel have “been very pro-active” about checking on people using the picnic tables next to those spaces, Lt. Debra Kaspar of the Sheriff’s Office told members of the Siesta Key Village Association (SKVA) during their regular meeting on March 1.

“It’s going to be hard to work with their perception of what’s gong on and the reality of what’s going on,” Kaspar added, referring to residents.

For example, the previous evening, she continued, deputies spoke with three people who had come up from the beach to the picnic area on the north end of the park. All were adults from Pennsylvania, she added.

Often, calls the Sheriff’s Office receives about inappropriate activity at the picnic shelters reference inebriated juveniles, Kaspar told the SKVA members. Yet, when a deputy investigates the situations, she pointed out, “They’re not juveniles, and they’re not inebriated.”

Lt. Debra Kaspar and Capt. Charlie Thorpe of the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office attend the Siesta Key Village Association's March 1 meeting. Rachel Hackney photo
Lt. Debra Kaspar and Capt. Charlie Thorpe of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office attend the Siesta Key Village Association’s March 1 meeting. Rachel Hackney photo

Sheriff’s deputies cannot insist that people using the shelters take Breathalyzer tests, Kaspar continued, “We can’t tell them to leave. We can’t ask for identification. [But] we’ve been very successful there in the past” in engaging people in conversation and asking them to move on.

Nonetheless, she said of the residents, “I think they don’t want anybody [at the shelters after dark].”

Kaspar stressed, “We’re just really trying to get the facts about what’s really going on there.”

Paul Parr, owner of two rental units in the Sunset Royale condominium complex at 711 Beach Road, told The Sarasota News Leader after the SKVA meeting that the picnic shelters have “truly become the Siesta Key Village after hours No. 1 location now.”

Parr was among seven speakers who addressed the Sarasota County Commission on Nov. 10 about late night noise and disruptions at the northern end of the beach park, saying the commotion has proved disturbing to Sunset Royale residents and those in the adjacent Crescent Royale condominiums, located at 777 Beach Road.

Having come in after the SKVA session began, Parr told the News Leader he missed hearing Kaspar’s remarks. “I don’t know what’s being embellished and what’s not,” he added.

Nonetheless, Parr noted, “It evidently has gotten to the point where some of the [condominium] owners feel they are in an adversarial relationship with the Sheriff’s Office.”

Along with people being disruptive at the picnic shelters at night, he continued, “we’re getting a lot of [foot] traffic in our building now,” with people looking for restrooms.

Paul Parr. File photo
Paul Parr. File photo

Several of the speakers at the Nov. 10 County Commission meeting complained about beachgoers urinating and defecating in public because restrooms in the beach park are not close to the Beach Road parking spaces.

During her comments, Kaspar asked SKVA members to call her first if they have any questions about incidents reported to them. “What [people] say may be happening,” she added, “but let’s document it. So far, I don’t have that.”

Michael Shay, president of the Siesta Key Association (SKA), reminded SKVA Vice President Mark Smith — who was presiding in the absence of President Wendall Jacobsen — that he and Smith had met with some of the residents of Crescent Royale and Sunset Royale about two months ago to discuss their complaints.

Shay added that he spent about 20 minutes on the phone the previous night with a woman who lives in one of the complexes, noting that a Sarasota County employee had given the woman his number, the woman told him, after the woman tried unsuccessfully to reach a county commissioner.

“There are some reasonable residents,” Kaspar pointed out. However, one woman has put comments Kaspar has made “in a different context,” Kaspar said.

“You become part of the solution in order to take care of it,” Kaspar added.

Shay had confirmed with Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources staff that “the beach, in theory, is open 24 hours [a day],” he said. “The parking lot … is only open till midnight.”

The Beach Road spaces next to the beach park are also open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Shay explained, and the picnic areas are always available. “Alcohol is OK [at the shelters, too], he noted.

The Beach Road spaces next to the shelters have no parking restrictions related to hours of use. Rachel Hackney photo
The Beach Road spaces next to the shelters have no parking restrictions related to hours of use. Rachel Hackney photo

However, “a lot of those [condominium] units [in the vicinity of the picnic tables] are rentals,” he continued, “so, of course, the owners are getting complaints from their guests. As Lt. Kaspar said, it’s a touchy situation.”

Kaspar told the SKVA members, “We just have to get the facts. … If something needs to be addressed, we’ll certainly address it there.”

TAC talk

During the Nov. 10 County Commission discussion, commissioners suggested owners of units at Crescent Royale and Sunset Royale work through the county’s Traffic Advisory Council (TAC) to seek changes to the regulations for the Beach Road parking spaces next to the public beach park.

During the TAC’s Dec. 14 session, Diane Hessler appeared during the public comments portion of the meeting to ask for help. Chair Ken Swartz recommended that she speak with John Sharp, the council’s county liaison who is an employee in the Traffic Engineering Department.

After the March 1 SKVA meeting, Parr told the News Leader that someone at Crescent Royale did start a petition initiative for TAC consideration but gave it up. “They felt they were getting nowhere,” he said.

Diane Hessler. File photo
Diane Hessler. File photo

Sunset Royale’s homeowners association board — on which he serves — was scheduled to meet this week, he continued, so he planned to take up the matter then. “I am pushing them very hard to get this done,” he added of the TAC petition drive.

In a telephone interview with the News Leader, Sharp said of the Beach Road spots in question, “Parking is at a premium there.”

He explained that because only residents can sign a petition required to bring a matter before the TAC, it can take some time to get the necessary signatures. Furthermore, he noted, the TAC meets only quarterly.

The TAC Item Request Form, a copy of which Sharp provided the News Leader, asks for a description of a problem: “Please explain in detail why you are requesting this change.” It also seeks the attachment of maps or any other relevant materials. The form continues, “Any request to restrict on-street parking must show that parking of vehicles on public streets constitutes a hazard to vehicular traffic and impedes the safety of vehicular traffic.”

A homeowners association (HOA) may submit a form, just as individuals may, the form says. In the case of an HOA-initiated effort, the form seeks a “petition supported by relevant HOA board meeting minutes.”

“I am really going to work on this concept of the community,” Parr told the News Leader, referring to the condominium complexes close to the beach park.