Siesta Seen

Siesta Promenade earthmoving permit application still on hold; property owner proposes roundabout to help control traffic at Beach Access 2; Avenida Leona residents seek parking prohibition; Liberty Litter Cleanup volunteers find plenty of work; Village Public Improvement District property value takes a slight dip; and another good news-bad news report for the snowy plovers

These are among the details in a demolition application submitted to Sarasota County. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Benderson Development Co.’s efforts to secure a minor earthmoving permit for preparation of the Siesta Promenade site have remained stalled, county Permitting Division records show.

Technically, an affiliate of the firm — Siesta 41 Associates — was the entity that applied for the permit on May 1. The company wants to remove impervious surfaces and the septic tanks that were part of the Pine Shores Trailer Park, which stood for many years on most of the approximately 24 acres slated for Siesta Promenade.

Benderson won County Commission approval in December 2018 to build the mixed-use project, which would consist of 414 apartments/condos, a 130-room hotel and 140,000 square feet of retail and office space on the northwest corner of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road.

As of July 8, every facet of the earthmoving permit review had been completed except for one, The Sarasota News Leaderfound by perusing county Permitting Division records online. The Tree Protection Review continues to carry the notation of “Insufficient.”

Darren Semones, the county employee dealing with that part of the permit application, wrote on May 8, “Justification for tree removals not met without Site and Development (DS) plan/s submitted.”

Traffic flows by the site where Siesta Promenade will be built the intersection of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road. File photo

On July 1, Semones added, “Tree Permit would need to be applied for with site plan sent in for review, and all necessary information to include tree counts for removal.”

He also pointed out that barricades would have to be erected around all of the trees that must be protected, and a county staff member would have to verify that situation “before any work could commence.”

Further, he wrote, each Grand Tree identified on the property would have to be protected by a “hardened barricade,” plus signage, as required by the county’s Tree Code.

One other aspect of the review that had been on hold was completed on June 24, the Permitting Division records show. It pertained to the relocation of the historic chimney that is all that remains of the trailer park’s clubhouse, which was constructed with logs, making it an unusual building in the county. On June 24, County Archaeologist Steven Koski wrote, “The historic chimney must be removed from the parcel and relocated to Urfer Park under an approved plan prior to initiation of any earth moving or demolition operations …” He added that that move must be undertaken in coordination with staff of the Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department and the Historical Resources Division staff.

On June 13, prior to Koski’s notation of his approval of the application, with stipulations, Joe Kraus of the Environmental Permitting Division signed off on the Air & Quality Review.

Kraus wrote that Benderson affiliate Siesta 41 Associates had to make certain “that a copy of the certified NPDES [National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System] Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) is provided to the County before site work begins.”

A 2005 aerial map shows the Pine Shores Trailer Park on the site where Benderson Development proposes to build Siesta Promenade. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explains, “The Clean Water Act prohibits anybody from discharging ‘pollutants’ through a ‘point source’ into a ‘water of the United States’ unless they have an NPDES permit. The permit will contain limits on what you can discharge, monitoring and reporting requirements, and other provisions to ensure that the discharge does not hurt water quality or people’s health.”

As the review of the earthmoving permit continues, litigation over the County Commission’s approval of Siesta Promenade remains underway in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court. A Pine Shores Estates resident filed the complaint in January.

With the county, Benderson and Siesta 41 Associates having filed their answers to the lawsuit, the next step is for Ralf Brookes of Cape Coral, the attorney for Pine Shores resident Sura Kochman, to submit his brief, replying to the county and the companies.

A roundabout near Beach Access 2?

Beach Access 2, also known as Sunset Point, is a popular gathering place in evenings on Siesta Key. However, county staff has limited parking in that area at the western end of Avenida Messina. Photo contributed by Michael Holderness

Siesta property owner and manager Michael Holderness has been communicating with Sarasota County Public Works staff about ideas to ameliorate traffic congestion issues related to Beach Access 2, he has told the News Leader.

In a July 3 email to Spencer Anderson, county engineer and the county’s Public Works Department director, Holderness proposed a roundabout at the intersection of Avenida Messina and Avenida Veneccia, saying that he had learned by talking with other property owners in that area of the island that the roundabout is their preference.

As part of that plan, he continued, Avenida Veneccia should be made a one-way street between Columbus Boulevard and Avenida Messina, which would stop what he characterized as “the ‘racetrack’ through the neighborhood.”

Traffic would have to access Avenida Veneccia via Columbus Boulevard, he noted.

Holderness also has proposed a gate west of the roundabout, which he said the property owners would pay for and maintain as part of the effort to eliminate what those property owners consider to be an excess of vehicles in the neighborhood.

He did emphasize in his email that maintaining public pedestrian access would be a key factor in the plans.

This is a graphic showing a proposal for a roundabout and a gate, to try to ameliorate traffic problems at Beach Access 2. Michael Holderness, who created the design, shared it with the News Leader.

Responding to an earlier exchange with Holderness over the Beach Access 2 traffic issues, Anderson wrote in a June 21 email, “We have something in the works for the intersection of Veneccia and Messina. Not quite as restrictive as your outline but hopefully productive. We’ll provide once it’s fully developed.”

In a July 9 email, Anderson told the News Leader, “At this time, Beach Access #2 (at the north end of Beach Road) provides one handicap spot and appropriate signage to allow for enforcement of [No Parking] areas along Beach Road within the Mira Mar subdivision. We are working on plans to potentially reconfigure the intersection of Avenida Veneccia and Avenida Messina to try and redirect automobiles from Beach Access #2 as parking is not permitted in the public right of way at this location other than the one handicap spot.”

Another parking petition for the Traffic Advisory Council

Along with the North Shell Road parking changes on its Sept. 9 agenda, Sarasota County’s Traffic Advisory Council (TAC) is scheduled to consider a petition regarding parking restrictions on Avenida Leona.

For those unfamiliar with the street, it intersects Calle Minorga in the area behind the SunTrust bank branch and the Old Salty Dog restaurant in Siesta Village.

The petition formally was submitted to the TAC on Dec. 27, 2018 by Edward Braun, an Avenida Leona resident.

“During tourist season,” the petition says, “our street is used extensively for parking by visitors. Although Avenida Milano and Avenida Madero, neighboring similar streets, have signs prohibiting parking on both sides of the street, Avenida does not have such signs.”

An aerial map shows Avenida Leona on Siesta Key. Image from Google Maps

The petition adds, “Cars are constantly parking on both sides of the street endangering pedestrians and bicyclists, making it difficult for our service vehicles to travel, and no doubt obstructing emergency vehicles if such were needed.”
Along with Braun, five other Avenida Leona residents signed the petition.

Under the county’s guidelines for TAC petitions, a certain number of signatures of unrelated affected residents is necessary to get an item on a TAC agenda. For local streets, the form points out, the threshold is five signatures, or 20% “of the local street’s abutting property residents (within 1500 feet of the same street),” whichever figure is greater.

The TAC is set to meet at 2 p.m. on Sept. 9 in the County Commission Chambers in the County Administration Center in downtown Sarasota, which is located at 1660 Ringling Blvd.

Plenty of July Fourth garbage for volunteers to collect

On July 5, through the Liberty Litter Cleanup initiative, 128 volunteers collected 0.74 tons of garbage and 0.38 tons of recyclables, Keep Sarasota County Beautiful (KSCB) announced via Twitter.

The volunteers worked on seven county beaches the day after the July Fourth festivities, county Media Relations Officer Drew Winchester told the News Leader. Altogether, the volunteers put in 230 hours, he added.

Fireworks light up the Siesta sky on July Fourth. Photo contributed by Peter van Roekens

Altogether, approximately 8,000 trash bags were distributed on July Fourth to people on the county-maintained beaches, Winchester reported, in an effort to encourage the proper disposal of garbage.

As for the Fourth itself: Ann Frescura, executive director of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, reported that the organization’s 29th annual free fireworks show at the beach “was fantastic, and the fact that the rain held off was a huge plus!”

The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce’s July Fourth fireworks show is made possible by sponsors. Photo contributed by Peter van Roekens

She added that approximately 125 guests attended the Chamber’s sponsor hospitality event that evening at Siesta Public Beach.

“We are very appreciative of all of our sponsors, volunteers, and the assistance from the Sheriff’s Office, EMS Service, County Staff, and the SRQ Vets,” Frescura wrote in an email. As a result of everyone’s efforts, she continued, “it was a great event!”

A dip in Village property values

A 2014 county graphic shows all the Siesta Key Public Improvement District parcels. Image courtesy Sarasota County

With the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office having released its official July 1 property values for tax purposes, the News Leader found that the figure for the Siesta Key Village Public Improvement District actually went down a bit from the preliminary total released in late May.

The official July 1 value is $76,939,662. The preliminary value for June 1 was $77,015,705.

By the News Leader’s calculation, that drop is slightly less than 1%.

The owners of property in the Public Improvement District are those assessed for the upkeep of the Village.

For the plovers, good news and bad news

Miss Sanibel and her mate made several attempts at nesting on Siesta Beach. Photo contributed by Kylie Wilson

After urging the public to help protect nesting birds on the county’s shoreline during the July Fourth festivities, Kylie Wilson, coordinator of Audubon Florida’s Bird Monitoring & Stewardship Program in Sarasota County, had great news on July 7. All the birds survived the holiday weekend, she wrote. “There were minimal disturbances, largely in part to all of those who came out to volunteer so THANK YOU!!!” she added.

Then came the bad news: The latest snowy plover nest on Siesta, about which Wilson had reported so excitedly in late June, “was washed over after heavy rains flooded the area.”

The same pair of snowy plovers did re-nest in a different place a couple of days later, she continued, “but that egg disappeared overnight.”

However, she and volunteers had found several more “scrapes,” she wrote in that July 7 update, referring to the indentations in the sand that indicate the birds are ready to nest.

In the meantime, she continued, the banded snowy plover that nested earlier on Siesta, only to lose eggs to predators, has been spotted with a nest on the beach in Englewood. Wilson added that she hoped the bird — dubbed Ms. Sanibel because of the green-and-white band on the bird’s leg — would be able to find success there.