Siesta Seen

Siesta Chamber seeking three amendments to Siesta Key Overlay Zoning District regulations; Shell Road and Avenida Leona parking prohibition requests removed from Sept. 9 TAC agenda; county staff member shoots down idea of lower Siesta Village speed limit; Neighborhood Workshop scheduled for Sept. 26 on county parking proposal for parcel at 6647 S. Midnight Pass Road; county letter to warn Public Improvement District property owners not to trim Village landscaping; Chamber announces 60th anniversary party plans; and volunteers sought for 10th Crystal Classic

An older house built at grade stands next to a newer structure built to conform to the FEMA elevation regulations for a flood zone. Image from Google Maps

The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce is asking the Sarasota County Commission to consider three amendments to the county’s Unified Development Code “as [the latter] applies to the Siesta Key Overlay District.”

In an Aug. 16 letter to Zoning Administrator Donna Thompson, Siesta architect and long-time Siesta Chamber Director Mark Smith explained each of the proposed amendments. During the Chamber’s Aug. 21 quarterly meeting for members, he said he believed two of the three cases entailed oversights that occurred when the Siesta Key Overlay District (SKOD) was being drafted.

The first of those involves Section 4.10.4, which says, “Accessory structures shall not exceed the height of the principal structure.” That regulation did not take into account the need for new buildings on the Key to conform to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) floodplain restrictions, Smith noted during the Chamber meeting.

The narrative in the letter regarding the proposed amendment points out, “All of Siesta Key is in a FEMA Flood Zone. All new structures are required to be built to meet the FEMA Base Flood Elevation.”

As the SKOD section is written, Smith told the Chamber members on Aug. 21, a ’70s ranch house constructed at grade cannot have an accessory dwelling unit, because the latter could not be taller than the house.

The Chamber letter described the situation this way: “[I]t is impossible to build to the required higher FEMA elevation and keep the roof height below the height of the principal structure.”

Thus, the amendment, as proposed, would read, “Accessory structures shall not exceed the height restrictions for the principal structure.”

The other section where Smith believes the final language was an oversight prohibits upper-story residential units in districts zoned Office, Professional and Institutional (OPI) and Commercial General (CG). Such dwellings are permitted everywhere else in the county in those districts, Smith said on Aug. 21. “Upper-story residential is all part of the nature of a commercial district.”

Gidget’s Coastal Provisions, which has been open in Siesta Village since early 2014, has upper-story dwelling units, but they are permitted for transient use, similar to hotel accommodations. File photo

Smith pointed out that if the owner of a restaurant, for example, lived above the establishment, the owner would have a much greater sense of the need for compliance with the county’s Noise Ordinance when bands are playing.

People living above shops and restaurants also would mean “more eyes on the street for crime,” Smith noted.

“It just makes sense,” Smith added. “I’m not sure why [the upper-story residential provision] was excluded …”

The narrative in the Aug. 16 Chamber letter regarding that proposed SKOD change also points out, “To live above your place of business or have employees live above where they work eliminates commuting …”

The proposed new SKOD language calls for live-work and upper-story residential uses in the OPI, CG and Commercial Intensive (CI) districts to be allowed when the SKOD parking requirements can be met.

Finally, the third proposed amendment would allow the use of sandwich or A-frame-style directional signs “for parking and valet. Such signs shall not contain any commercial advertising.”

The narrative accompanying that proposal points out, “Parking is at a premium on Siesta Key. Visitors to Siesta Key need help finding both parking spaces and valets. These signs would be an aid in navigation and a public service to help get drivers off the road and safely parked. There are plenty of ‘No Parking’ signs on Siesta Key. We need positive signs that help visitors.”

The Unified Development Code, which went into effect the first of this year, combines the county’s land use and zoning regulations. County Planning and Development Services Department staff has established a schedule for privately initiated amendments to be submitted to staff for consideration.

Shell Road and Avenida Leona parking requests delayed

Vehicles are parked on either side of North Shell Road, with Beach Access 1 at the end of the street. File photo

In June, the News Leader reported that residents who live on North Shell Road had petitioned the county’s Traffic Advisory Council (TAC) to eliminate the public parking spaces on both sides of the road between the house at 3935 N. Shell Road and the cul-de-sac, which is adjacent to Beach Access 1.

Additionally, residents on Avenida Leona had submitted a petition to the advisory council, requesting a prohibition on parking on both sides of their street. Avenida Leona is in a neighborhood behind Siesta Village, to the east of Calle Minorga.

Both petitions originally were to have been heard by the TAC in June. However, because of a lack of quorum, county staff told the News Leaderthe requests would be addressed on the Sept. 9 agenda. That agenda does not have either petition listed.

As of the News Leader’s publication deadline this week, county staff had not been able to provide information about when the petitions would be heard. The TAC normally meets on a quarterly basis, its webpage says.

Siesta Village speed limit issue redux

Traffic flows through Siesta Village on an early August day. Rachel Hackney photo

During the Aug. 1 Siesta Key Association (SKA) meeting, President Catherine Luckner announced that one of the nonprofit’s members had proposed an initiative to lower the Siesta Village speed limit from 20 mph to 15 mph. The member had likened the Village to Southside Village on Osprey Avenue in the city of Sarasota, where the speed limit is 15 mph.

During the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce’s Aug. 21 quarterly meeting, members heard from a county representative that lowering the speed limit in the Village is not feasible.

Lisa Cece, special district coordinator for the county, pointed out that discussion had arisen recently about speed limits being too high in and around the Village. “Twenty is the lowest we’re going to post [in the Village],” she said. The county made an exception when it agreed to that, she pointed out, because 25 mph is the lowest allowable speed limit anywhere else in the county.

Cece indicated that if the county were to drop the Village speed limit further, that would open up the door to demands for similar action in other communities.

Surrounding the Village, she continued, the speed limit is 25 mph in the Miramar District and 30 mph on the other side streets.

If anyone is interested in a speed limit lower than 30 mph on those neighboring streets, Cece said, the person may contact staff assigned to the county’s Traffic Advisory Council and take the necessary steps to file a petition for that board’s consideration.

Cece further noted that she recently asked the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office to increase its patrols because of speeding on the Key.

Chamber director Mark Smith joked that offseason is “when you can make the time.”

During the height of tourist season, he implied, traffic congestion generally eliminates opportunities for drivers to speed.

Midnight Pass public parking lot plans proceeding

A graphic included with the Sept. 26 Neighborhood Workshop materials shows plans for the property at 6647 S. Midnight Pass Road. Image courtesy Sarasota County

On Sept. 26, Sarasota County staff will host a Neighborhood workshop on the proposal to transform part of the county property at 6647 S. Midnight Pass Road into a public parking lot.

The event is scheduled from 6 to 7 p.m. that evening at St. Boniface Episcopal Church, which is located at 5615 Midnight Pass Road.

Every property owner within 750 feet of the parcel should receive formal notification of the meeting, the workshop request form notes.

Regular readers will remember that the County Commission has discussed that South Midnight Pass Road site on a number of occasions as it has sought ways to ameliorate parking problems and traffic congestion on the Key. Commissioner Alan Maio has talked of the potential for the site to accommodate passengers for the Siesta Key Breeze trolley, for example, and Commissioner Nancy Detert at one point suggested staff look into erecting a parking deck there.

The property is between Crescent Plaza and Sea Winds Condominiums.

A building on the eastern part of the site hides a Public Utilities Department water tank.

According to graphics accompanying the calendar item on the county Planning and Development Services Department webpages, the parcel comprises 1.86 acres, with open space accounting for 6,810 square feet. A wetland area on the rear of the property totals 9,775 square feet, the graphic adds.

The parking area would take up 15,860 square feet, the graphic notes, while landscaping would encompass another 5,980 square feet.

For more information about the Neighborhood Workshop, the county calendar item says a person may contact Ken Stokes at 861-0864 or email him at

In preliminary paperwork county staff filed this year, the timeline called for the parking lot project to begin in July, with completion in October. No doubt, more information about the construction schedule will be available at the workshop.

Please do not trim the county’s landscaping plants

Muhly grass grows next to the paid parking sign by a driveway for the building at 5011 Ocean Blvd. Rachel Hackney photo

Another issue that arose during the Chamber’s Aug. 21 quarterly meeting is an uptick in problems county staff has encountered with the county’s landscaping in Siesta Village.

Lisa Cece, the special district coordinator for the county who serves as the liaison between the county and the Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp., explained that she was working on a letter for all the property owners in the Village’s Public Improvement District. It would remind them, she said, of do’s and don’ts.

For one example, she pointed out, a new property owner recently had workers trimming muhly grass in the county landscaping on the northern end of the Village. “[It] looks a bit more like Bart Simpson right now,” she said, referring to the Simpsonscartoon character who has a well-known hairstyle. “But it’s growing back rapidly.”

60 years on

A poster offers details about the Oct. 4 Chamber sock hop. Image courtesy Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce

On Friday, Oct. 4, from 5 to 9 p.m. at Gilligan’s Island Bar & Grill, the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce will celebrate its 60th anniversary.

A Chamber announcement points out that on July 20, 1959, Siesta Key Vacations officially amended its charter and renamed itself the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce.

The event at Gilligan’s will be a sock hop, reminiscent of the era in which the chamber was established, Kara Altice-Montes of Altez Vacations announced during the Aug. 21 quarterly Chamber meeting for members. Along with music and dancing, the celebration will feature food, a DJ and specialty drinks, which will be “priced appropriately” in accord with the late ’50s theme, she added.

This is not just an event for Chamber members, Altice-Montes stressed. Members of the public will be welcome.

“There will be advance tickets,” she said.

The September Chamber newsletter says the ticket price is $19.59. To register for the sock hop, visit the webpage on the Chamber’s website.

In addition to the party at Gilligan’s, the Chamber is selling a limited number of commemorative ornaments it commissioned.

Holding one up for the Aug. 21 meeting attendees, Executive Director Ann Frescura noted that the 3D design depicts the iconic Siesta Beach lifeguard stand.

The ornaments are $30 each, plus shipping, if applicable, a Chamber news release says. Each comes with descriptive text, the release adds. To purchase one, a person may click here, or stop by the Chamber office, which is located at 5114 Ocean Blvd., in Davidson Plaza.

This is the commemorative ornament for the Siesta Chamber’s 60th anniversary. Image courtesy Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce

Volunteers sought for 10th edition of Crystal Classic

With tens of thousands of attendees, the Siesta Key Crystal Classic Master Sand Sculpting Festival functions so smoothly because of the multitude of people who offer to help out each year, Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce leaders have pointed out on numerous occasions.

For the 10th anniversary event in November, the Chamber needs approximately 300 volunteers, Chamber Executive Director Ann Frescura announced at the Aug. 21 quarterly meeting for members.

About 60,000 visitors are expected this time, a Chamber newsletter says.

A variety of shifts and duties are available, the newsletter points out.

People take in the array of items in the Vendor Village next to the sand-sculpting area in 2016. Image courtesy of the Crystal Classic

Already, the Vendor Village is sold out for this year’s Crystal Classic, Chamber Director Mark Smith noted. And instead of food being available at tents, he continued, the event will feature food trailers. Those spots are sold out, too, he said.

The Crystal Classic is set for Nov. 15-18, Frescura added. “It’s a week later,” she explained, because of the scheduling that accommodates the artists, who follow an event circuit.

The sculptors will represent six different counties, Smith pointed out, underscoring the international flavor of the competition.

Anyone who would like to volunteer may click here and indicate his or her area of interest and days available. A person also may contact Mia Leone, volunteer coordinator, at 349-3800, or email for more information.

For details about the 10thSiesta Key Crystal Classic, visit