Siesta Seen

Kompothecras pays $2.5 million for former Bank of America property; Shay honored for Maintenance Corp. service; county’s 2019 Citizen Opinion Survey makes note of traffic problems on the Key; Thomas talks about wildlife rescues; Condo Council seeking board members; SKA offers wealth of contact information on website; and delay in Siesta Promenade hearing explained

Gary Kompothecras addresses the County Commission on April 11, 2018. File phot

Gary Kompothecras, the Siesta chiropractor and businessman known for his 1-800-ASK-GARY medical and legal referral service, has indeed bought the former Bank of America branch building located at 1237 Stickney Point Road.

During the summer, Kompothecras told the Siesta Sand publication that that was his intent. After word spread last year that the bank was shuttering the branch, rumors began flying that Kompothecras would be the most likely person to try to acquire the property. After all, he hired an attorney and a development consultant in late 2016 as he began working on plans for a boutique hotel on Old Stickney Point Road, eventually acknowledging that the site of the former Fandango Café was the location he had in mind.

A Sarasota News Leader search of Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office records this week found that Kompothecras paid $2,526,100 for the former bank branch in late August.

This year, the Property Appraiser’s Office staff put the total taxable value of the property at $1,538,700. The value of the land itself is $1,477,100, the record says. Just a year earlier, the value of the land was put at $860,100.

The zoning is Commercial Intensive. The 25,350-square-foot parcel stands between CB’s Saltwater Outfitters and the south Siesta Daiquiri Deck. The rear of the property is across from the land where Fandango Café was located. The deteriorating remains of the restaurant were demolished months ago.

The Property Appraiser’s website lists the use of the 1237 Stickney Point Road parcel as being “in Transition.”

The former Bank of America property is west of the original CB’s Saltwater Outfitters building on Stickney Point Road. File photo

The actual entity listed as the owner of the former Bank of America property is Siesta Key Parking LLC, whose registered agent is Vincent Payne at 4054 Sawyer Road in Sarasota. The limited liability company was established in late June, Florida Division of Corporations records show.

Payne is listed as the registered agent for about 40 limited liability companies, according to the Division of Corporations records. Among them is Kompo Family Company LLC, whose manager is Gary Kompothecras, with the same Sawyer Road address as Payne.

An aerial map shows the property at 1237 Stickney Point Road outlined in red. It is north of the former Fandango Cafe site, which is located on Old Stickney Point Road, adjacent to a storage company building and Clayton’s Siesta Grille. Image courtesy Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office

An ‘umpteenth retirement’

On Aug. 21, when the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce conducted its latest quarterly meeting for members, Michael Shay, manager of the Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp., announced that that would be his last meeting in that capacity.

“My contract ends Sept. 30,” he said. “I’m retiring for the umpteenth time.”

Sept. 30 is the end of the county’s fiscal year.

Michael Shay. File photo

Shay had held the Maintenance Corp. position for close to five years. The corporation represents all of the owners of property in the Siesta Key Village Public Improvement District, who pay annual assessments to Sarasota County for the upkeep of the district, which — essentially — is Siesta Village.

After he made his Aug. 21 announcement, Lisa Cece, special district coordinator for the county — who serves as the liaison to the Maintenance Corp. — said she wanted to thank Shay “for the terrific job he has done for the Village and Siesta Key.” Applause rang out in the Daiquiri Deck Raw Bar, where the meeting was taking place.

Shay not only handled issues in the Village, Cece continued, but he also took on the responsibility, for example, of contacting Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL) when he saw streetlights no longer shining. (Shay was known for his early-morning walks through the Village, which enabled him to get a good look at which streetlights were working and which were not.)

“Thank you so much, Michael,” Cece told him. “You’re my eyes and ears out here. There’s always something going on,” she added, and Sheriff’s Office reports do not always get filed about the incidents that occur.

Over the years, Shay has dealt with his share of traffic accidents taking out Village signage, plants and bollards, for just a few examples.

In conjunction with the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce’s 60th anniversary Sock Hop on Oct. 4 at Gilligan’s Island Bar & Grill, members and guests took another opportunity to thank Shay for his years of work. Shay and his wife, Maria, were special guests at the event.

In an email blast, Chamber leaders pointed out that Shay officially was hired as maintenance manager on Jan. 15, 2015. “We want to thank him for his time, diligence and dedication to make the Village and Siesta Key a better place for all to enjoy!” the email blast said. “Congratulate him in person at the party.”

More public recognition of island traffic problems

In late September, when the County Commission heard a presentation about the 2019 Citizen Opinion Survey — an annual project conducted at the county’s behest — one of the project team members noted that the 800 respondents were asked, “In your opinion, what is the most important issue facing Sarasota County today?” The answer for 9% was “Traffic/transportation.”

The project team members then asked whether the respondents citing that issue found certain roads or locations more problematic than others.

As the News Leader reported at the time, 28% named U.S. 41 as the focus of frustrations. However, a graphic showing the breakdown of the answers listed “Beach Road” as winning attention from 3% of the respondents.

This graphic provides more details about the transportation and infrastructure responses in the 2019 Citizen Opinion Survey. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Beach Road did come in last, in terms of those answers, based on the graphic in the PowerPoint presentation shown to the board on Sept. 24. Still, the citation was a figurative exclamation point on statements the commissioners have been hearing with increasing frequency over the past couple of years.

In comparison, Interstate 75 was at the 10% mark, with “Multiple Locations” at 14% and “Everywhere/No specific location tied with “Other” at 17%.

A passion for helping wildlife

Long-time members of the Siesta Key Association (SKA) may recall that, years ago, Dave Thomas often asked for help from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office to prevent boaters from endangering manatees that routinely swam the island’s canals.

On Oct. 3, members learned of a new passion for Thomas: helping sick and injured birds.

Thomas was the person who brought up the topic of laughing gulls that had been found suffering from some type of poisoning. Indeed, he knew many details because he had been taking victims to Save Our Seabirds, the nonprofit rescue and rehabilitation facility and education center on City Island, near Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium.

SKA President Catherine Luckner pointed out that Thomas had become certified in the rescue efforts.

She also noted that the trip from Siesta to Save Our Seabirds is not a short one.

“It’s about 2 gallons [of gas] a bird,” Thomas acknowledged with a laugh, thanks to his new car, he added. “It used to be 3 gallons a bird.”

Dave Thomas awaits the start of an SKA meeting in 2016. File photo

On Oct. 9, Thomas spoke on the phone with the News Leader about his training for this new endeavor, as well as some of his adventures in the field.

He attended a training seminar at Save Our Seabirds, he explained, during which attendees learned, over a period of several hours, how to handle birds.

“People like Jonathan [Hande] are very good about explaining and giving us helpful tips,” Thomas said, referring to the senior hospital technician at the nonprofit.

The top bird rescuer for the organization conducts a seminar about once a year, Thomas explained. That person provides handouts to the attendees, as well as equipment.

How much a graduate ends up helping out afterward, Thomas added, is a matter of “how far you’re willing to drive and how deep you’re willing to wade. … It can be a little harrowing at times.”

Then Thomas told the News Leader, “I almost drowned once. … I got stuck in a slough in a residential area …”

The resident whose call led him to the scene, Thomas said, was a student, so the resident was unable to stay there and potentially offer assistance. “Normally, you have someone who’s hanging around.”

The focus of Thomas’ efforts that day was a seagull with an injured wing.

After Thomas netted the gull, “The bottom went from sand to nothing, just the mush that accumulates [from years of dead leaves and other matter in the canal].”

“It was like quicksand,” Thomas added. “Suddenly, I was up to my chest in water … and I was totally alone.”

He was about 20 feet from the shore, he said. Nobody seemed to be close by he added. The incident happened during the middle of a day.

“It took me 20 to 25 minutes to move a few inches.”

Finally, he said, he used the long handle on the net to poke around on the bottom, and he found a broken tree branch. That branch enabled him to get sufficient leverage to relocate to an area with more solid footing. “I was able to finally wiggle my way out.”

Asked about the fate of the gull, Thomas responded, “I rescued the bird.”

That incident taught him to include rope as part of his gear, along with other safety devices.

“We share that type of information at the [Save Our Seabirds] seminars,” he pointed out of the experience.

Save Our Seabirds welcomes visitors. Image from the nonprofit’s website

Along with a cage, gloves and rubber boats, he continued, he also has learned to carry with him towels and a change of clothes.

When the News Leader interviewed Rachel Pettit, avian hospital technician, about the sick gulls on Siesta, the News Leadernoted that Thomas was the person who had alerted the SKA members to the situation.

“He’s an angel,” Pettit said.

Condo Council seeking board members

The Siesta Key Condominium Council is seeking new board members.

“We advocate for issues of a general nature that impact our 90 or so Condo members and provide [three to four] information Membership meetings per year,” the organization’s leaders wrote in a recent email blast.

Over the past year, the email continued, the Condo Council has been involved in the following issues: the Siesta Promenade proposal for the northwest quadrant of the U.S. 41/Stickney Point Road intersection; red tide; Save Our Siesta Sand 2’s efforts in federal court to try to stop the dredging of Big Sarasota Pass Dredging; and the plan for a hotel on Old Stickney Point Road. (See the item above.)

Condo Council President Frank Jurenka and Vice President Diane Erne listen to a presentation in January 2018. File photo

Informational meetings addressed red tide, insurance and legal issues for condominium associations, and Sarasota County projects that will have an impact on the Key. “In the prior year we covered Hurricane Preparedness,” the email said.

“We also sponsor the Annual Condo Christmas Lighting Contest and perform Membership Surveys for issues of concern,” the email continued.

“Our requirements are that you are a current Condo owner on Siesta Key and that you are a Condo Board Member or have served on a Condominium Board in the past and that you are willing to spend some time [in a volunteer capacity with the council].”

In addition to the membership meetings, the Condo Council holds one board meeting each month from October through April, the email noted.

“Send an email to the skcondocouncil@hotmail.com if you are interested and a Board member will be in contact with you,” the email concluded.

A wealth of contact information

People needing phone numbers and email addresses for a wide variety of people and places — in Sarasota County and the state — need look no further than the Siesta Key Association’s website, Director Joyce Kouba pointed out during the nonprofit’s Oct. 3 regular meeting.

Just click on “Contact” on the bar at the top of the homepage.

From organizations that assist with the rescue of injured animals, to Sarasota County commissioners, to other elected county officials, to the county’s Code Enforcement staff, to the Governor’s Office and offices of state and federal representatives, a wide array of information is available.

The Siesta Promenade hearing delayed a few days

For weeks, people interested in the lawsuit filed in January to try to stop the construction of Siesta Promenade had their calendars marked for Oct. 10, when oral arguments in that case were to be presented to 12th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Andrea McHugh.

However, because of a family situation, McHugh had to work with the parties to reschedule the hearing, the News Leader learned. On Oct. 9, the parties learned that the hearing would be moved from 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 10 to the morning of Columbus Day, Oct. 14.

The Judge Lynn N. Silvertooth Judicial Center is located on Ringling Boulevard in downtown Sarasota. File photo

After arriving at the Judge Lynn N. Silvertooth Judicial Center in downtown Sarasota shortly before 10 a.m. on Oct. 14, this reporter found she was not the only attendee who had had to search anxiously from level to level for a vacant space in the county’s parking garage, which is located at the intersection of School Avenue and Ringling Boulevard.

With the City of Sarasota’s Parking Division having installed parking pay stations on Ringling Boulevard during the early part of the summer, the garage appears to have become a more popular destination for people with reason to be in the county’s Judicial District. In fact, this reporter observed quite a few vacant metered parking places on her way from the garage to the courthouse.

Because of the change in hearing dates, some people who had planned to attend the proceeding could not do so, Sura Kochman of Pine Shores Estates, the plaintiff in the Siesta Promenade case, reported to friends as everyone waited for the courtroom doors to be unlocked.

Everyone who did make the effort to attend the hearing was able to find a seat, even with a couple having shown up after the arguments were underway.

Only about 35 seats are available for the public in the courtroom where Judge McHugh presides over her cases.

On a related note: At the outset of the Oct. 14 hearing, McHugh asked whether either side had made arrangements for a court reporter to be present, to take down an official record of the pleadings. Finally, a “No” could be heard in the courtroom, though this reporter was unable to identify the speaker.

During a hearing over which McHugh presided several months ago — when a court reporter was present — she told the parties that having a transcript from the court reporter would facilitate her ruling in that case.

An aerial map shows part of Pine Shores Estates next to the Siesta Promenade site. Image from Google Maps

After the Siesta Promenade hearing ended, McHugh announced that she would issue a written decision and then said the court would be “in recess.” A couple of the attendees, who were not accustomed to court procedures, indicated that they thought McHugh was going to rule later that day. This reporter told them that that was not how it would work.

Based on this reporter’s coverage of McHugh’s handling of other cases, it is difficult to predict when she will issue her opinion in the Siesta Promenade case.

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