Siesta Seen

No hearing date yet for South Midnight Pass public parking lot proposal; Dallas-based company pays $2.4 million for Siesta Key Marina; 5228 Calle Menorca Special Exception petition headed to Planning Commission in February; FDOT to include public hearing comments on road swap in formal record; SKA makes a big request of the County Commission chair; Siesta Key Chapel will present two international artists in concert on Feb. 9; and St. Boniface’s Music Series will host a Broadway and cabaret star in late February

This is the most recent development concept plan for the public parking lot at 6647 S. Midnight Pass Road. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Sarasota County staff’s plans for a public parking lot on the former site of a Sheriff’s Office training building — located at 6647 S. Midnight Pass Road — remain under review, according to the county’s Planning and Development Department’s records.

A notation on an interactive county map that shows the site of each project under review says no dates have been set yet for the Planning Commission or the County Commission to address the Special Exception petition on which staff has been working since 2018.

A staff document submitted to Planning and Development on Dec. 11, 2019 explains that the Special Exception petition “involves changing the existing land use” of the property by “retrofitting the front parking lot area … to public parking lot use only.”

The facility would be free for public use, the document notes.

The 1.83-acre site fronts on South Midnight Pass Road, the document points out. The parking lot would involve “only the western 0.54 acres,” the document adds. A structure on the site contains a water tank; it is property of the county’s Public Utilities Department. The document says that a chain link fence, with gate, surrounds the area where that building stands.

During a Sept. 26, 2019 public workshop, county staff explained that the proposed design would add 29 parking spaces to the 14 already on the site; two of the new spaces would meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. Spaces also would be provided for bicycles and motorcycles.

Before the end of 2017, the Sheriff’s Office formally vacated this training center on the county property at 6647 S. Midnight Pass Road. Since then, the building has been demolished. File photo

“Potential users of the facility include the general public, beach visitors, [employees of area businesses and] local commercial patrons,” the December 2019 document says. The hours of use would be unrestricted, it continues; however, it points out that, as with the municipal lot in Siesta Village, no overnight parking of recreational vehicles would be allowed.

During a Sept. 26, 2019 Neighborhood Workshop, the document added, “several neighboring citizens” suggested the parking lot be open only from dawn to dusk, or a similar time frame.

Part of staff’s plan is to add “internal parking signage,” including possible wayfinding signs directing visitors to the two nearest public beach access points — Access 12, which is slightly north of the site, and Access 13, which is south of the property.

Further, staff proposes a pickup/drop-off point for the Siesta Key Breeze trolley “at or near the parking lot entrance.”

Commissioner Alan Maio has suggested that in discussions of the potential uses of the parcel.

Siesta Key Marina sold to nation’s largest marina company

This photo of Siesta Key Marina was featured on the Colliers International website. Image from Colliers International

Safe Harbor Marinas, which calls itself “the largest owner and operator of marinas in the United States,” formally announced this week that it purchased the Siesta Key Marina, located at 1265 Old Stickney Point Road on approximately 1.7 acres.

The new name of the facility is Safe Harbor Siesta Key, a news release pointed out. It is the area’s only full-service marina, the Safe Harbor Siesta Key website notes. (As of a Sarasota News Leader check on the evening of Jan. 29, the website continued to carry the name Siesta Key Marina.)

Safe Harbors paid $2,422,100 on Dec. 6, 2019 for the property, Sarasota County Property Appraiser Office records show. In 2019, the total market value of the land and buildings was $2,722,900, the Property Appraiser’s Office says.

Safe Harbor is based in Dallas. The Siesta property is its 12th in Florida, according to a map on its website.

Colliers International Leisure Property Advisors brokered the sale, according to a news release that firm issued this week. Siesta Key Marina had been owned since October 2016 by Andy Eggebrecht, Maurice Dentici and their families, through a limited liability company called MADD Marine Holdings, Florida Division of Corporations records note. The families paid $2.7 million for the parcel, Sarasota County Property Appraiser Office records also show.

An aerial map shows the marina property on Old Stickney Point Road, outlined in red. Image courtesy Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office

The Eggebrechts and Denticis will continue to operate the Spearfish Grill restaurant — which opened in March 2018 — and the marina’s boat tour service, leasing those spaces from Safe Harbor, according to the Colliers International news release.

“In the marina business, we continue to see the consolidation of family-owned facilities to larger operators like Safe Harbor,” Matt Putnam, managing director of Colliers International, said in the news release. “It’s not uncommon because large operators can run facilities more efficiently with economies of scale,” he added in the release.

Given the negative national publicity about red tide in 2018 and early 2019, marinas on the Gulf Coast suffered financially, Dan Grovatt, director of Collier’s International, pointed out in the release. That situation kept marina operators from looking to purchase properties along the Gulf Coast, he noted in the release. However, that hesitancy has dissipated, Grovatt added.

Promotional materials for Siesta Key Marina, featured on the Colliers International website, listed the following investment highlights: “Irreplaceable Southwest Florida Location,” “Tremendous In-Place Cash Flow,” approximately 250 rentable units, “Situated Within A High-Growth [metropolitan statistical area],” and “Rare Acquisition Opportunity.”

This map shows all the Safe Harbor marinas in Florida, as of this week. Image from the Safe Harbors website

Safe Harbor Siesta Key’s website says it has 243 storage racks and 22 boats for rent. The business also offers “Master Yamaha Techs,” fuel and bait, and snacks and beverages, the website adds, along with the SpearFish Grill and a waterfront tiki bar on site.

The marina opened in 1961, the website notes.

Second Special Exception petition headed for a hearing

Regular readers may recall that a Special Exception petition also has been filed with county Planning and Development Services Department staff regarding a house located at 5228 Calle Menorca.

The applicant hopes to obtain county approval for the property to be classified as “transient accommodations,” so he can rent it out for periods of less than 30 days.

That petition is scheduled to be heard by the Planning Commission on Feb. 20, a notation on the county’s interactive Planning and Development Services map says.

An aerial map shows the house at 5228 Calle Menorca, behind the Siesta Beach Plaza. Image from Google Maps

The owners of the property are Max Nuebler Jr. and Paula J. Nuebler, who bought it in August 1985, county Property Appraiser Office records show.

The market value of the parcel in 2019 was $575,839, the records note.

A Nov. 26, 2019 letter to county Planning and Development Services Department staff from attorney G. Matthew Brockway, with the Icard Merrill firm in Sarasota, identifies the applicant as Chad Waites. A copy of a document accompanying the letter — a Michael Saunders & Co. contract for sale and purchase — says Waites plans to buy the property, contingent upon county approval of the Special Exception. Waites signed the form on Feb. 19, 2019.

Brockway noted in his letter that the parcel comprises only about 0.10 acres. Located on the west side of Calle Menorca, it is surrounded by commercial properties, he added.

The structure contains two dwelling units, which are rented for periods of 30 days or longer, Brockway pointed out.

This is the draft Binding Development Concept Plan for the transient accommodations at 5228 Calle Menorca. Image courtesy Sarasota County

“While cosmetic and interior improvements to the existing building are contemplated in connection with the proposed Special Exception,” he continued, “no material changes or improvements will be made to the Property.”
Waites “contemplates removing the kitchens of the existing dwelling units, including 220[-volt] electrical service to the kitchens, prior to commencement of rentals for periods of less than [30 days,” Brockway added. “No site improvements or alterations are required or contemplated …”

The protocol for road swap hearing comments

Early this month, the News Leader asked Brian Rick, spokesman for District One of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), what protocol the department would follow in the aftermath of a Dec. 11, 2019 public hearing on the planned swap of Siesta roads to the state later this year.

At the time — right after the holidays — Rick was unable to get any answers, he responded, because the people who could answer that question were not in the office.

On Jan. 28, he reported that he finally had an answer about the handling of the formal remarks made during the hearing at Siesta Key Chapel, as well as those submitted to District One staff via email.

This map shows the portions of Siesta roads that will become responsibility of Sarasota County. Image courtesy Sarasota County

“All the comments are gathered into a technical memo for public records request,” Rick wrote in a Jan. 28 email. “The memo is also a part of the transfer agreement package submitted to the district secretary and Central Office in Tallahassee. There is no dedicated website for this agreement.”

The County Commission approved the final road swap document in October 2019. In exchange for the state’s assuming authority for River Road in South County, Sarasota County will take control of Stickney Point Road west of U.S. 41; Midnight Pass Road north of the Stickney Point Road intersection; Higel Avenue; Siesta Drive west of Osprey Avenue; Bay Road; and a section of Osprey Avenue south of Siesta Drive.

The Siesta roads are expected to be transferred to the county in September.

SKA seeking county support in appeal of Big Pass case

With the deadline almost exactly two weeks away — Feb. 13 — for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to open bids on its Lido Key Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction Project, a director of the Siesta Key Association (SKA) has sought help from the chair of the County Commission.

Specifically, Robert Luckner — whose wife, Catherine, is president of the SKA — has asked Chair Michael Moran to have the county file what is known as an amicus curiae — or “friend of the court” — brief in support of an appeals court case the SKA is pursuing.

In March 2017, the SKA filed a complaint against the City of Sarasota in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court in an effort to prevent the removal of sand from Big Sarasota Pass to widen the critically eroded beach on South Lido Key. In September 2019, a Circuit Court judge in Sarasota ruled that the city had followed all the applicable procedures to carry out the project in conjunction with the USACE. The SKA has appealed that ruling, with its initial brief due Feb. 6 at Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal.

On Jan. 27, Luckner pointed out in an email to Moran that SKA leaders had been working with Assistant County Administrator Brad Johnson over the past month on issues related to the nonprofit’s court case.

Condominium towers and part of Ted Sperling Park are visible across Big Sarasota Pass on the evening of Nov. 29, 2019. Rachel Hackney photo

“As you may know,” Luckner continued, “SKA has been litigating with the City [of Sarasota] to try to enforce the County’s WNCA [Water and Navigation Control Authority] ordinance. That ordinance provides that a WNCA Major Work Permit is required to dredge new areas of Big Sarasota Pass (54-653(4)(a)) …”

Luckner was citing a specific county regulation to make his point.

Additionally, Luckner wrote, county administrative approval is necessary for any seagrass mitigation “off-site or outside the County (54-656-(7)(d)).” The USACE has acknowledged the potential for destruction of seagrass during the dredging of Big Pass. As a result, the City of Sarasota won agreement to undertake a seagrass mitigation project in Manatee County.

“The [Lido] project dredging is not maintenance or subject to any exemptions and is primarily outside the City Limits,” Luckner wrote, with emphasis.

A graphic shows details about Perico Preserve and Big Pass in the context of the seagrass mitigation plans for the Lido Renourishment Project. This was included in the backup agenda material for the City Commission in advance of its May 20, 2019 meeting. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

The SKA has argued for years in its lawsuit against the City of Sarasota that the city needs county permission to remove sand from Big Pass.

Luckner added in his email to Chair Moran, “SKA also believes that a WNCA review process/permit is the better option to protect Ted Sperling Park and Big Pass from adverse impacts by the City’s project. It would eliminate a need to bring future legal action under [Florida Statute] 403.412 or develop a contract. WNCA permit requirements and enforcement provisions would be entirely within the County’s control.”

Moreover, Luckner wrote, the outcome of such a review and permitting process would obviate any future debate over the provisions of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) permit for the Lido initiative.

This is the exhibit Deputy City Manager Marlon Brown included with a June 2019 letter to the county, seeking permission for the USACE contractor to use Sperling Park for staging. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Last year, commissioners debated whether to allow a USACE contractor to use part of Ted Sperling Park — which the county owns on South Lido — as a staging area for the beach renourishment project. Commissioner Charles Hines voiced reservations about whether the state permit provided sufficient protection to the county if damage resulted to the park from the renourishment project, which includes plans for construction of two groins on South Lido. Those structures have been designed to try to hold sand in place between subsequent renourishments.

Finally, on Dec. 10, 2019, the commissioners voted 4-1 — with Moran in the minority — to authorize County Administrator Jonathan Lewis to execute an agreement with city staff to cover details of the staging in the park. As of early this week, the final draft of that agreement remained under attorney review, Jan Thornburg, senior communications manager with the City of Sarasota, told The SarasotaNews Leader. (See the related story in this issue.)

“Should SKA fail in its upcoming 2/6/2020 appeal of the 12th Circuit decision,” Luckner wrote in his email to Moran, “we reminded [Assistant County Administrator] Brad [Johnson] that the County has the unilateral right/obligation to stop the [city’s] work until it obtains the contractual protections requested and any reasonable mitigation steps (54-659(1)(b)). In short, you would be authorizing the local necessary approvals by using the WNCA permit process.”

“The FDEP permit does not absolve the City and Corps of obtaining required local permits,” Luckner stressed. “However, the County needs first to assert those permit requirements. We suggest that the County can state its requirements via a Friend of the Court brief to the 2nd State Court of Appeals for Case 2D19-3833. SKA offers to assist in the drafting of a Friend of the Court brief for your use.

“This Brief would be due no later than 2/16/2020,” Luckner added.

As of late in the afternoon of Jan. 28, no response had been sent to Luckner, the county’s Public Records staff told the News Leader.

International artists to present Feb. 9 concert

Oleksii Ivanchenko. Contributed photo

At 4 p.m. on Feb. 9, the Siesta Key Chapel Arts Series will present international artists Angela Massey (flute) and pianist Oleksii Ivanchenko, leaders of the series have announced.

The program will feature the Undine Sonataby Reinecke, based on the famous love story The Little Mermaid, and works by Beethoven and other composers, a news release says.

A donation of $10 per person is requested at the door.

Siesta Key Chapel is located at 4615 Gleason Ave., on the northern end of the island. For more details, visit

Award-winning cabaret singer to perform at St. Boniface

On Friday, Feb. 21, St. Boniface Episcopal Church will present Broadway and cabaret star Jeff Harnar in a concert, the church has announced.

The event will begin at 7:30 p.m., following a 6:30 p.m. cocktail hour, a news release says. Free parking is available on the church property, located at5615 Midnight Pass Road.

Tickets are $30 online or at door, the release says.

For $40, a person may purchase a ticket for the Harnar concert and a ticket to Nunsense the Musical, which the church will present on March 13 and March 14, the release adds.

All tickets include two free drink vouchers redeemable from 6:30 to 7:15 p.m., the release notes.

Tickets are available online at

Jeff Harnar. Contributed photo

Harnar’s performance will focus on what is called The 1959 Broadway Songbook, the release explains. It will be “a musical collage” of hits from the 21 musicals playing in New York in 1959, the release says. Among those shows were Gypsy, The Sound of Music, Fiorello, West Side StoryMy Fair Lady, The Music Man, Flower Drum Song, Bells are Ringing, and Once Upon a Mattress, the release points out. The show is a “tribute to what some have called the twilight of The Golden Age of Broadway,” the release adds. The songwriters represented will be Jule Styne, Stephen Sondheim, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Harold Arlen and Yip Harburgh, Leonard Bernstein, Comeden and Green, and Lerner and Loewe.

Jeff Harnar Sings the 1959 Songbook will be presented by the Friends of Music at St Boniface as part of the church’s Music Series for 2019-2020.

Harnar has won multiple MAC Awards, Bistro and BroadwayWorld Cabaret awards, as well as the Noel Coward Foundation Cabaret Award, the release says. For more details, visit