Siesta Seen

Siesta Chamber members celebrate winners of annual awards; Siesta Key Association working hard to raise money for appeal; Chamber announces dates for quarterly member meetings; University of Florida students to present organ concert at Siesta Key Chapel; Condo Council members learn about legislation affecting associations; and updates on county issues to be focus of Feb. 18 Condo Council meeting

Ann Frescura congratulates Vern Johnson during the Siesta Chamber dinner. Photo courtesy of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce

The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce honored a number of people during its Annual Awards Dinner, which was held on Jan. 30 at Marina Jack in Sarasota.

Among those recognized was Vern Johnson, who received the Sharon Cunningham Visitor Center Volunteer of the Year Award for his 20 years of service.

To say Johnson’s face is familiar to Chamber visitors is an understatement, as this reporter can attest. His voice also has welcomed many a caller to the Chamber over the past couple of decades.

Outgoing Siesta Chamber Chair Eric Fleming (center) congratulates Robert and Catherine Luckner. Photo courtesy of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce

Another big honor — Volunteers of the Year — went to a married couple, Robert and Catherine Luckner, who both are on the board of the Siesta Key Association (SKA). Catherine, who is president, and Robert Luckner have worked over the past seven years to try to prevent the removal of sand from Big Sarasota Pass to renourish about 1.56 miles of South Lido Key Beach.

The other winners were as follows:

  • Gidget’s Coastal Provisions — Small Business of the Year. Gidget’s, which stands on Ocean Boulevard, is owned by Brian and Trudy Wigelsworth.
  • John Dooley — Shining Star Award. Dooley is a member of the staff of the Law Offices of Eric C. Fleming. Traditionally, the Shining Star Award has been presented to an exceptional employee nominated by his or her employer, or an employer nominated by one or more of their employees.
  • Cindy Turner, manager of the Beaches and Water Access Division of the Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department (PRNR) — Community Partner.
Brian Wigelsworth (left) and Trudy Wigelsworth accept their award from Eric Fleming. Photo courtesy of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce

Ann Frescura, executive director of the Chamber, told The Sarasota News Leader during a Feb. 3 telephone interview that the Community Partner Award this year was planned to recognize Turner individually for all of her assistance with major Chamber events, as well as the entire Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department. “It really is more of a team effort,” Frescura said of the help the Chamber receives from county staff.

Jonathan Poyner, program coordinator with PRNR, joined Turner in accepting the award.

Frescura noted that Poyner received an award himself “a few years ago” from the Chamber.

Eric Fleming (right) congratulates Steve Cavanaugh. Photo courtesy of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce

“We have three of the larger events in the area,” she continued, referring to the July Fourth fireworks show and the Siesta Key Crystal Classic International Sand Sculpting Festival — both of which are held at Siesta Public Beach — and the annual Easter Egg Hunt, which has been held at Turtle Beach Park in recent years. The 2020 children’s event is scheduled at the same venue on April 11.

“They all require that county partnership [to succeed],” Frescura added of those major, annual Chamber activities.

  • Steve Cavanaugh of Tropical Sands Accommodations/RE/MAX Tropical Sands — Business Person of the Year.
  • Hope McCampbell-Wenk — Siesta Selfless Award.
  • Service & Leadership Award — Maria Bankemper, who has chaired the Siesta Key Crystal Classic International Sand Sculpting Festival for most of its existence. Bankemper also is co-owner of the Best Western Plus Siesta Key Gateway Hotel, which is located at 6600 S. Tamiami Trail.

The 2020 board officers are as follows: Chair — Mason Tush of CB’s Saltwater Outfitters; Immediate Past Chair — Eric Fleming of the Law Offices of Eric Fleming P.A.: Chair-Elect — Steve Cavanaughof Tropical Sands Accommodations/

RE/MAX Tropical Sands; Treasurer — Kara Altice-Montes of Altez Vacations; and Secretary — Gabe Hartman of, The Inn on Siesta Key.

Big bills to pay

About four weeks before the nonprofit’s initial brief was due at the Second District Court of Appeal, in its Big Sarasota Pass legal case, the Siesta Key Association (SKA) was facing a big bill, Director Robert Luckner told members on Jan. 9.

“Boy, fighting City Hall’s not easy,” Luckner said.

Robert Luckner addresses the SKA audience on July 6, 2017, discussing the potential for increased wave energy on the north end of Siesta as a result of the dredging of Big Pass. File photo

Last fall, he reminded the approximately 80 audience members, he had made it plain that the nonprofit would need a considerable amount of money to continue its litigation to try to force the City of Sarasota to obtain permission from Sarasota County to remove up to 1.3 million cubic yards of sand from Big Pass to renourish about 1.56 miles of South Lido Key Beach.

In November and December 2019, Luckner continued, members came through, contributing $20,000.

Nonetheless, Luckner noted, that was about half the total the SKA expects it will need for its Second District Court of Appeal case.

Several years ago, the SKA board established the Siesta Key Environmental Defense Fund, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Contributions to that fund are tax-deductible. Directors have encouraged members to make use of that opportunity to support the SKA’s work on their behalf.

Chamber announces dates for member meetings

Outgoing Siesta Chamber Chair Eric Fleming (left) hands over the gavel to incoming Chair Mason Tush during the organization’s annual Awards Dinner in January. Photo courtesy of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce

Regular readers will recall that in January, we reported that Ann Frescura, executive director of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, was working with outgoing board Chair Eric Fleming and incoming Chair Mason Tush to revise the schedule for the Chamber’s quarterly meetings for members.

In its February newsletter, the Chamber staff has included those dates on its 2020 Calendar of Events. The first quarterly meeting is set for March 18; the second will be on June 17; the third, on Sept. 16; and the fourth, on Dec. 16.

Last year, the Chamber board relocated the meetings to the Daiquiri Deck Raw Bar in Siesta Village. However, Frescura told the News Leaderthis week that the decision has been made to hold the sessions at the newer Daiquiri Deck, located on Stickney Point Road.

The board will conduct a brief meeting first on the quarterly meeting dates, beginning at 8:30 a.m.; then, the session for members will begin about 9 a.m., Frescura added.

University of Florida students to perform at Siesta Key Chapel on Feb. 22

These are the University of Florida students and their professor, Laura Ellis (left). Contributed photo

On Saturday, Feb. 22, at 1:30 p.m., the Siesta Key Chapel Arts Series will feature University of Florida students in a concert on the chapel’s 2017 Schantz pipe organ, organizers have announced.

The members of the group are taught by Laura Ellis, professor of organ at the University of Florida, a news release explains.

The students will perform pieces in their repertoires, the release notes.

The Sarasota Manatee Chapter of the American Guild of Organists is sponsoring the event, the release says.

The concert is open to the public, the release adds. Donations of $10 for the Chapel Arts Series will be accepted at the door, the release continues.

Siesta Key Chapel is located at 4615 Gleason Ave. on the northern part Siesta Key. For more information, call 349-1166.

Attorney offers lots of news for condominium associations

Dan Lobeck. File photo

On Jan. 14, Sarasota attorney Dan Lobeck updated Siesta Key Condominium Council (SKCC) members on actions the 2019 Florida Legislature took that pertain to condominium associations.

At the outset of the SKCC meeting, Lobeck — who is with the firm of Lobeck & Hanson — made it clear that he believedlast year’s legislative session “was especially light on association law amendments,” as noted in the SKCC’s minutes of the Jan. 14 meeting. Some of the highlights of the session, the minutes noted, are as follows:

  • The deadline for associations with buildings over 75 feet in height to complete the retrofitting of fire sprinklers has been pushed back to Jan. 1, 2024. In lieu of sprinklers, the law allows a condominium complex to have an Engineered Life Safety System (ELSS), Lobeck said. “If you don’t have sprinklers installed by that extended date, you have to have an ELSS in place,” the minutes reported. An ELSS must be prepared by an engineer experienced in fire and life safety issues, and it must have the approval of the county fire marshal, Lobeck explained. The system may include such features as smoke control equipment, the compartmentalization of sections of the building, and sprinklers in common areas.
  • In discussing assignment of benefits (AOB), Lobeck explained that this is a contract between an association and a contractor hired to undertake repairs. The association’s insurance benefits are assigned to the contractor, and the contractor agrees to accept the benefit for payment in full. The association has the right to rescind such contracts within 14 days from the date when work began, or within 30 days if the work has not started.

In addition, Lobeck said, some limits exist in regard to what a contractor can be charge during an emergency.

Assignment contracts cannot be pre-arranged, he added; “they must be arranged specific to the event.”

  • Online notarization via teleconferencing has been approved.
  • The smoking of medical marijuana has been approved. However, Lobeck emphasized, under the guidelines of the state’s tobacco legislation, boards can restrict all kinds of smoking in common areas, including the smoking of marijuana. “It is possible for boards to restrict smoking on patios and balconies if it is deemed that the smoke goes into other units’ space,” the minutes said.

Condominium associations also have explored the possibility of banning smoking throughout the premises, Lobeck noted.

All of these potential restrictions must be weighed against the duty to provide reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities. This requirement almost — by definition — applies to persons who qualify for medical marijuana, he pointed out, if they provide an appropriate certification to the association.

Lobeck also offered an outlook for potential legislation during the 2020 session, which began on Jan. 14, the minutes said.

  • In regard to short-term rentals — those for less than 30 days — Lobeck explained that, in practice, the county allows such rentals on Siesta Key at complexes where it has been a long continuing practice.

Further, county Code Enforcement staff cannot enforce the county ordinance on the basis of advertising alone. For example, he said, just providing a Code Enforcement officer a copy of an Airbnb advertisement for a Siesta condo is not sufficient. The county ordinance can be enforced only through the production of evidence of an illegal rental.

To get around the advertising issue, he continued, the County Commission approved an ordinance that prohibits advertising for short-term rentals in districts where such rentals are not allowed by county zoning regulations.

All the above does not limit the ability of associations to restrict short-term rentals.

  • Division arbitration may be eliminated in favor of compulsory mediation, he added.
  • Regarding term limits for association directors: Service prior to July 1, 2018 would not be counted in determining the length of a director’s service, if one bill that has been filed wins final approval.

During the question-and-answer session after his remarks, Lobeck tackled questions seeking more details. He offered the following answers, the minutes continued:

  • Certain types of conduct that might be offensive to residents, such as smoking (tobacco, marijuana), and activities with pets possibly could be challenged under the “nuisance” clauses in association documents. “Obviously, it would be very helpful if such conduct was specifically regulated in the condo [documents],” the minutes said.
  • Term limits also apply to developer directors.
  • Even if sprinklers have been installed, a condominium complex must have an ELSS in place by Jan. 1, 2024. “Of course,” Lobeck noted, the Legislature may elect to have that deadline extended.
  • Under current legislation, a director who has a conflict of interest must recuse himself or herself from voting on the applicable issue. Further, the director must absent himself or herself from the meeting (Florida Statutes 718.3027), though the director first may make a presentation about the activity at the heart of the conflict of interest if the director is a party to that activity.
  • Service animals: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) governs the rules for public accommodations, restaurants and transportation services. Such entities cannot demand to see certification from a licensed professional in regard to the animal. However, condominium complexes are subject to the regulations of the Federal Housing Authority (FHA), so their association boards can require documentation.

Additionally, service animals cannot be excluded from any place a disabled resident may go, such as a pool deck, but it can be excluded — when required by law — from the pool itself, for example.

Moreover, Lobeck said, an accommodation for an animal is for the disabled resident who owns the animal, not for anyone who may be keeping the animal in that person’s absence. ADA rules require establishments to take the initiative to accommodate disabilities, Lobeck stressed. The FHA requires condo associations to honor accommodation requests as received, he pointed out.

Lobeck cited lawsuits that had been filed to demand that websites accommodate the blind, for example, and provide wheelchair ramps. “Aggressive lawyers find these lawsuits to be lucrative sources of income,” he added, according to the minutes.

“Therapy (feel good) animals must be accommodated if a doctor or other qualified professional provides a certification that the resident has a disability as defined by law and that the animal will reduce the disability or its symptoms,” the minutes said.

  • Drone use can be prohibited or regulated by associations. As with other restrictions, such regulations should be included in the condominium documents or in rules adopted in accordance with those documents.
  • The beach belongs to the public up to the “historic high water line,” Lobeck pointed out.

Condo Council to present updates on county issues this month

Fire Chief Mike Regnier. File photo

The next session of the Condo Council will be held at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 18, at Siesta Key Chapel.

A consultant working with Sarasota County will discuss an ongoing study of transportation issues on the Key, while Nicole Rissler, director of the county’s Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department, will provide an update on The Legacy Trail, a Condo Council email blast says.

Other agenda items will focus on the 2019 island crime statistics recorded by the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, and an update from Sarasota County Fire Chief Michael Regnier on the status of the plans to replace Fire Station 13.

Additionally, Regnier is to provide his department’s 2019 report on Siesta incidents.