New building approved for Crescent Towers property; Siesta Key Breeze resumes its service; serious crime at low levels in March and April; groundbreaking ceremony conducted for new Fire Station 13; all but two Oceane condominium units sold; no decision yet on when SunTrust/Truist branch will reopen in Siesta Village; Cosentino causes brief stir at County Commission meeting; a Siesta deputy promoted to sergeant; and snowy plovers battle flooding
Sarasota County Planning and Development Services staff has authorized the construction of a new, four-story condominium building at Crescent Towers, which is located at 1035 Seaside Drive on the southern portion of the Key.
That formal go-ahead was issued on May 4, Mark Loveridge, the county’s land development manager, told The Sarasota News Leader.
“Zoning was already in place for this site, so [the application] just went through Site and Development approval under permit No. 20-104154-DS,” Loveridge wrote in a June 9 email to the News Leader. No public hearings were required, he noted.
On Jan. 21, Weiqi Lin of Port and Coastal Consultants in Sarasota submitted plans for the project to Planning and Development Services. Lin was acting on behalf of David Lehrman, manager of 1035 SSD LLC, which officially is the developer.
Lehrman’s company bought the Crescent Towers property in November 2019, according to the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office. The selling price was $22,298,484, the record says.
The sale was “part of a consolidated transaction” through which 1035 SSD LLC acquired “all of the various property and cooperative share interests at Crescent Towers Apartments,” the deed notes.
The seller was the Christopher S. King Trust, whose address is 7929 Oak Grove Circle in Sarasota.
Crescent Towers’ website says the complex offers “roomy Studio Apartments, either located beachfront or poolside. Our ground floor and second-floor units have screened balconies and patios.
The older buildings will make way for the new one, Lehrman told the News Leader in a June 13 email. Construction is planned to start around November, he wrote, with anticipation the build-out will take 20 months.
The zoning of the site is Residential Multi-Family 3, under the aegis of the Siesta Key Overlay District (SKOD), Lin noted in the Jan. 21 materials submitted to the county. The new structure will stand 45 feet over two levels of parking, he added.
The proposed impervious area of 20,294 square feet, he continued, “is less than the 50% max allowed by SKOD zoning …”
The total area of the site is 107,483 square feet, or 2.477 acres, the materials said. Planner Joshua Law had noted in one exchange with Lin that the zoning allows for 13 units per acre; thus, the 32 units comply with the density requirements.
Further, Lin wrote that the planned open area would encompass 75,477 square feet, or 70% of the site, well above the SKOD minimum of 30%.
A total of 72 parking spaces will be created, with 64 of those designated for the 32 units and another seven for guest parking. Three handicapped parking spaces will be included in the total, Lin pointed out.
In regard to landscaping: A local street buffer standing 6 feet tall with 10% opacity “must be provided along Seaside Drive even though it is privately owned,” one county staff member wrote, with emphasis, in the documents. Further, 10-foot-wide buffers with 20% opacity will be required on the northern and southern property boundaries, the same staff member pointed out.
Trolley time again
On March 20, as Sarasota County staff was preparing to close all its public beach accesses the next day in an effort to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, the decision also was made to cancel the free Siesta Key Breeze trolley service.
That was seen as one means of discouraging people from trying visit the beach, a county document explains.
On June 16, the service finally resumed.
The trolley runs between Turtle Beach Park and Siesta Village.
Keeping the crime down
With Siesta Key Association (SKA) meetings have been put on hold through July because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Sgt. Arik Smith, leader of the Sheriff’s Office substation on the Key, has had no venue for monthly presentations of the crime stats.
Therefore, the News Leader contacted Kaitlyn R. Perez, community affairs director for the Sheriff’s Office, to ask about the March and April data.
Perez then asked the department’s crime analyst to run the stats, and Perez provided them to the News Leader.
During March, that report shows, the Sheriff’s Office received 497 calls for service, and 17 of those — or 3.4% — were Part 1 crimes. Those are the most serious, as classified by the FBI.
Two assaults, two auto thefts, one residential burglary, seven vehicle burglaries and five larceny/theft cases made up that total.
The highest number for any type of incident — 94 — reflected calls for service, the data show. Deputies also responded to 33 calls about noise disturbances and 26 reports of illegal parking.
For April, the stats appear to reflect Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “safer-at-home” order, which went into effect on April 3 and was to expire on April 30.
The Sheriff’s Office received only 271 calls for service on the Key in April, and only eight of those — 2.9% — involved Part 1 crimes. Six of those incidents were related to people breaking into vehicles.
During every public meeting this reporter has attended when Sgt. Smith has had an opportunity to speak, he has stressed that people should keep their vehicles locked and that they should either leave valuable items at home or in vacation accommodations, or make certain those items are stowed well out of sight.
Before Sgt. Smith, now-Lt. Paul Cernansky routinely offered the same recommendation when he was the substation leader.
The other two Part 1 crime incidents in April, the Sheriff’s Office report shows, were a residential burglary and a grand larceny.
Once again, the type of incident with the highest number of responses was “Officer Public Service. “The total in April was 55.
Another 21 illegal parking incidents were noted.
Commissioners applaud first responders and break ground for new Fire Station 13
Shortly before 11:30 a.m. on June 15, all five Sarasota County commissioners joined Fire Chief Michael Regnier in the ceremonial groundbreaking for the new $5.4-million Fire Station 13, which will stand next to Siesta Public Beach.
Along with Commission Chair Michael Moran and Commissioners Christian Ziegler and Alan Maio, Regnier also offered remarks to the socially distanced audience.
Ziegler pointed to the uniqueness of the station, in that it serves a No. 1 Beach in the United States. Stephen Leatherman, known as Dr. Beach for his annual Top 10 Beaches list, has accorded the highest honor to Siesta Public Beach twice in the past decade.
Not only are the firefighters and paramedics “expected to do a lot” in terms of their lifesaving work, Ziegler added, “but they’re also ambassadors for our community.”
All three commissioners offered praise for Regnier and for the approximately 550 men and women who serve in the Sarasota County Fire Department.
And Regnier took the opportunity to thank the Siesta Key Fire Rescue Advisory Council, which has provided numerous donations to the department over the years. Among them, he noted, is a custom emergency response vehicle that the nonprofit organization gave the Station 13 crew several years ago. It will be housed along with one fire truck and one rescue unit in the new, two-story facility, Regnier noted.
If all goes according to plan, Regnier said, it should take about a year to construct the 10,500-square-foot station. That facility has been designed to withstand a Category 4 hurricane, he added.
Two-thirds of Oceane units sold
With the Georgia-based developer of the Oceane complex — CG Oceane LLC — formally having made its Declaration of Condominium on Nov. 4, 2019, units have been selling, the News Leader found in a recent search of records kept by the Sarasota County Clerk of the Circuit Court and County Comptroller.
In its declaration, CG Oceane officially submitted the land “and all improvements erected or to be erected thereon … to the condominium form of ownership and use in the manner provided by the Condominium Act …” That act is detailed in Chapter 718 of the Florida Statutes, the declaration explains.
Located at 4740 Ocean Blvd., the solitary Oceane building faces Big Pass. It has three floors over a covered parking area, the declaration notes. Each of the six units will have a minimum of four bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms, the declaration adds.
“Time-share estates shall not be created with respect to any Unit within the Condominium,” the declaration points out.
Based on a News Leader review of deeds, the developer transferred the top two units of the complex to another limited liability company, Oceane Penthouse LLC, which has the same address as the developer: 7320 McGinnis Ferry Road in Suwanee, Ga.
The sale price listed on the deed was $8,150,000 for Unit 301 and Unit 302.
The transaction was recorded on Dec. 31, 2019, the Clerk of the Circuit Court’s records show.
The second sale was recorded on Jan. 8. Unit 202 went to 4750 Ocean Blvd LLC, whose address is in Stamford, Conn., the deed says. The purchase price was $4,050,000.
According to the Florida Division of Corporations, the managers of that limited liability company are Peter Drittel and Jane Drittel, who list Unit 202 at 4750 Ocean Blvd. as the address for the company. 4750 Ocean Blvd. LLC filed its Articles of Organization with the state on Jan. 3, 2020.
The third sale was recorded by the Clerk of Court’s Office on Feb. 19. That involved Unit 201, which went to trusts established by Suzanne Smith and Peter C. Smith, the deed says. The address listed for the trusts is in Chicago. The price was $4,250,000.
As of June 11, the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office records showed that CG Oceane still owned the remaining two units, which are on the first floor above the parking level.
The Property Appraiser’s Office has yet to assign a value to any of the Oceane condominiums.
When will the SunTrust/Truist branch reopen?
In response to a query from a reader, the News Leader this week asked a representative of SunTrust — now branded as Truist — when the branch on Ocean Boulevard, next to the Old Salty Dog, will reopen.
In response, Cynthia Montgomery, director of communications for the company’s Retail Community Bank division, wrote the following in a June 11 email:
“As part of one of the most-accessible branch networks within our Truist markets, we’ve continued to serve clients through convenient options such as 24/7 access via online and mobile banking, 4,400 ATMs and automated phone systems. As we gradually return to the full array of services provided through our combined network of 2,800 BB&T — now Truist — and SunTrust — now Truist — branches, the health and well-being of teammates and clients is at the forefront of our thinking. Our decisions to reopen branch lobbies are based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as local and state guidelines.”
She was referring, of course, to the recommendations regarding efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Montgomery then noted that lobbies in branches in Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina are open for appointments only, for example.
“We are taking a careful, phased and strategic approach to decide when the time is right to move forward in Florida,” she added. “Our guiding principle remains safety for all.”
Passion and pleas
On June 3, during a County Commission public hearing regarding the proposed vacation of an approximately 9,656-square-foot county right of way on Dona Bay in Nokomis, Siesta resident Mike Cosentino created a bit of alarm.
He earlier had offered public comments, decrying the fact that the board would even consider the petition.
A 12th Judicial Circuit Court judge last fall ruled invalid a Sarasota County Charter amendment that Cosentino wrote — which won voter support in November 2018 — that would have prevented the commission from vacating any county right of way on a water body. Yet, Cosentino told the commissioners on June 3 that he expected to prevail on appeal.
When it later appeared that the commissioners were going to approve the Nokomis petition, Cosentino rose from his chair and walked back toward the podium.
An employee with the county’s General Services Department, who sanitizes the microphone and the podium surface between speakers, looked up as Cosentino approached her.
(Since the novel coronavirus began, few people have chosen to address the commission in person. However, the General Services employee stays within the Commission Chambers during meetings to clean surfaces and equipment in an effort to protect people from the spread of COVID-19.)
County Administrator Jonathan Lewis also spotted Cosentino moving back toward the podium and called his name.
As Cosentino held up a photo and tried to make another comment, Chair Michael Moran said, “Mike, please.”
Commissioner Alan Maio looked at the bailiff, who was on the other side of the room, and asked the deputy to stop Cosentino. Maio also told Cosentino, “Stop.”
The bailiff quickly strode toward Cosentino. Then, as Cosentino finally headed back to his seat in the chambers, the bailiff took up a position between him and the table where Lewis and County Attorney Frederick Elbrecht were seated, in front of the dais.
Moran told Cosentino he was welcome to wait until the end of the meeting that day to offer more comments. Nonetheless, Cosentino left after the board members voted to approve the petition.
Another Key deputy gets a promotion
Another Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office deputy familiar to Siesta residents has won a promotion, the department announced on June 11.
Deputy Zackary Lewis is now Sgt. Lewis, and he has been assigned to the Law Enforcement Division, a Sheriff’s Office news release said.
Siesta Key Association members will recall that he stood in for Siesta Substation leader Sgt. Arik Smith during the March meeting, which was the last session the nonprofit conducted before the public health emergency began.
Lewis began his career in law enforcement when he joined the Sheriff’s Office in 2012 as a patrol deputy, the release noted. “In 2014, he transferred to the Criminal Investigations Section” and was assigned to the Tactical Unit, the release added. Then, in 2018, Lewis began working within the Special Operations Bureau, which resulted in his service at the Siesta Key Substation, the release said.
During his career, he has been nominated for Employee of the Month three times, the release pointed out. He has received advanced training in regard to “crisis intervention, narcotics and dangerous drugs, and surveillance techniques,” the release noted.
Lewis earned his associate’s degree from the State College of Florida.
Snowy plovers still making nesting attempts
In her June 7 update about the snowy plovers on Siesta Key, Kylie Wilson, coordinator of Audubon Florida’s Bird Monitoring & Stewardship program in the county, wrote about stormy conditions on Siesta Beach as a result of Tropical Storm Cristobal’s passage through the Gulf of Mexico.
“There weren’t any known Snowy Plover nests,” she continued, “but we did have a pair that were maintaining a scrape and the female looked very gravid.”
The birds literally scrape the sand to create a nest. “Gravid” means a female bird is ready to lay eggs.
“There had been two pairs consistently throughout the week,” but on June 7, Wilson continued, she saw six snowy plovers, “including the banded Ms. Sanibel.”
Ms. Sanibel is so named because that is where she was banded several years ago.
“Today, almost all of the north end of the beach was flooded so I temporarily removed part of the enclosures that were being washed over,” Wilson wrote of the tape and posts she erects to try to protect nesting areas.
The buffer around the property owned by the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast, and the north end of Siesta in general, “were heavily flooded,” she noted.
Then, on the night of June 14, Wilson sent out a new update, reporting that she had seen up to three pairs of plovers “prospecting for territory” on Siesta. She had found several fresh scrapes, she added. “At least one of the female plovers looked very gravid so hopefully she will settle on a scrape and soon have a nest!”
“Another exciting find — this week I saw Least Tern fledges on Siesta for the first time this season,” Wilson continued. “There are no Least Tern colonies on Siesta,” she added, “which means these birds are already dispersing from their nesting sites.” “Least Terns are completely migratory and they will return to South America at the end of the summer,” Wilson explained.