Deputies not turning a blind eye to dogs on Siesta Beach; Appeal Court panel schedules November oral arguments in SKA’s Big Pass case; County Commission approves A-frame parking signs; Public Works director plans Sept. 22 update to commission about renewed roundabout proposal at Beach/Midnight Pass roads intersection; and Siesta Village gets new plantings
Editor’s note: This article was updated early in the afternoon of Sept. 11 to correct the name of the company that handles the landscaping in Siesta Village.
After hearing from a reader last week that Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office personnel allegedly are allowing dog owners to let their animals on the public beach for short periods of time, The Sarasota News Leader contacted Sgt. Arik Smith, leader of the Siesta substation.
Smith affirmed that he and the deputies under his command on the Key do their best to educate people about the county ordinance prohibiting dogs on the public beach. In fact, he told the News Leader in a Sept. 2 telephone interview, “We’re always concerned about dogs on the beach. … We don’t turn a blind eye to it.”
It seems the issue of dogs on the beach has been a hot one for many years, he acknowledged.
“When we’re out on patrol” on the beaches, Smith added, “we almost always confront the owners and try to educate them on the rules and regulations here.”
The only dogs legally allowed to go onto the public beaches, he pointed out, are service animals that comply with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines.
Just like substation leaders before him, Smith stressed that dogs on the beach affect the nesting shorebirds, especially the snowy plovers, which will abandon nests — even with eggs about to hatch — if the birds are scared by dogs.
Not only is that an issue, Smith continued, but he and his fellow Sheriff’s Office personnel also have to be cognizant of the inherent risk of dog fights or dogs biting people.
If an officer deals with “a repeat offender” who brings a dog onto the beach, Smith said, then the officer will give the owner a Notice to Appear in court for violation of county ordinance 90-33(2).
The only county-controlled beach where dogs are allowed, Smith noted, is South Brohard Beach in Venice, which Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources staff calls a “paw park.”
Smith did note that, in recent weeks, officers have seen quite a few people on Siesta’s beaches who have been visiting from Miami and Orlando. “They just don’t know the law,” so they bring their dogs with them to the Key and then take the dogs out on the beach.
The impression he has had, Smith said, is that a number of beaches on the east coast of Florida must allow dogs.
“We see people trying to hide [dogs] under towels,” Smith continued. Deputies will approach those folks and let them know about the ordinance, he said. “They’re very polite, and they’ll leave,” he added of those visitors.
Another problem, Smith noted, has been people who bring dogs with them to the beach early in the mornings. “We do our best to get out there and inform them [about the regulation] and get them off the beach.”
As for the popularity of the beach in general over the summer months, Smith pointed out that it has been busy. “We have seen quite a lot of people from out of state,” as well as those from other areas of Florida.
He was anticipating a very busy Labor Day weekend, too, he added.
Appeal Court sets oral arguments in SKA’s Big Pass case
On Wednesday, Nov. 18, a three-judge panel of Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the Siesta Key Association’s appeal in its lawsuit involving the dredging of Big Sarasota Pass.
The decision about the hearing was posted on the court’s website late in the afternoon of Sept. 4, Siesta Key Association (SKA) Director Robert Luckner told the News Leader.
As usual, the court order notes that the case “is provisionally set for oral argument.” The oral arguments panel listed comprises Judge Edward C. LaRose, Judge Anthony K. Black and Judge John K. Stargel. Once again, as usual, the order says, “The panel is subject to change without notice.”
Last year, the SKA filed notice of appeal of 12th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Andrea McHugh’s ruling that the City of Sarasota followed the applicable law in its planning for the removal of sand from Big Pass to renourish about 1.56 miles of Lido Key Beach.
The SKA has argued for years that the city should have obtained a permit from Sarasota County before allowing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to proceed with the project. Big Pass never had been dredged, the SKA pointed out, when the USACE settled on it as the source of sand for the Lido project. Therefore, the SKA contends that language in the County Code necessitated county approval before dredging could get underway.
On July 18, the contractor that won the USACE bid for the initiative — Cottrell Contracting Corp. of Chesapeake, Va. — began the months-long process of taking sand out of the pass for placement on Lido Key Beach.
A-frame signs for parking approved
With a unanimous vote for the second time, on Aug. 26, the County Commission formally approved a change in the Unified Development Code (UDC) to allow the use of A-frame directional signs for parking and valet services on Siesta Key.
The first vote took place on July 7.
The resolution makes it clear that the signs cannot contain any commercial advertising. A staff memo provided to the commission in advance of the Aug. 26 meeting explained, “The signs are to serve as wayfinding for visitors to readily show where parking is available. Staff supports this proposed amendment.”
The modification became part of the Siesta Key Overlay District, which encompasses all the zoning regulations for the Key.
The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce backed the proposal. Siesta architect Mark Smith, who long has been a leader of the Chamber, characterized the code change as a means of showing more hospitality to visitors. At the height of season in a normal year, tourists often have difficulty finding parking spots for dining and shopping in Siesta Village.
The UDC, which contains all the county’s zoning and land-development regulations, was adopted in late November 2018; it went into effect on Jan. 1, 2019.
The same section of the code that contains the language about the A-frame signs also notes that wall-mounted, window, or ground-level signs cannot exceed a maximum of 3 square feet. Moreover, those signs cannot be located within a right of way. Code Enforcement staff has had its hands figuratively full from time to time, trying to enforce the latter part of the regulation.
Commissioner Alan Maio made the motion to approve the SKOD/UDC amendment, and Commissioner Nancy Detert seconded it.
“I’m glad we’re dealing with [this],” Detert said just before the vote.
About the roundabout
Regular readers will recall renewed discussion earlier this year about the potential construction of a roundabout at the intersection of Beach Road and Midnight Pass Road, near the entrances to Siesta Public Beach.
Siesta Key Association President Catherine Luckner told the News Leader that her organization had asked county staff for a lot more details about how the design would look. The nonprofit’s board, she added, had expressed concerns about a number of issues, including pedestrian and bicycle safety and traffic flow, if a roundabout were built at the intersection.
In response to a News Leader question about the status of the proposal, on Sept. 2, county Media Relations Officer Drew Winchester wrote in an email that Spencer Anderson, director of the county’s Public Works Department, plans to conduct “a brief discussion” with the County Commission during its regular meeting on Sept. 22. The goal, Anderson told Winchester, is “to provide an update and obtain direction on moving forward with additional public outreach and input.”
New plantings in the Village
Wilhelm Brothers Inc., which handles the Siesta Village landscaping under the aegis of a county contract, has put in new plantings and mulch at the four corners of the Village and at the gazebo, Lisa Cece, the county’s special district coordinator, told the News Leader on Sept. 5.
Additionally, Cece reported, county staff has installed a new backflow preventer for the connection to the water line for a new irrigation system at the gazebo.
Further, she noted, the owners and management of Beach Bazaar removed one of the “No Parking” signs next to the landscape bed by the water fountain. “A boulder style cover will be placed over the backflow to protect and improve the overall effect,” Cece added.
Finally, she wrote, a tree that stood next to the gazebo was removed, and both sides of the gazebo “have a fresh new look, with Mammy Crotons, Dwarf Ixora, Gold Mount Duranta, Ti Plant, Coleus Plants and Bromeliad.”
Gabe Hartmann, maintenance manager for the Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp., is overseeing the work, Cece pointed out.
The Maintenance Corp. represents the owners of property in Siesta Village whom the county assesses annually to pay for upkeep in the shopping and dining area.