Siesta Seen

Cosentino loses another attorney as North Beach Road appeal continues; technical difficulties necessitate another go at radar tracking of Village speeders; SK Coalition continues to add members; Siesta Key Breeze’s latest ridership figures announced; county staff dealing with lighting outages and removal of ‘concrete triangles’ in Siesta Village; millage rates lower in 2021 fiscal year for two special districts; and work continuing on Il Panificio’s new location on Avenida Madera

A Sept. 2016 county graphic shows facets of the area surrounding the North Beach Road vacation site. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The Sarasota News Leader reported in the late spring that Siesta resident Mike Cosentino hired a new attorney, based in Tampa, for his latest appeal to Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal in his North Beach Road case.

As of mid-September, the News Leader learned, that attorney has withdrawn as counsel.

In a Sept. 15 motion filed with the Court of Appeal, Janelle A. Weber of Manta Law pointed out that Cosentino hired her on May 28. “Irreconcilable differences have arisen,” she explained of her decision to ask the court to allow her to pull out of the case.

Citing Rule 9.440 of the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure and Rule 4-1.16(a) and (b) of the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct, Weber added, “Professional considerations both require and allow termination of the representation in this instance. … Reasonable notice has been given to [Cosentino].”

Janelle Weber. Image from the Manta Law website

She explained that the rules she cited allow for withdrawal of counsel when that “‘can be accomplished without material adverse effect on the interests of the client; (2) the client insists upon taking action that the lawyer considers repugnant, imprudent, or with which the lawyer has a fundamental disagreement; (3) the client fails substantially to fulfill an obligation to the lawyer regarding the lawyer’s services and has been given reasonable warning that the lawyer will withdraw unless the obligation is fulfilled; (4) the representation will result in an unreasonable financial burden on the lawyer or has been rendered unreasonably difficult by the client; or (5) other good cause for withdrawal exists.’”

Weber’s Manta Law website does indicate that she is the only attorney with the firm, which, the website says, she founded.

While Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure require that Cosentino’s nonprofit organization, Reopen Beach Road, be represented by counsel, Weber continued, she did file the initial brief in the case for that organization. “The Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure do not require the filing of a Reply Brief” from Reopen Beach Road, in response to the county’s answer in the case, she added. However, Weber pointed out, Cosentino also was asking for a 45-day extension of time for Reopen Beach Road to file a Reply Brief, and that period would enable him to hire new counsel.

Cosentino is representing himself in the appeal, she added.

On Sept. 23, the Court of Appeal granted Weber’s motion to withdraw from the case. Further, the court ordered that Reopen Beach Road “secure new counsel, who must immediately file a notice of appearance in this court. Within thirty days, [Reopen Beach Road], through counsel, may serve a reply brief,” the court added in its decision.

Then, on Oct. 1, Cosentino filed a motion, seeking an extension of time to file his reply brief and to exceed the 15-page limit on that brief. As of Oct. 14, the court had not responded to that motion.

Mike Cosentino addresses the county commissioners on June 3. File Leader image

Regular readers may recall that Cosentino’s first attorney in his lawsuit against Sarasota County over the May 2016 vacation of a 373-foot-long segment of North Beach Road was Ralf Brookes of Cape Coral. Brookes ended up withdrawing from the 12th Judicial Circuit Court case for personal reasons, Cosentino told the News Leader.

Cosentino hired two other attorneys at various times as the case proceeded in Circuit Court, firing one after alleging that that person had cognitive problems and letting the third one go because that attorney, Cosentino said, did not have sufficient time to get up to speed on all aspects of the case before the presiding judge, Circuit Judge Andrea McHugh, wanted to conclude all the arguments.

Cosentino also has hired a variety of attorneys in the Tampa area to handle his appeals, as Circuit Court rulings have gone against him.

In fact, his original attorney in this latest appeal lasted only two weeks before Weber replaced her, court records show.

Radar speed tracking in the Village

Drivers in Siesta Village no doubt noticed that a radar trailer was in place near the Old Salty Dog for about three weeks, having been put in place by the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office. When the News Leader asked the Sheriff’s Office’s communications staff on Oct. 5 about the possibility of getting the data from that sign, Doug Johnson, creative communications specialist for the office, reported, “Unfortunately, when the traffic Sergeant went to download the data there was a system glitch and it only produced an hour’s worth of data.” Therefore, Johnson added, the sergeant planned to put the radar trailer back out in the Village in a couple of weeks to conduct another survey.

And, in fact, a reader let the News Leader know midweek that the radar trailer was back in place at north end of the Village, standing just south of the median at the entrance to the Village.

Update on the SK Coalition

In a late September update, the leaders of the SK Coalition reported that their organization has grown to include representatives of a dozen homeowner associations. In mid-September, the figure was 10.

The Coalition was established in response to the announcement this summer of a proposal for a new 170-room hotel standing close to 90 feet in height on four parcels between Beach Road and Calle Miramar, just down the street from the Siesta Key Resort Hotel and Suites.

The Sept. 29 news release said the Coalition is collectively representing about 8,500 households on the Key, which is better than a 10-fold jump from its mid-September count of approximately 800.

As the group points out in that release, the plans for the hotel include “a 223-space parking garage, a restaurant, and a roof-top pool and bar, all of which will add to congestion and noise.”

A graphic shows the four parcels (outlined in red) that have been slated for the hotel project, between Calle Miramar and Beach Road. Image courtesy Sarasota County

In their preliminary application to Sarasota County staff, the developers also announced that they would seek an amendment to the county’s Comprehensive Plan that would eliminate any density considerations for transient accommodations on the county’s unincorporated barrier islands.

Leaders of the SK Coalition — which includes the Siesta Key Association (SKA) and the Siesta Key Condominium Council — have been adamant that they do not oppose development on Siesta, as long as that development “is consistent with the existing zoning regulations.”

Anyone wishing to contact the Coalition may send an email to SKCoalition@gmail.com.

Additionally, the group has created a webpage on the SKA’s website, so it can post updates and links to articles about its initiative: https://siestakeyassociation.com/projects/sk-coalition/.

Trolley still ‘Breeze-ing’ along

This week, the News Leader checked in with Jane Grogg, interim director of Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT), to ask about the latest ridership figures for the Siesta Key Breeze.

In August, Grogg reported through the county’s Communications staff, the number was 6,669.

For September, the total was 7,289.

Additionally, the News Leader asked for confirmation that measures still were being taken on the open-air trolley to protect people from COVID-19.

Image courtesy Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce

“CPR Medical Transport LLC continues with distancing measures on the Trolley, just as when service resumed in June,” Grogg replied. “That includes blocking every other bench. Also, their drivers are required to wear facemasks when in any Trolley (encouraged but not required of passengers). Trolley capacity is adequate to cover current demand,” she added.

During the most recent Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce members meeting, conducted on June 17, Nathan Reid, general manager of the Breeze, explained that June 15 was the first day the trolley was back in operation after the county ordered a halt in its service in late March. That March action followed county leaders’ decision to close the public beaches in an effort to keep people safe during the pandemic.

Lighting outages and concrete triangles

After receiving comments from a reader about lighting outages in Siesta Village, the News Leader checked in with Lisa Cece, the special district coordinator for Sarasota County who oversees the Village upkeep as county liaison with the Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp.

The Siesta Key Village Maintenance manager undertakes night inspections to evaluate the Village streetlights, Cece wrote in an email this week. Three had been reported out, she added, so the county’s Traffic Operations staff worked to ensure they shone once again.

However, after the News Leader let Cece know that one continued to be out, she replied that she would make a request for staff to check it.

Additionally, the News Leader told her this week that a reader had reported that the Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL) streetlight at Beach Access 5 was out. Cece responded that she was unaware of that situation, but she would get the number for the pole there and report the situation to FPL.

Residents will call her to report FPL outages, she added, so she can make requests of the company to address them. Otherwise, she noted, residents may contact FPL themselves.

The News Leader also asked Cece about a report regarding removal of the concrete triangles that long had been in place on the east side of Ocean Boulevard, between Beach Bazaar and Gilligan’s Island Bar & Grill.

This is a photo of the vicinity of Hannah Plaza in Siesta Village, where one of the ‘concrete triangles’ has been removed. Image courtesy Lisa Cece, Sarasota County Government

Cece explained that after county Public Works Department staff reviewed various issues related to the four triangular curbs in that section of Siesta Village, a decision was made to remove the structures. Siesta architect Mark Smith, who has been one of the leaders of the Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp. over the years, had no objection to that decision, Cece noted.

“Over the years,” she wrote in an email, “landscaping intended for these [triangular] beds did not survive, and vehicles frequently drove over them.”

Three of the four already have been removed by the county’s Field Services Division, she continued, with the last one — in front of Beach Bazaar — scheduled to be taken out later this month.

“Drivers will need to avoid blocking the crosswalk at Gilligan’s,” Cece pointed out, “but this change will enhance parking along the east side of Ocean Boulevard.”

Good news for Siesta Village property owners

Along with approving the budget for the 2021 fiscal year — which began on Oct. 1 — the Sarasota County Commission approved the millage rates for special districts in the county. Among those is the Siesta Key Public Improvement District. Property owners will see a 3.58% decrease in their new millage rate, from 1.7704 mills to 1.7071 mills. That district’s funds pay for the upkeep of Siesta Village.

The Siesta Key Lighting District property owners also will have a lower millage rate for the 2021 fiscal year. It fell 5.56%, from 0.0072 mills to 0.0068 mills.

New pizza restaurant opening soon in the Village

With Solorzano’s Pizzeria having pulled out of its 215 Avenida Madera storefront in April, the owners of the Il Panificio’s restaurants have been remodeling the interior for a new pizza dining establishment, county permitting documents show.

On Aug. 4, the county formally issued a permit to Il Panificio Siesta for the necessary kitchen work, including replacing old equipment and undertaking “minor housekeeping repairs.” Southern Cross Contracting of Sarasota was the applicant for that permit; it has handled a number of projects in the Village over the years. The company formally filed the permit application on May 19, the records show.

This aerial view shows the location of 215 Avenida Madera, with adjoining storefronts, outlined in red. The property is owned by the Davidson Sears partnership. Image courtesy Sarasota County Property Appraiser Bill Furst

The most recent notation in the county file shows that Il Panificio Siesta failed its “Commercial Electrical Rough Inspection” on Oct. 8, and the final plumbing inspection had not been completed as of Oct. 14.

On Sept. 25, Il Panificio did receive county approval to sell beer and wine, a related permit record says.

Il Panificio notes on the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce website that it will be opening its Siesta location this fall. The restaurant will include a bakery, market and deli, offering hot Italian dishes, and it will have a cappuccino and espresso bar, the website adds.

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