Siesta Seen

Holderness FLUEDRA case set for Sept. 15 hearing; July crime stats provided; Stickney Point Road drawbridge repairs scheduled; boaters call for help after running out of fuel; Crystal Classic volunteers sought; Village pavers undergo pressure washing; proposed Calle Miramar hotel would have ‘high-value customers,’ project team member says; more trees planted at Siesta Public Beach Park; and Siesta marks another year with no snowy plover chicks

This graphic shows the dimensions of the proposed house and other features of the site seaward of North Beach Road. Image courtesy Port and Coastal Consultants

At 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 15, Special Magistrate Kenneth A. Tinkler of Tampa is scheduled once again to conduct a Florida Land Use and Environmental Dispute Resolution Act (FLUEDRA) hearing on the Sarasota County Commission’s denial early this year of a Coastal Setback Variance to Siesta businessman and property holder Michael Holderness.

The hearing was to have been conducted on June 18. However, because a Sarasota paralegal representing Holderness began talking about information that had not been provided to the Office of the County Attorney ahead of time, county staff asked for a continuance.

The Special Magistrate chose July 15 as the new date, but because Holderness’ team asked for more time to review new materials from the county — which were related to the June 18 issue — the proceeding ended up being delayed again, Assistant County Attorney David Pearce explained to The Sarasota News Leader in early July.

This is dune habitat in the area of Holderness’ property, where the house has been proposed. Image courtesy Sarasota County

As the most recent Special Magistrate’s notice points out, the FLUEDRA hearing involves the commission’s unanimous denial of Holderness’ proposal for construction of a pile-supported, two-story-over-parking, single-family residence fully seaward of North Beach Road on the Key. Holderness also wants to build a swimming pool and deck, a driveway and a landscape retaining wall, the notice says. The structures would be on vacant land described as Lot 14, Block 7, of the Mira Mar Beach Subdivision.

The Coastal Setback Variance hearing took place on Jan. 13, 2021.

Over recent years, the commissioners steadfastly have voted against new homes proposed on that part of Siesta’s shoreline. Staff has presented plenty of photos showing flooding problems in the area, even after heavy thunderstorms.

“The hearing will be informal and open to the public,” the notice adds. “The Special Magistrate shall first attempt to mediate this dispute,” it continues. “If the parties cannot agree to an amicable resolution the Special Magistrate shall consider the facts and circumstances in order to determine whether the decision of the Sarasota County Board of County Commissioners is unreasonable or unfairly burdens the real property …”

The latter language references state law pertaining to private property rights.

The Special Magistrate will make a recommendation based on the evidence and testimony and provide that to all the parties.

This graphic shows another view of Michael Holderness’ parcel’s location, relative to the beach and other structures. Image courtesy Port and Coastal Consultants

Sarasota paralegal Michael Barfield, who is representing Holderness, has pointed out that the site of the new home would be a maximum of 189.61 feet seaward of the county’s Gulf Beach Setback Line (GBSL) and a minimum of 295.86 feet landward of the current Mean High Water Line. The property contains 9,316 square feet, and it is zoned Residential Multi-Family 1, which allows for six dwelling units per acre, Barfield’s FLUEDRA petition notes.

The GBSL was implemented in 1979 to protect landward structures from flooding and storm damage. It was designed to protect dune habitat.

The hearing will be held in the County Commission Chambers within the County Administration Center located at 1660 Ringling Blvd. in downtown Sarasota.

July crime stats

On Aug. 5, during the monthly meeting of the Siesta Key Association (SKA), Sgt. Arik Smith, leader of the Sheriff’s Office substation on the Key, reported that officers handled 411 calls for service in July. Twenty-three of them, or about 6%, were related to crimes involving people or property, he noted — what the FBI used to classify as Part 1 crimes.

Sgt. Arik Smith. File photo

“One of the good things,” Smith pointed out, was that the Sheriff’s Office received no reports of thefts or burglaries linked to vehicles, “which is very rare.”

He added, “I think that’s maybe the first time in the past two years” that that has happened.

Every month, he noted, he reminds SKA members to lock their vehicles and hide valuables that they are leaving in those vehicles, so as not to draw the attention of potential thieves.

“Kudos to everybody out there,” Smith said.

The majority of the personal and property calls on the Key in July involved assaults, but those typically were simple assaults, he pointed out — fights with no bad injuries.

Then Smith reported that Sheriff Kurt A. Hoffman had requested funding for two more full-time deputies for the Key in the 2022 fiscal year budget Hoffman presented to the County Commission. That budget has been approved, Smith added.

The Sheriff’s Office has had four full-time deputies working on the island, plus him, in his leadership capacity, he told the SKA members. Therefore, after the start of the new fiscal year, on Oct. 1, the total number of full-time Sheriff’s Office personnel on the Key will rise to seven people. Officers will be on duty seven days a week, he added.

Stickney Point Road drawbridge repairs planned

Vehicles wait in line as the Stickney Point Road drawbridge opens. File photo

In its latest update on construction projects, county staff has noted that crews will be making repairs to the Stickney Point Road drawbridge from Tuesday, Sept. 7, through Thursday, Sept. 9, between 9 p.m. and 4 p.m.

“Motorists can expect intermittent eastbound lane closures,” the county’s Construction — One Week Look Ahead report for Aug. 30 to Sept. 5 points out.

All out of fuel

An aerial map shows the location of 1 Beach Road on Siesta Key. Image from Google Maps

Just after 11 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 25, the Fire Station 13 crew was alerted to a report about what appeared to be people in distress on a boat, shooting off flares.

The flares were observed offshore of 1 Beach Road, the Sarasota County Fire Department noted in its official report.

One of the Sheriff’s Office helicopters was circling overhead, keeping an eye on the situation, the report added.

When the crew of a Fire Department boat made contact with the occupants of the vessel, the report said, the crew learned that four men were on the boat, and they had run out of fuel. The men had cell phones, the report noted.

The Fire Department boat towed the vessel to Hart’s Landing, at the foot of the Ringling Bridge in the city of Sarasota, the report added.

Crystal Classic volunteers sought

Visitors to the 2018 Crystal Classic enjoy the sculptures and the Vendor Village. Image courtesy of Siesta Beach Inc.

The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce is seeking volunteers to assist with the Siesta Key Crystal Classic International Sand Sculpting Festival, which is scheduled for Nov. 12-15 on Siesta Public Beach.

“It takes 300+ volunteers to appropriately staff and support this fabulous event,” the Chamber explains on a webpage. “Volunteers are needed to assist prior to, during, and after the festival. Volunteers help with set-up, hanging banners, wayfinding signage, artist hospitality, operations, entertainment support, admissions, beer sales, merchandise sales, and event [breakdown],” the Chamber adds.

Various shifts are available, the Chamber notes.

To check out the schedule, click on this link.

For more information, contact Mia Leone, volunteer coordinator at the Chamber, by calling 941-349-3800 or emailing

Village pavers undergo pressure washing

In reviewing “notes to self” that the News Leader had accumulated in recent months, we found one regarding a discussion that occurred during the County Commission’s budget workshops in late June.

Commissioner Christian Ziegler, who represents the northern part of Siesta in District 2, asked County Engineer Spencer Anderson when the pavers would be pressure-washed in Siesta Village. “I keep getting requests,” Ziegler added.

Spencer Anderson addresses the commissioners on May 18. News Leader image

Anderson explained that the Siesta Key Public Improvement District essentially runs from the intersection of Treasure Boat Way and Ocean Boulevard to the latter street’s intersection with Beach Road. The Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp., which has a board of directors, oversees the Village upkeep, Anderson added.

“Their responsibility is to provide us with their annual needs,” Anderson added of those board members. Then county staff sets the annual millage rate necessary to bring in the funds to cover the expenses the directors have outlined, he said.

All of the property owners in the Public Improvement District pay those annual assessments.

The proposed Maintenance Corp. budget is due to county staff by March 15 each year, Anderson noted. When staff received it this year, he continued, “We really didn’t see a lot of those challenges [in terms of cleaning areas of the Village] that are coming up right now. … There have been some extenuating circumstances.”

Instead of high tourism season waning by the end of April, Anderson explained, “People have been here much longer …”

Thus, Anderson told Ziegler, a little bit of a lag had occurred “in our normal maintenance …”

Anderson said he planned to meet with Mark Smith, the Siesta architect who long has been the chair of the Maintenance Corp. board, at the end of that week in late June to talk about what needed to be done “to make [the Village] look great” and how to plan if longer tourism seasons become the norm.

“Obviously,” Ziegler said, “[Siesta Key] is our No. 1 tourist destination. … I’m supportive of all we can do to make it look great.”

In response to a News Leader question about the pressure washing, Lisa Cece, the county staff member who serves as the liaison to the Maintenance Corp., wrote in an Aug. 30 email that the directors of that group “made a request for [a] quote in June …”

“The vendor then scheduled the work,” which was completed in late June “in various areas of the Village,” Cece added. “The invoice amount was paid by the [Public Improvement] District,” she noted; the total was $1,600.

Keeping the Siesta Village pavers clean is a challenge with high numbers of tourists, county staff says. File photo

The copy of the invoice that she sent the News Leader called for pressure washing on the west side of Ocean Boulevard from south of the Daiquiri Deck to north of Ripfire Pizza and on the east side of Ocean “around the seating area of Village Café” and the waiting area for the Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) stop in the Village.

The work was set for June 30, the invoice noted; the invoice date was July 6.

‘High-value customers’ expected for Calle Miramar hotel, if it is approved

During the Aug. 19 Sarasota County Planning Commission hearing on the proposed hotel between Calle Miramar and Beach Road, Planning Commissioner Teresa Mast engaged in a discussion with a member of the project team about what she called “high-value customers.”

This is a rendering of the hotel planned on Calle Miramar. Image courtesy Sarasota County

“I did quite a bit of research,” she told attorney William Merrill III of the Icard Merrill firm in Sarasota, who was representing the owners and the developer of the hotel.

“It’s not like a Motel 6,” she said of the plans for the Calle Miramar property.

Then she asked Merrill whether he could give her an idea of the approximate room rate for the hotel, if it wins County Commission approval.

“They’ve been approached by international flags,” Merrill responded of the principal owner and developer — Louise Khaghan of New York City and Robert T. Anderson Jr., a RE/MAX Realtor who is the long-time lessee of the property, respectively.

By “flag,” Merrill meant a hotel company.

“They will have their pick of high-quality, luxury hotel [firms],” he added of the development group.

“In today’s value,” Merrill continued, the estimated cost of a room is $600 and up. He noted that the industry refers to people staying in such accommodations as “high-value visitors.”

Mast also asked Merrill whether the restaurant and rooftop bar planned for the hotel would be open to residents — or would the restaurant be designed, instead, to serve just breakfast or brunch to guests?

“The inside restaurant is for the guests only and their visitors,” Merrill explained. For example, he continued, if he had friends staying at the hotel, he could join them to dine in the restaurant.

The bar inside probably would be open to the public, he said, but it generally would serve guests.

This is a rendering of the pool and the rooftop bar. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The rooftop bar, Merrill added, likely would serve just bar food — hors d’oeuvres that people could eat as they watched the sunset, for another example.

“I’d liken it more to the Westin Hotel [in downtown Sarasota],” Merrill said of the rooftop bar. “That’s the type of facility they’re talking about  … up there.”

Public access to the rooftop bar most likely would be limited, he continued. “It’s not going to be a big public party scene up there.”

Moreover, he noted, the Siesta Key Overlay District zoning regulations limit hours of operation, without a Special Exception to exceed them. (See the related article about the hotel hearing in this issue.)

More trees at the beach park

These are trees ready for planting at the beach park. Image courtesy Sarasota County via Facebook

On the afternoon of Aug. 27, Sarasota County staff reported on its Facebook page, “We just finished planting a total of 143 trees at Siesta Beach! This was a huge endeavor that involved excellent team work.”

The project comprised transporting the trees, hand digging all of the holes, establishing irrigation, staking and supporting the trees, and, finally, watering the new trees, the post said.

A county employee works to stabilize one of the trees after planting it. Image courtesy Sarasota County via Facebook

No plover chicks this year, either

In her final update this season as the Audubon Florida Shorebird Program coordinator for Sarasota County, Kylie Wilson wrote on Aug. 27, “It is near the end of August and all of our chicks are grown. Some may still hang around our area; I’ve already started to see groups of Skimmers and Snowy Plovers growing in number at Siesta and Lido. Some may migrate away; the Least Terns are completely migratory and will all eventually make their way to South America.”

This is a pair of snowy plovers. Photo courtesy of Kylie Wilson

Then Wilson reported that, this year, she counted a total of seven snowy plover nests between Siesta and Lido keys. At the peak of the season, the number of snowy plover adults was 10, she added. Yet, no chicks made it to the fledge stage, meaning they could fly.

“The main causes of loss,” she pointed out, “were predation (by fish crows and laughing gulls), [over-wash] from [Tropical Storm] Elsa and illness that may be related to red tide.”

No chicks have been documented on Siesta Key since 2016, Wilson told the News Leader in late June.