Siesta Seen

FDOT drainage project underway at U.S. 41/Stickney Point Road intersection; speaker at hotel hearing talks of days long gone on the Key; Ramirez’s attorney in hotel complaint previously worked for SOSS2; Route 33 bus service to Siesta resuming for season; and less garbage found on Ocean Boulevard in November, Adopt-A-Road team reports

This aerial view shows a close-up of the U.S. 41/Stickney Point Road intersection. Image from Google Maps

Each week, Sarasota County’s Capital Projects Department staff issues a document providing details about construction that is underway or that is expected to begin during the period the latest report covers.

The document aptly is titled Construction — One Week Look Ahead.

Buried on the last of seven pages of the report covering Nov. 29 to Dec. 5, under the heading, FDOT Projects in Sarasota County, was an item of import to anyone who routinely drives through the intersection of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road.

It said that crews would be constructing drainage structures from Tuesday, Nov. 30, to Thursday, Dec. 23, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“Motorists can expect intermittent westbound outside lane closures on [State Road] SR 72/Stickney Point and the intersection of US 41. Please use caution and watch for lane shifts and for workers in the construction zone.”

No other details were offered in the report that the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) itself issued for District One — which includes Sarasota County — for the week beginning Nov. 28.

After The Sarasota News Leader sent an inquiry to District One staff about the project, Communications Specialist Adam Rose replied in a Dec. 1 email that the project is not associated with any other FDOT initiatives.

The News Leader had asked whether it was preparation work for the project that is scheduled to begin on U.S. 41 in January 2022, from Beneva Road to Caribbean Drive, along with the companion work, anticipated to start in the summer of 2022, between Caribbean Drive and Stickney Point Road. Those undertakings have been designed to add 6-foot-wide, buffered bicycle lanes and 6-foot-wide sidewalks on both sides of U.S. 41.

This map shows the project area from Caribbean Drive to Stickney Point Road. Image courtesy FDOT

Additionally, along the segment between Caribbean Drive and Stickney Point Road, FDOT says the median openings will “be evaluated and modified as necessary,” and the free-flow right-turn lanes and the islands will be removed at the U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road intersection.

Taking a trip down the proverbial ‘Memory Lane’

During the Oct. 27 public hearing that the Sarasota County Commission conducted on the proposal for a hotel on Calle Miramar, one speaker offered memories of life as it was decades ago on the Key.

He even prompted a comment from Commissioner Nancy Detert, in response to his mention of a former restaurant.

Fred Sieger told the board members that he first came to the island on vacation in the 1950s. He returned to the county in 1963 to become a resident, he added.

Finally, in 1978, Sieger said, he was able to buy his first home on Siesta Key; it stood at 445 Beach Road.

“Just down the road,” he told the commissioners, “we used to pull our horse trailer [into a stand of pines next to the Beach Terrace condominium complex]. We’d unload the horses, and we’d ride Siesta Key on horseback.”

Fred Siegel addresses the County Commission on Oct. 27. News Leader image

Even back then, he added, people were worried that development could change the island’s character.

On the property where the Siesta Key Oyster Bar (SKOB) and The Sandal Factory are located in Siesta Village, Sieger continued, a motel stood.

He also mentioned the Inn Between restaurant and Riegels Marina, which were long gone.

A “great tiki bar” once drew patrons to the beach, he said. In its place, the Gulf & Bay Club condominium complex stands.

A golf course previously occupied the site of Gulf & Bay’s Bayside units, he noted.

Then Sieger mentioned the Magic Moment restaurant, which stood on property that also was redeveloped into condominiums.

“Down by the south bridge,” he continued, “there was affordable housing — a trailer park.” He indicated that that is the site of The Anchorage condominium complex.

Next to Turtle Beach, Sieger said, he enjoyed going to his “favorite little restaurant,” Happy Land. That also is the site of condominiums, he noted.

“There’s always been pushback for development,” Sieger pointed out.

Advocating for the hotel on Calle Miramar, he told the commissioners that people want to “kind of go on island time,” and put their toes in the sand. He added that he tells visitors to walk on Siesta Beach “and get a real sole massage, both ways,” alluding to a homonym for “sole.”

During the commissioners’ discussion following the public hearing, Commissioner Detert told Sieger, “I got a kick out of your mentioning Magic Moment. I haven’t thought about it for years. We used to take our kids there for their birthday.”

Her children enjoyed watching magicians perform tricks, she added.

“It was just a wonderful evening.”

Perhaps it was no surprise that, in thinking about Siesta’s past, Detert voted against the hotel, joining Commissioner Christian Ziegler in the minority on the board decision.

Speaking of the hotel projects …

Regular News Leader readers may recognize the name of the attorney representing island resident Lourdes Ramirez in her complaint against Sarasota County over approval of the Calle Miramar hotel. (See the related article in this issue.)

In 2017, Martha Collins of the Collins Law Group in Tampa represented Save Our Siesta Sand 2 in the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings case that sought to prevent the removal of sand from Big Sarasota Pass to renourish Lido Key Beach in the city of Sarasota.

Martha Collins. Image from Collins Law Group

The Collins Law Group website says Collins “has successfully litigated, lobbied, and negotiated precedent setting environmental and land use cases and polices to protect Florida’s environment.

“She is the former Chair of the Florida Bar’s Environmental and Land Use Law Section,” it adds.

Another part of the website notes of the firm, “We have experience in negotiating settlements and litigating precedent setting cases influencing and enforcing comprehensive plans, local zoning ordinances, land development regulations and developments of regional impact.”

SCAT beginning Route 33 to Siesta once again

On Dec. 4, in anticipation of seasonal traffic, Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) will resume service of the Route 33 bus line, county staff announced this week.

“The reintroduction of this popular bus route supplements the OnDemand and Siesta Key Breeze Trolley services already provided by SCAT to Siesta Key visitors,” Media Relations Officer Drew Winchester noted in a news release.

“Route 33 runs from Cattlemen Road along Bahia Vista Street through Pinecraft to Siesta Key. The route includes a stop at the Westfield Siesta Key Mall, where some commuters choose to park and ride to the beach,” Winchester added. Bus riders also may access Route 33 at the mall from Routes 17, 19 and 25, he pointed out.

A SCAT bus makes its way through Siesta Village in January 2019. Although Route 11 was discontinued during the pandemic, Route 33 is a vital link from the Amish and Mennonite community of Pinecraft to Siesta Key during tourist season. File photo

“OnDemand by Sarasota County offers curb-to-curb service for $1.25 per person per ride, from the Westfield Siesta Key Mall and the Sarasota Pavilion to and throughout Siesta Key,” Winchester also noted.

The Siesta Key Breeze open-air trolley has been free since it was launched in March 2017. It makes a continuous loop from Siesta Village to Turtle Beach Park.

SCAT also has made minor changes to bus stop times and bay assignments, Winchester wrote in his email. Visit to view the new Ride Guides and learn about other SCAT services. Information in the new ride guides takes effect Dec. 4.

It keeps piling up — but at a slightly lower volume

Michael Shay. File photo

Key resident Michael Shay and his Adopt-A-Road team carried out another clean-up of all of Ocean Boulevard on Nov. 17, he has reported to the News Leader.

“We spent a total of 4 person-hours,” he wrote in an email, during which the team collected five bags of garbage and one bag of recyclables.”

During the team’s most recent undertaking prior to that, on Sept. 10, the members picked up six bags of garbage and three bags of recyclables, Shay reported to the News Leader.

In accord with the Keep Sarasota County Beautiful guidelines for the program, Shay has to document the results of the team’s efforts.