New tenant for former 7-Eleven store should be announced soon; Terry continues quest for improved safety for swimmers at Turtle Beach; Siesta Beach lands at No. 2 on Dr. Beach’s latest list; beach concessions contract renewed; Tatge gets a fond farewell; and the Daiquiri Deck has new treats
A new business should be named within a couple of weeks for the building that formerly housed the 7-Eleven at 5232 Ocean Blvd. in Siesta Village, The Sarasota News Leader has learned.
“We’re negotiating with some tenants,” Jim Syprett said in a telephone interview on June 1, adding that the business will be retail.
Syprett and Jay Lancer bought the property in January for $1.6 million.
His hope, Syprett added, is for that new tenant to open its doors by the first of 2017.
“It’ll be compatible, essentially, with what’s in the Village,” Syprett said, declining to provide any further details until the ink is dry on the lease.
He did point out, “We’re going to clean up and dress up the building. It will look much, much better.”
Over the past couple of months, the parking lot has served customers of the adjacent Siesta Key Oyster Bar, as made clear by signage on the front of the structure.
Syprett also explained that he and Lancer plan to construct an addition of about 1,000 square feet to the building. A News Leader check of Sarasota County Planning and Development Department records on June 1 shows the application for that work was submitted on March 28. All the necessary approvals from county staff and the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals were completed by May 11.
He and Lancer have been working with Florida Power & Light to move two transformers in preparation for the construction, he added.
During the May 3 Siesta Key Village Association (SKVA) meeting, Vice President Mark Smith talked about Syprett and Lancer having to request a variance from the Board of Zoning Appeals for the addition, thanks to stipulations in the Siesta Key Overlay District zoning code. “It doesn’t make sense to have rear-yard setbacks on commercial properties, quite frankly,” Smith said.
Not giving up
Regular readers will recall that Andrew Terry, who lives on the southern part of the Key, complained during the May 5 Siesta Key Association (SKA) meeting about what he had observed as a great propensity for accidents at Turtle Beach. He talked of swimmers, boaters and fishermen creating “complete chaos.”
On May 30, he wrote an email to the SKA and former County Commissioner Nora Patterson — who was present at the organization’s May session — and described more recent problems:
“This weekend was extremely busy at Turtle Beach. I wanted to share with you some of the chaos that swimmers had to deal with. Not only were there numerous fishermen in the water fishing, there were kayaks taking fishing line out into the deeper water for other fishermen. I actually got caught in one line while I was swimming. We also had boats beached on the sand and others coming in dangerously close to swimmers and children paddling.”
He attached photos, adding that he “would be grateful if the association could become more involved with pursuing the safety of beach goers to Turtle Beach. I believe I have some very cost effective solutions to this problem which would be a lot less expensive than if litigation was brought against the County due to an unfortunate preventable accident or even death!”
SKA Second Vice President Catherine Luckner responded, thanking him for the email. “Signs previously posted regarding [fishing] near swimmers are also being discussed,” she wrote. I recall when they were placed and have no understanding as to their removal.”
In response to a News Leader question about those signs, spokesman Drew Winchester wrote in a June 1 email, “Apparently, the signs are still in place at Turtle Beach. Not sure about the exact number, but they are posted at various access points.” He attached a photo of one of them and added that he did not receive any information from staff “regarding their removal and replacement, only that they are currently posted.”
Siesta No. 2 on Dr. Beach’s latest list
With all the attention Siesta Public Beach has received over the past week after Dr. Stephen Leatherman — Dr. Beach — named it No. 2 on his latest list of the top beaches in the U.S., the News Leader found one item rather curious: The formal press release issued about the winners noted that, as of this year, “extra credit is being awarded to [those] that prohibit smoking …”
As most Sarasota County residents know, Siesta won Dr. Beach’s top ranking in 2011 — and tourism in the county has boomed since then, especially on the Key. In 2011, Sarasota County prohibited smoking on public beaches. However, as a result of a December 2012 court decision involving the City of Sarasota, the County Commission learned it no longer would be able to enforce an ordinance that banned smoking outdoors on public property.
Sheriff’s Office deputies stopped enforcing the prohibition on Siesta’s beach, Sgt. Scott Osborne, then chief of the office’s Siesta substation, told the News Leader in January 2013. Even before legal counsel advised that the deputies no longer should write $100 citations if they saw someone lighting up, Osborne pointed out that officers’ practice had been to warn people that smoking was not allowed, and only on the rare occasion did a person fail to comply with the warning.
The Dec. 10, 2012 ruling by Judge Maryann Boehm of the 12th Judicial Circuit Court found that “prohibiting the use of tobacco products in non-designated areas of city parks … is unenforceable and in conflict with the state statute known as the ‘Clean Indoor Air Act.’”
The purpose of that law, which was passed in 1985 but did not go into effect until 2003, according to the Florida Department of Health, “is to protect people from the health hazards of secondhand tobacco smoke ….”
A July 21, 2011 opinion issued by the Florida Attorney General’s Office in a case involving the St. Johns River Water Management District — provided to the News Leader in 2013 by the County Attorney’s Office — is one example of the opinions Boehm referenced. It says, “In sum: The Regulation of smoking is preempted to the state pursuant to [the Clean Indoor Air Act], and the … District may not adopt a policy prohibiting smoking or tobacco use that is broader than the terms of [that statute].”
On June 1, county spokesman Drew Winchester confirmed for the News Leader that the state law is still in effect.
The formal news release that went out this year with Dr. Beach’s Top 10 list also explained that because he was marking the 26th anniversary of his annual pronouncement, he had decided to begin anew, “so all beaches have a chance again of making the list.”
Previously — as Visit Sarasota County staff had pointed out — after a beach hit the No. 1 spot, it had to be “retired.”
With or without smokers, it is evident from Dr. Beach’s comments on his website that Siesta remains near and dear to his heart. The listing says, “With some of the finest, whitest sand in the world, this beach attracts sand collectors from all over. Siesta Beach has clear, warm waters ideal for swimming. The beach is hundreds of yards wide in the shape of a crescent, due to anchoring of onshore rocks to the south. This beach is great for volleyball and other types of recreational fitness.”
The state tourism office, Visit Florida, also took the opportunity last week to promote Siesta and two other Florida beaches that made the 2016 list. The others were Grayton Beach State Park in the Panhandle and Caladesi Island State Park in the Dunedin/Clearwater area.
Of Siesta, Visit Florida wrote on its website, “Dr. Beach declared this beautiful shoreline the best beach in the United States in 2011. … Clearly, he hasn’t forgotten his old favorite. And who could blame him?”
Beach concessions contract renewed
As part of its May 24 Consent Agenda of routine business items, the County Commission renewed its contract with Socially Responsible Real Estate Initiative Inc. (SREI) to operate the concessions at Siesta Public Beach through Aug. 31, 2021.
The agreement calls for SREI to “achieve gross annual sales of no less than $1,540,000. “The original contract — signed on March 29, 2011 — called for the firm to achieve gross annual sales of no less than 70 percent of $2,196,150 during the fifth year of the contract.
That original agreement also called for the company to pay the county $34,100 per month as the base compensation. Additionally, it was to pay 2.001 percent of gross annual sales up to and including $1 million; 3.5 percent of gross annual sales over $1 million, up to and including $2 million; and 5 percent of gross annual sales exceeding $2 million during any year that followed the completion of all the new upgrades at the beach park.
A staff memo provided to the board in advance of the unanimous vote on May 24 points out that the East Concession and West Concession have been renamed Siesta Sun Deck Concession and Siesta Sand Plaza Concession, respectively.
The agreement previously called for the East Concession to be open for only four hours a day, three days a week. “Due to anticipated increased demand for the new Sun Deck,” the memo continues, “the operating hours … were increased to a minimum of eight hours a day, with the possibility of staggering opening and closing times. The concession must be open no later than 9:30 A.M. and close no earlier than 5:30 P.M., seven days per week, 363 days per year.” The memo adds that the concession is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
The new agreement also allows SREI to operate one “Hair Wrap and Body Art vending booth” outside its concession area, in place of its mobile concession trailer. County approval of any graphics and signage for that booth must be gained in advance of its opening, the agreement points out.
Send-off for Tatge
The Sarasota County Commission, County Administrator Tom Harmer and Carolyn Brown, director of the county’s Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department, recognized George Tatge on May 24 for his 35 years of service with the county. Tatge’s last day as manager of beaches and natural areas in the Parks Department was May 31.
Harmer explained that Tatge joined the staff in 1981 as an engineering technician and then handled regulatory work for the county engineer before transferring to the Pollution Control Division and becoming an environmental specialist in coastal zone issues and eventually an environmental supervisor.
After 20 years, Harmer told Tatge, Parks staff said, “You got smart” and transferred to that department.
During Tatge’s service in Parks, Harmer added, “our beaches and natural areas have received national awards and recognition …”
Brown told Tatge, “George, you are going to be so missed by your colleagues and your friends in Parks and Recreation and Sarasota County. I can think of no other person who is more dedicated and more passionate and does their work with more heart than you.”
The commissioners then took their turns offering their appreciation to Tatge. Chair Al Maio teased him, “I want to thank you for all the times you told me I couldn’t do what I wanted to do [on property I had just bought]. Bless you.”
Vice Chair Paul Caragiulo added, “Who knew you could love someone who works with the government, after all.”
Commissioner Carolyn Mason talked of an outing on Caspersen Beach several years ago with Tatge and Assistant County Administrator Lee Ann Lowery, when Tatge explained to them about turtle nesting. “This man told us so much and showed us so much in one evening,” Mason said, “that it has left a mark on me.” She added that Tatge had promised to take her out to see turtle nests again in July, after he has had the opportunity to enjoy some time off.
“The only reason I’m here today is because of the people in the room,” Tatge said of the crowded Commission Chambers at the Administration Center in downtown Sarasota.
He joined the county staff after he served in the Navy, he explained. “It’s been a great life.”
His colleagues offered whoops and applause at the conclusion of the recognition.
New treats at the Daiquiri Deck
Pop Craft and the Daiquiri Deck restaurants recently announced their new affiliation, which calls for Pop Craft to pair its all-natural pops with Daiquiri Deck frozen drinks.
Most of the Daiquiri Deck selections “are free of high fructose corn syrup and only use pure cane sugar as a sweetener,” a news release says. “They utilize fresh frozen fruits and avoid unhealthy preservatives [while incorporating] high quality liqueurs and liquor. All batches are made fresh daily at their locations.”
The release further notes that four varieties of frozen dessert drinks (smoothies) will be available for children, with dairy and non-dairy options, as well. “All selections are gluten free,” the release points out, adding, “Adult beverages will also be offered with a choice of pop flavors.”