Sunset of outdoor retail display section of ordinance eliminated; county to seek more grant funds for the South Siesta Renourishment Project; complaints aired about dogs on South Siesta Beach; problems noted with new Givens Street flashing beacons; and nominees sought for annual Siesta Chamber awards
Coming on the heels of a nearly six-hour discussion of the Siesta Promenade project, it is no wonder the Sarasota County public hearing on Siesta Key’s outdoor retail displays went so quickly last week.
In a unanimous decision on Oct. 11, the County Commission approved the removal of the sunset date from the ordinance, which was amended in 2014. The Siesta Key Village Association (SKVA), the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, the Siesta Key Association (SKA) and a merchants group worked together to craft restrictions designed to keep Siesta Village and the South Village from essentially becoming “tacky” — or, as one SKVA member put it, taking on a Daytona Beach atmosphere.
The item was listed on the County Commission agenda as one of those “Presentation Upon Request” hearings. In other words, if no one needed to hear staff remarks, and no member of the public had signed up to make comments, a board member could just make a motion.
Chair Al Maio confirmed that he had no speaker cards.
Two motions actually were required, because the board had to convene briefly as the Land Development Regulation Commission to find the ordinance to be consistent with the county’s Comprehensive Plan. After that was handled quickly, Commissioner Carolyn Mason made the motion to approve the amended Siesta Key Overlay District ordinance without any ending date for the outdoor display guidelines. Commissioner Charles Hines seconded it.
During the Oct. 4 SKVA meeting, Vice President Mark Smith had brought up the matter. As he told The Sarasota News Leader in September, Smith said, “I haven’t had any complaints about it”; nor had county staff. When Zoning Administrator Donna Thompson asked him about eliminating the sunset date, he told SKVA members, “I thought that would be the thing to do.”
More grant money, please
In June, the county’s coastal initiatives manager, Laird Wreford, reported to the Tourist Development Council that it was possible more state funding might be accessible for the South Siesta Renourishment Project completed in the spring.
On Sept. 20, the County Commission formally directed staff to go after that assistance.
As part of its Consent Agenda of routine business items, the board unanimously authorized County Administrator Tom Harmer to execute and submit a Finding Application to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) in an effort to win an extra $5,785,716.
FDEP awarded the county $2,750,000 in 2015 for the project, a memo to the board pointed out. The new funding would come through the 2018 fiscal year Florida Beach Erosion Control Program Budget, the memo adds.
The project area ran “from about 3,000 feet south of Point of Rocks to a tapering end north of the former Midnight Pass,” the memo explains. The total cost of the work was about $21.5 million.
Projects approved for the type of grant the county is seeking this time “are assigned on a cost sharing percentage based on the amount of public access provided relative to the project area,” the memo says. In this case, the public access area initially was figured at 37.87%, the memo notes, but that has been revised to 41.31%.
Any further funds the county receives from FDEP will be used to reimburse the Tourist Development Tax fund set aside for county renourishment projects, the memo points out.
The resolution the board authorized for transmission to FDEP with the funding request points out that “the southern portion of Siesta Key has experienced severe and progressive beach erosion which has led to the substantial loss of the public recreational beach, threatened area roads and utilities, left residences vulnerable to storm damage, necessitated consideration of extensive coastal armoring and destroyed dune habitat, all to the extent that South Siesta Key is designated as an area of Critical Erosion by the State of Florida ….”
Speaking of south Siesta beach …
During the Oct. 6 SKA meeting, residents complained about people illegally walking their dogs on the shoreline south of Turtle Beach, especially near the Fisherman’s Cove condominium complex.
“We’re aware of them,” Sheriff’s Deputy Chris McGregor replied.
The problem, he explained, is that it is not easy for officers to access that part of the beach. The sand is too loose for them to use the ATVs they drive on Siesta Public Beach, he pointed out. That means a deputy would have to walk about 2 miles to reach most of the offenders. By the time the deputy could get there, McGregor added, the people and the dogs would be gone.
People also tend to bring their boats up to shore in that area, he noted, and then get out of the vessels with their dogs. Most of them probably do not know about the county ordinance that forbids dogs on the beach, he continued. “We try to educate them.”
As Sheriff’s Office representatives have in the past, McGregor also encouraged people to call the non-emergency number to report such incidents. That is 316-1201.
If they call the substation, he pointed out, it could be the next day before deputies learn of a situation, as they generally close that office at 6 p.m., unless a special event is taking place on the island.
The substation is at Siesta Public Beach.
McGregor also stressed, “If you’re not sure [about how urgent a matter is], dial 911 and they’ll assess the situation.”
During the same meeting, SKA Director Joe Volpe did offer praise to McGregor and Sgt. Jason Mruczek — the substation leader — for the handling of a different issue: “You’ve done a great job of patrolling the stop signs on Treasure Boat Way.”
Volpe had complained at a past SKA session about drivers failing to pay attention to those signs in that neighborhood on the north part of the Key.
However, Volpe also told the officers that the organization had been receiving complaints recently about drivers failing to halt at the four-way stop signs at the intersection of Ocean Boulevard/Canal Road/Avenida Messina in Siesta Village.
Mruczek replied that deputies are trying to keep a watch on that area.
Givens light update
As promised, county staff did get the flashing beacon equipment installed earlier this month at the intersection of Givens Street and Ocean Boulevard, just north of Siesta Village.
However, on Oct. 14, Michael Shay — who has assisted residents with the project — notified county staff, “[T]he beacons have been in place for a couple of days & look great,” but he noticed at 5 a.m. that day that they were not blinking. Therefore, he was seeking an update.
As it turned out, one battery was missing when staff received the equipment, Shay learned. A county employee wrote him in an email, “The battery won’t be in till the first of the week. I got the contractor to go back out there and he has the [northbound] flasher working now. We will install the other one as soon as it comes.”
Chamber award nominees sought
Each year, the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce recognizes individual businesses and people for “outstanding achievements and service within the community,” it points out in an email blast to members. Once again, it is time to seek nominees for those annual awards; the email asks that they be submitted no later than 5 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 9.
The categories include Large Business of the Year (10 or more employees); Small Business of the Year (up to nine employees); Businessperson of the Year; and the Shining Star Award. The latter goes to “an exceptional employee” who provides an extraordinarily high level of service, the nomination form explains.
The form may be filled out online and emailed to Executive Director Ann Frescura (email@example.com), faxed to 941-349-9699 or delivered in person to the Chamber office at 5114 Ocean Blvd. in Siesta Village.
The awards dinner will be held on Friday, Jan. 27, 2017 at TPC Prestancia.
Editor’s note: This article was updated on the morning of Oct. 21 to correct the location of the Sheriff’s Office substation on Siesta Key.