Siesta Seen

SKA and county staff provide an update on the Lido Renourishment Project; the Condo Council will meet next week; Sheriff’s Office deputy and SKA members trade anecdotes; SKA membership renewals underway; and SKA email blasts are worth reading in detail

Condominium towers stand on South Lido, across Big Sarasota Pass from Siesta Key. File photo
Condominium towers stand on South Lido, across Big Sarasota Pass from Siesta Key. File photo

Confusion continues to swirl around the exact timeline the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) is following in regard to the City of Sarasota/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) proposal to dredge Big Sarasota Pass to renourish South Lido Key Beach.

In October, Jess Boyd, an FDEP spokeswoman, responded to a request for clarification from The Sarasota News Leader: “The application for a Joint Coastal Permit was deemed complete as of 9/28/2016. The department now has 90 days to issue a Notice of Intent to Issue or Deny [a permit for the project]. The challenge period of that action is within 14 days of the date of publication of the notice or written notice, whichever occurs first.”

A second FDEP spokeswoman, Dee Ann Miller, confirmed that again for the News Leader this week, in spite of the fact that a document on the FDEP website says the department has 60 days from Oct. 1 “to take agency action.”

SKA Second Vice President Catherine Luckner referenced the timeline during the Nov. 3 SKA meeting, pointing out, “It is very likely within the next two months we will have a response from [FDEP] about whether [it intends] to issue the dredge permit.” Even if it does indicate it plans to issue the permit to the city and the USACE, she continued, an administrative challenge can be made — the 14-day period Boyd noted in her email.

Such a challenge, Luckner said, can be pegged to the question, for example, of whether FDEP followed all the necessary rules in making its decision. Right now, she added, an internal review is underway at the department as its experts work to make that determination.

Furthermore, Luckner noted, if FDEP says its intent is to issue the permit, and someone challenges that decision, that person then has standing to challenge the permit itself and even to take the matter to court.

Save Our Siesta Sand 2 (SOSS2), a nonprofit organization based on Siesta, intensified its efforts this summer to raise sufficient funds to mount a legal challenge, if necessary. Leaders of the organization have said they expect it would take at least $250,000 to try to stop the dredging of the pass through the filing of a lawsuit.

In related news, Luckner told the News Leader she had contacted Sarasota County staff for an update from its perspective on where things stand with the City of Sarasota in regard to the project.

A sign welcomes people to Ted Sperling Park. Image courtesy Sarasota County
A sign welcomes people to Ted Sperling Park. Image courtesy Sarasota County

When the County Commission sent a letter to the USACE on Aug. 24, seeing an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) of the proposed dredging of Big Pass, a copy of that letter was shared with city staff, Matt Osterhoudt, interim director of the county’s Planning and Development Services Department, informed Luckner via email. (The SKA had requested the board call for the EIS; it sent a letter to the commissioners in early July.)

Osterhoudt continued, “I am not aware of any staff-level technical discussions that then followed between the County and the City of Sarasota about this issue since late August. This week, ACOE staff stated that they would be preparing a response to the Board’s request for an EIS on the project within the next month or so.”

When Luckner then asked whether county and city staff had had any discussions about the potential staging for part of the project in the county’s Ted Sperling Park on South Lido, Osterhoudt wrote on Nov. 3, “To date, the County has not yet received any request from the City or ACOE regarding the use of Ted Sperling Park to support the Lido Beach project. Therefore, there have not been any discussions to date between County staff and City/ACOE staff about this topic. Staff anticipates that an official request will be made based on the drawings submitted by the City to the State of Florida as part of the permit application documents. At the time that the City/ACOE contacts the county about the possible staging area, we expect conversation around that topic to address pertinent issues associated with the use of the park for staging or other project-related activities.”

Osterhoudt added, “In anticipation of this request, staff reached out to the FDEP to gain a better understanding of the process. Approval of the use of the staging area would not be required as a condition of the FDEP permit issuance, but would be required prior to the issuance of the Notice to Proceed. In preparation for receiving a request to use Ted Sperling Park, staff has been proactively evaluating possible impacts and associated concerns, which would be shared and discussed with the City/ACOE in the future.”

Condo Council meeting

Dan Lobeck. File photo
Dan Lobeck. File photo

One sure sign a lot of snowbirds have returned is the scheduling of the first meeting this season of the Siesta Key Condominium Council.

That session has been set for 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 15, at Siesta Key Chapel, located at 4615 Gleason Ave.

The guest speaker will be Sarasota attorney Dan Lobeck, who will provide an overview of state, federal and local government actions taken earlier this year that will have an impact on condo complexes and owners. Among the issues will be sprinkler retrofit requirements; new federal standards for screening of sales and leases for potential criminal conduct; and the impacts on traffic expected as a result of the update of the county Comprehensive Plan.

Keep those numbers handy

During his report to SKA members on Nov. 3, Deputy Chris McGregor noted that with children back in school and not all the snowbirds having returned yet, “this is the time of year for us”; not much is going on.

No real crime trends had been detected, he added.

SKA board member Joe Volpe told him that a would-be criminal apparently was going through unlocked vehicles on Treasure Boat Way the previous week.

“Was that reported?” McGregor asked.

“I doubt it,” Volpe replied.

“These things have to be reported,” McGregor advised the audience of about 60 people. Otherwise, he said, deputies may be aware of similar situations but unaware they are connected to additional incidents.

Deputy Chris McGregor. File photo
Deputy Chris McGregor. File photo

That reminded him of a situation that happened about 20 years ago, McGregor continued. A woman left a message on the office number at the Siesta Key substation, saying, “It’s Friday night. I just chased a guy out of my house.”

McGregor pointed out that because the substation generally is not staffed at night or on the weekends, he did not hear her message until the following Monday morning.

“Don’t hesitate to call,” he told the audience. “Make a report.”

On a related note, Bob Luckner, husband of SKA Vice Second President Catherine Luckner, thanked McGregor for fast response to a call he made to the Sheriff’s Office several weeks earlier. “We had a suspicious person across the street from us,” Bob Luckner explained. The house had not been occupied, so he called the non-emergency number for the Sheriff’s Office.

“The [deputy] was there in 3 minutes,” Luckner continued.

“Awesome,” McGregor replied.

As it turned out, the person in the house was a new tenant, Luckner said. “It was a non-event, but how did we know, right?”

“Those are the endings we like,” McGregor told him.

Then, drawing laughter, McGregor indicated that perhaps it was not the best way for the renter to meet his new neighbors.

“The deputy [who responded] was very diplomatic,” Luckner explained, declining to tell the young man who had called the Sheriff’s Office. Nonetheless, Luckner continued, he did go over and introduce himself and explain that he and his wife were concerned because they had not known the house had a new occupant.

The man appeared to be a teenager, and he had long hair and a backpack, Luckner pointed out; he did not look like the usual resident in their neighborhood.

At the request of an audience member, McGregor pointed out that the non-emergency Sheriff’s Office number is 316-1201. “If you’re not sure,” he added, “dial 911.” The operator will determine whether the situation qualifies as an emergency; if it is not, McGregor said, the operator still will see that the information is passed along to a deputy.

He also reminded the audience members that, in most cases, the caller may remain anonymous.

SKA membership renewals

SKA board members Bob Miller (left) and Joe Volpe listen to members in October. Rachel Hackney photo
SKA board members Bob Miller (left) and Joe Volpe listen to members in October. Rachel Hackney photo

SKA board member Bob Miller reminded everyone during the Nov. 3 meeting that the organization’s annual membership drive is underway.

Anyone who registered online and agreed to automatic renewals will have his or her credit card charged on Jan. 1, Miller said. If a member has begun using a different credit card since the last time he or she renewed, Second Vice President Catherine Luckner pointed out, the member should update that information on the SKA website to make sure the transaction in January occurs without a problem.

For those who prefer not to conduct transactions online, however, checks are welcome, Miller pointed out.
“Quite a few members have signed up already,” he added.

In response to a question about the next annual meeting, Luckner said no date has been set yet. The board generally tries to schedule the session around the first part of March, she added, but not during spring break for county students.

The annual meeting traditionally is held in the Community Room at St. Boniface Episcopal Church.

And speaking of SKA meetings …

Members of the Siesta Key Association gather in the St. Boniface Community Room for their annual breakfast meeting, held March 5, 2016. File photo
Members of the Siesta Key Association gather in the St. Boniface Community Room for their annual breakfast meeting, held March 5, 2016. File photo

With Sarasota County staff members expected to present an update on the status of the Siesta Key Wastewater Treatment Plant, SKA board members chose to hold the Nov. 3 session in the Community Room at St. Boniface.

Generally, the organization conducts its meetings either in Room F or in the Parish Hall at the church. The latter is usually the site of sessions when bigger crowds are anticipated.

One advantage of being an SKA member is getting an email announcing the program and the exact location of it. However, if one does not read the announcement, one still may find herself at a disadvantage.

As it turned out on Nov. 3, more than one SKA member had not read that email blast. St. Boniface members were holding a meeting of their own in the Parish Hall, and they thought the SKA session was supposed to be in Room F. When told that chairs were not set up in Room F for an SKA meeting, one church member nonetheless continued to insist that the session would be in Room F.

Fortunately, members who arrived early without reading the email blast did realize they should check the Community Room. After she was apprised of the situation, Luckner hurried over to Room F to post a sign to redirect others who might not have read the email, either.

The moral of the story is, if you do get the informative email blasts in advance of the SKA meetings, take time to read them thoroughly.