Siesta Seen

Miniature golf course developer evaluating next steps; county study from several years ago says Sarasota County has among the lowest percentages of public beach access statewide; part of Siesta Promenade site suggested as ideal for a food truck vendor Siesta resident loses out on TDC seat; and Light Up the Village will be here soon

The 5160 Calle Minorga parcel has remained vacant. Rachel Hackney photo
The 5160 Calle Minorga parcel has remained vacant. Rachel Hackney photo

In the wake of a neighborhood workshop this month, the proposal for a miniature golf course in Siesta Village is on hold, the attorney representing the couple behind the project has told The Sarasota News Leader.

“We’re still evaluating [our next steps],” Robert Lincoln said during a Nov. 10 telephone interview. “There were some local residents who indicated their vociferous objection to the project,” he added of the Nov. 2 meeting held at St. Boniface Episcopal Church.

One attendee — who asked not to be named — told the News Leader the best word to sum up the session was “contentious.”

The primary concern is parking, Lincoln continued, although he said he believes the 13 vehicle spaces that will be provided — plus three more for bicycles or motorcycles “would be enough.” That is based on the experience Mike Driscoll — the proponent of the idea — has had with similar courses Driscoll owns in Lakewood Ranch and Bradenton Beach, Lincoln added.

From the outset, Lincoln and Driscoll have maintained that the project would not be a destination attraction. As Lincoln put it in an interview with the News Leader in August, “This is the kind of thing somebody’s going to do before or after they’ve gone to a restaurant or eaten ice cream [in the Village].”

During the workshop, Lincoln said, people emphasized the parking limitations in Siesta Village, indicating Driscoll should help alleviate that situation. “Obviously,” Lincoln pointed out, “we can’t do that.”

Driscoll’s focus, under county planning guidelines, is to provide enough parking for his project only, Lincoln noted.

A diagram provided to county staff shows how the golf course could fit on the parcel. Image courtesy Sarasota County
A diagram provided to county staff shows how the golf course could fit on the parcel. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The neighborhood workshop was required by Sarasota County as part of the planning process.

The 18-hole miniature course has been proposed for 5160 Calle Minorga, a 10,500-square-foot vacant lot that once was envisioned by representatives of island organizations as an area just for parking. In fact, as Siesta Key Village Association Vice President Mark Smith worked over the past couple of years on another concept for expanded Village parking, that open space was one of the spots he identified, as he noted in an interview with the News Leader.

The only building Driscoll has proposed on the site would be a starter house/restroom facility, which would be about 200 square feet.

So little???

As Siesta resident Mike Cosentino has continued to appear each month before the County Commission — pleading for the board to rescind its May 11 vote vacating a 357-foot segment of North Beach Road — one supporter steadfastly has joined him in that effort: Siesta resident Linda Valley.

Linda Valley. File photo
Linda Valley. File photo

In late October, Valley sparked a question from Commissioner Charles Hines when she talked about the fact that Florida has 825 miles of shoreline, but only 40% of that land is public. The county with the least amount of public access to its beaches is Sarasota County, she said, with a figure of about 20%.

“Based on that fact alone,” Valley told the board, “not only should you not vacate any waterfront property,” but the board should budget to buy more.

“Where did you get that information?” Hines asked her.

Having read so much material over the past few months, Valley replied, she was not certain. However, she promised to find the document and let him know.

On Nov. 9, during the most recent County Commission meeting in downtown Sarasota, she had the answer, and she provided a copy of the document to the commissioners.

The figure came from a county Beach Access Conflict Case Study that covered the period of 1980 through 2014, and it focused on Siesta Key.

The document points out, “Sarasota County has been involved in controversy over beach access on Siesta Key since the early 1970s.” It goes on to provide details of the closing of Shell Road to members of the public — a fact many of Cosentino’s allies have stressed.

“Until 1972,” the document notes, “Shell Road was an approximately [three-quarter-mile-long] unpaved road that ran along … the western edge of northern Siesta Key.” After complaints from residents “about excessive noise and danger from careless drivers,” it continues, “the large middle portion of the U-shaped road was closed to vehicular traffic” in 1972. However, the road did remain open to pedestrians and bicyclists, the document adds.

As more disputes ensued over the years between Shell Road residents and the public — including disagreements over parking along Shell Road’s northern and southern access points, both of which connected Higel Road to the shoreline — “No Parking” signs began to appear along those access points, the study says. Further, “No Trespassing” signs were planted along the unpaved right of way that had been closed to vehicular traffic.

“By 1980, the issue came to a head,” the report continues. “Many Shell Road residents had begun claiming the right of way as their private property by building walkways and swimming pools across the former roadway,” the document points out, and pedestrians and cyclists “complained of harassment from residents, while the residents complained of trespassing, littering, thefts, and vandalism.”

Public parking spaces are provided next to private property for the beach access on North Shell Road. File photo
Public parking spaces are provided next to private property for the beach access on North Shell Road. File photo

When, in response, the County Commission approved a plan to establish public ownership by constructing a nature trail along the former roadway, the study says, Shell Road residents filed suit. Ultimately, the county prevailed in the legal action, the document notes, adding that the nature trail exists.

The study went on to discuss further disputes that have erupted in recent years, including the effort by owners of condominiums on Crescent Beach to prevent the public from walking across their property.

The document explains, “The Florida Constitution establishes that the wet sand portion of the beach, or all land seaward of the MHTL [Mean High Tide Line], is owned by the state and held in trust for the public. However, the dry sand portion of beach, or all sand landward of the MHTL, is often privately owned by the beachfront property owner.”

The document adds, “To this day, the conflict persists as some beachfront property owners continue to prevent the public from [recreation] or passing the dry sand areas above the MHTL.”

Not the Siesta applicant

Mike Holderness. Rachel Hackney photo
Mike Holderness. Rachel Hackney photo

With two openings on the county’s Tourist Development Council (TDC) under consideration on Nov. 8, and three candidates having applied for them, the lone person from Siesta Key proved to be the one the County Commission did not appoint to the board.

A memo explained that the first position was for an individual who had to be a representative of a collector of the county’s Tourist Development Tax (TDT), or bed tax, as it is known; the four-year term would run through September 2020. The second spot also had to go to a representative of a collector of the TDT. That appointment was to fill an unexpired term, effective through October 2019, the memo said.

On a nomination by Commissioner Christine Robinson, the first TDC opening went to Terrance Torvund of Sarasota, who is the assistant manager at Myakka River State Park. He also serves on the county’s Historical Commission, his application says. Torvund’s application adds that he has been a park ranger at other facilities, as well, including “beaches, preserves and recreation sites.”

The second opening went to developer Angus Rogers of Sarasota, whose Floridays firm is constructing the Hotel Sarasota next to the Palm Avenue garage in downtown Sarasota, as well as the Hyatt Place Lakewood Ranch and the Home2 Suites by Hilton on Casey Key.

The third applicant was Mike Holderness, owner of SaraBay Real Estate and Siesta Key Beachside Villas. Regular readers may remember that earlier this year, Holderness purchased the former home of the late, beloved Siesta resident Capt. Ralph Styles. Located at 99 Beach Road, it has become one of Holderness’ stable of rental houses on the island.

Holderness’ application notes his real estate experience and says he is a former fire commissioner. It adds, “Held world kickboxing title, may come in handy ;)”

Benderson support probably doubtful

A graphic shows the site planned for Siesta Promenade and potential access points to it. Image courtesy Sarasota County
A graphic shows the site planned for Siesta Promenade and potential access points to it. Image courtesy Sarasota County

During the County Commission’s Nov. 8 public hearing on the revised food truck ordinance, Chris Jett, founder of the SRQ Food Truck Alliance, may have pricked up a few extra ears among audience members, so to speak, when he mentioned the site of Benderson Development’s proposed Siesta Promenade project.

Ideally, Jett told the board, food trucks should be able to operate more freely than even the revised ordinance permits. For example, he said, asphalt exists at the site of a former business on the northwest corner of the intersection of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road. People driving to Siesta Key to go to the beach would be able to stop and pick up something to eat, he continued, if a food truck were operating there.

Although Benderson Development is working with county staff to construct the Siesta Promenade mixed-use development at that corner, Jett continued, “there’s nothing there [now].”

Lighting up the Village

On Saturday, Nov. 26, for the 32nd year, the Siesta Key Village Association (SKVA) will present Light Up the Village, the organization has announced.

The event will run from 6 to 9 p.m., with Siesta Village “decorated in full holiday splendor,” a news release notes.

Santa Claus makes his way into Siesta Village during the 2015 parade. Photo courtesy Peter van Roekens
Santa Claus makes his way into Siesta Village during the 2015 parade. Photo courtesy Peter van Roekens

About 6:15 p.m., the Christmas tree lighting will take place at the gazebo, located at the intersection of Ocean Boulevard and Canal Road, the release says.

Santa Claus will arrive on a float in the holiday parade, which will begin at 5:40 p.m. at the intersection of Avenida del Mare and Beach Road. The entries will travel north on Beach Road and onto Ocean Boulevard into the Village.

“Many businesses and local groups will be participating in the parade and welcoming Santa to Siesta Village,” the release continues. “If you would like to participate, please email the parade coordinator at”

After the parade, Santa will settle himself in at Siesta Center, where he will greet all children, the release adds. The first 250 to see him will receive gift bags donated by Beach Bazaar.

Santa’s Village also will feature a clown, face painting and games with prizes. Photos may be taken with Santa, the release says.

Ocean Boulevard will be lined with luminarias, and shops and restaurants will offer refreshments and holiday bargains from 6 to 9 p.m. Additionally, live music will be presented at various venues; carolers and demonstrations of gymnastics and martial arts will be part of the entertainment, as well.

Free transportation will be provided courtesy of the Siesta Island Trolley from Siesta Public Beach to the Village from 5 to 9 p.m., making it easier for all to participate in the festivities, the release notes.

Light Up the Village is sponsored by the merchants and businesses of Siesta Village, plus friends of Siesta Village. No fee is charged for public participation.