Questions arise about notice of county workshops; resident launches petition drive against new hotel plans; Cosentino petition drive in stall mode; businesses asked to remove Reopen Beach Road signage; SKVA celebrates its accomplishments; SKA offers new help to bicyclists; and a county employee well known on the Key marks a big anniversary
As people trickled in for the Dec. 7 neighborhood workshop on a proposal that could lead to a new hotel on the Key, talk turned to how the meeting had been advertised.
Robert “Bo” Medred of Genesis Planning & Development in Sarasota said that Allen Parsons, the county’s Planning Division manager, had told him all that was necessary to comply with county guidelines was a legal notice. The Sarasota News Leader obtained a copy of that notice, which ran on Nov. 22 in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
With a rezoning petition, for example, an applicant is required to send notices to all the property owners within a certain radius of the proposed project — up to 750 feet in some situations, county planning documents have shown.
Lourdes Ramirez, a Siesta resident who served as the Siesta Key Association (SKA) president for a number of years, told Medred and Charles Bailey III, a land-use attorney also representing the applicant, that she had posted the notice on her Facebook page. The News Leader did the same, resulting in more than 2,000 views of the item, thanks to readers sharing it.
Still, by the News Leader’s count, only 10 members of the public were present that evening at St. Boniface Episcopal Church. They were joined by two reporters and a total of three representatives of the applicant, which is a corporation owned by Dr. Gary Kompothecras, known for his “1-800-Ask-Gary” advertisements.
A petition drive
Speaking of the potential hotel project: Lourdes Ramirez has begun a petition drive in an effort to prevent the adoption of a county Comprehensive Plan amendment that would make transient accommodations possible in districts zoned Commercial General on the Key.
In a letter on the site, Ramirez writes, “Say NO to massive mega hotels! Siesta Key has thousands of rooms for rent. Condos, apartments, boutique hotels — all offer nightly rentals. We like the low key (no pun intended) environment of our barrier islands especially within our Village. But a proposed new change to our local comprehensive growth plan will hurt Siesta Key’s charm, increase traffic and create massive buildings in our Village.”
She adds, “We don’t mind hotels being built but say NO to any exemptions to our current density and intensity limits for hotels. We urge Sarasota County to stop the nonsense. Don’t turn us into Miami or Ft. Lauderdale! Keep our current regulations intact!”
As of the morning of Dec. 12, Ramirez had 451 signatures of the 1,000 she was seeking.
And speaking of petition drives …
The News Leader checked in with the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Office on Dec. 9 to find out how Siesta resident Michael Cosentino has been doing in his petition drive to return a portion of North Beach Road to county ownership.
Administrative Assistant Cathy Fowler told the News Leader that he still just has eight valid signatures for the two petitions. He needs 13,866, she said.
Along with his effort to amend the County Charter as a means of overturning the County Commission’s May 11 vote to vacate a 357-foot section of North Beach Road, Cosentino also is seeking a charter amendment that would override a recent update to the county’s Comprehensive Plan to make it virtually impossible for a future commission ever to “vacate or sell County-owned road segments or rights of way along or abutting any beach, river, creek, canal, lake, bay, gulf access or waterfront vista.”
Fowler told the News Leader on Dec. 9 that the Supervisor of Elections Office has received a number of inquiries about the Reopen Beach Road petition drive.
And speaking of Reopen Beach Road …
Questions have arisen about whether the signs in Siesta Village supporting Mike Cosentino’s Reopen Beach Road initiative should have been taken down after the Nov. 8 election because of their connection with a political issue.
The Office of the County Attorney had not responded to a specific question on that point, as of the time this column was written. However, county spokesman Drew Winchester let the News Leader know on Dec. 12 that county Code Enforcement staff had sent courtesy notices to the following addresses, asking them to remove the signage:
- 5263 Ocean Blvd. (Blasé Café Plaza), sent out on Dec. 7.
- 5027 Ocean Blvd. (sign on tree next to the Old Salty Dog restaurant), sent out on Dec. 8.
- 5208 Ocean Blvd. (Big Olaf Creamery) sent out on Dec. 8.
SKVA’s last meeting
On the evening of Dec. 7, longtime members of the Siesta Key Village Association (SKVA) marked their final meeting during an informal party at the Daiquiri Deck Raw Bar.
The directors presented President Wendall Jacobsen a plaque and thanked everyone for all their efforts on behalf of the SKVA. Members also spent a bit of time recounting the organization’s accomplishments through the years.
Arguably, the greatest achievement of the SKVA was the beautification of Siesta Village, which was completed officially in early 2009. Past SKVA President Mark Smith of Smith Architects probably never will receive sufficient recognition for all the time and effort he put into persuading county leaders that the undertaking was a necessity.
During a brief interview with the News Leader on the night of Dec. 7, Smith said simply, “We have accomplished a lot over the years.”
With the SKVA being absorbed by the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce at the end of this year, Smith added that initiatives launched by the SKVA will be spread around the island. Speaking with the News Leader at the party, Jacobsen vowed to be involved in that process. He smiled when the News Leader suggested he probably would not miss the early-morning monthly sessions of the SKVA, but he was adamant about continuing to work on projects that draw people to the island.
Among the attendees at the party was Anne Johnson, who served as editor of the Pelican Press for 25 years. She also was an SKVA board member for many, many years before stepping down from that position a couple of years ago. Johnson is one of those people who always volunteered to help with events the organization sponsored, such as the Light Up the Village holiday season kickoff and the Easter Egg Hunt.
Another person at the party who was very active in the organization for a number of years was Troy Syprett, a co-owner of the Daiquiri Deck Raw Bar restaurants. Syprett handled governmental affairs issues for the SKVA.
Often through the years, SKVA board members worked to recruit newcomers who might prove as dedicated as they were in planning and carrying out the numerous events the organization sponsored. The fact that so many of the same people continued to handle the behind-the-scenes responsibilities was one reason the SKVA leadership finally decided to let the Siesta Chamber take over the organization.
The party was a good way to salute all those who have contributed so much to Siesta Village.
Along with Jacobsen, general manager of Beach Bazaar, and Smith, those who served as the last group of officers and directors were Roz Hyman, the longtime treasurer; Helene Hyland of Coldwell Banker, who was the secretary for many years; Russell Matthes, co-owner of the Daiquiri Deck restaurants; Kay Kouvatsos, co-owner of Village Café; Bob Stein of Island Visitor Publishing; Glen Cappetta, owner of Sun Ride Pedicab; and Stephanie Brown, general manager of the Siesta Key Oyster Bar.
Assistance to bicyclists
The SKA has sponsored the publication of a Siesta Key bicycle map for visitors and residents, samples of which it provided for attendees at the Dec. 1 meeting.
Director Hal Ashby took a few moments at that session to talk about the project, noting that the brochure with the map was “just off the presses.” This is the first time such a document has been available, he pointed out.
His goal, Ashby said, is to see 2,000 of them distributed to businesses and condominium complexes on the island.
Along with the map, the brochure offers tips to riders who may be unfamiliar with Florida laws. For example, it advises people to “Obey all traffic control signs and signals” and reminds them, “Don’t wear earbuds or headphones while cycling.”
The brochure was produced by bikesiestakey.org.
During a recent SKA meeting, Second Vice President Catherine Luckner put in a plug for a mobile app Sarasota County Government introduced in late March. Called “SeeClickFix,” it may be downloaded to an iPhone or an Android.
A person then can enter his or her GPS information on the mobile phone, Luckner explained. “You can actually then say where you are,” she pointed out.
If you see or suspect a problem — such as a tree limb obscuring a sign or a potentially illegal home rental — you can take a photo and send it through the app to county staff, who will make sure the appropriate department responds.
“It works fast,” Luckner added.
Her husband, Bob, she continued, recently saw a road sign that had been knocked down at an intersection on the island, so he used the app to send a photo of it through SeeClickFix. “The next day,” she said, “[the sign] was up and fixed.”
The app allows a person to track the progress from the time the notice has been sent, she added.
“You can be an anonymous complainer, if you prefer,” she noted.
“I would encourage all of you to [download the app],” Luckner told the members.
A county news release issued on March 31 says that as staff members prepared to roll out the app to residents, they found working with SeeClickFix to be easy. The county even offers a video, showing people how to use it.
A big anniversary
Regular attendees of Siesta Key Association (SKA) meetings are quite familiar with Laird Wreford, the county’s coastal resources manager. In a brief interview with the News Leader last week, Wreford commented that he had just marked his 35th anniversary with the county.
That is an achievement that certainly deserves recognition.