Comprehensive Plan amendment regarding hotels on the Key still not submitted to county staff; MTV to put another spotlight on Siesta; the SKA adds two board members; SKA director offers a ‘visual reference’ regarding the plan to dredge Big Pass; Cosentino continues to seek special SKA meeting; new sewer infrastructure planned for Sanderling Club and Dolphin Bay basins; and county staff provides latest update on wastewater treatment plant project
More than five months after representatives of a Siesta Key chiropractor held a neighborhood workshop on the initiative, Sarasota County staff has yet to receive a proposed Comprehensive Plan amendment that would allow hotels on redeveloped land zoned Commercial General (CG) on the barrier islands.
That was the news from Matthew Osterhoudt, director of the county’s Planning and Development Services Department, on May 8 in response to a question from The Sarasota News Leader.
With Commissioner Nancy Detert in the minority, the County Commission voted 3-1 on Jan. 10 to allow representatives of Dr. Gary Kompothecras to submit the proposed amendment so staff could begin its review of the matter outside the normal May cycle for such initiatives. (Commissioner Charles Hines was absent during the discussion.)
On April 24, a delegation comprising representatives of the Siesta Key Association (SKA), the Siesta Key Condominium Council, the Gulf & Bay Club, the Marina Del Sol condominium complex and Tiffany Sands met individually with four of the five county commissioners to voice their opposition to the potential for new hotel construction on Siesta, Lourdes Ramirez, a past president of both the SKA and the Sarasota County Council of Neighborhood Associations (CONA), told the News Leader.
Additionally, she said, the Peppertree complex sent the commissioners a letter voicing its members’ aversion to the proposal.
Only Commissioner Alan Maio, who represents Siesta as part of District 4, declined to talk with the group, Ramirez noted.
In a May 9 telephone interview with the News Leader, Maio explained that Comprehensive Plan amendments tend to morph into requests for zoning changes and land use decisions that entail quasi-judicial public hearings before the County Commission. Board members are not supposed to discuss such issues outside the official public hearing process, they have pointed out. Therefore, even though no Comprehensive Plan amendment is under staff review to make its way to a public hearing, he told the News Leader, “in an abundance of caution, I did not take the meeting [with the Siesta group].”
Maio added that he had not even checked on the status of the proposal. “I haven’t inquired.”
He certainly did not intend to indicate any disrespect to the members of the April 24 delegation, he pointed out.
In January, Maio heard considerable dissent about the potential for new hotels on the Key when he addressed the Condo Council members during a meeting. Residents of Marina Del Sol, especially, were angry that CG property near their complex might be the focus of Kompothecras’ plans. The rumor at that time was that Kompothecras was eyeing the site of the former Fandango Café on Old Stickney Point Road; it is adjacent to a storage facility at 1260 Old Stickney Point Road, which is owned by a corporation in which Kompothecras is the principal, according to state Division of Corporations records.
SKA Director Joe Volpe, who attended the Dec. 7, 2016 neighborhood workshop on the proposed Comprehensive Plan amendment, told SKA members recently that attorney Charles D. Bailey III of the Williams Parker firm had yet to contact the SKA to ask to address members about the proposal, as Bailey had indicated he would.
In early March, Bailey told the News Leader that he had nothing new to report about the proposed amendment. He added in an email, “In response to some feedback we received from some Siesta Key stakeholders during and following our neighborhood workshop, we are working to flesh out some of the details of a proposed hotel and seek to refine and clarify the Comprehensive Plan Amendment. We feel doing so will greatly help the discussion. We hope to recommence that discussion in the next few weeks.”
MTV meets Siesta Key
The Tampa Bay Times reported this week that MTV debuted its first commercial for a reality series set on Siesta Key while presenting its MTV Movie and TV Awards on May 7.
The new show, Times staffer Christopher Spata wrote, is titled Siesta Key.
The commercial — about 15 seconds long — featured a couple kissing and text that read, “From the hills. To the beach. Welcome to Siesta Key. July.” It also showed a flyover of homes on a waterway and a pier with one rather expensive looking boat tied up to it.
Spata pointed out that last month, an Adweek profile of new MTV President Chris McCarthy mentioned Siesta Key as part of McCarthy’s “efforts to revive the network through unscripted and live programming …”
Adweek said Siesta Key, which is set to launch on July 19, “[is] in the vein of The Hills about a group of kids in an elite Florida enclave who return home for the summer after spending their freshman year in college) …”
McCarthy won his job in October 2016, Adweek noted. Afterward, the publication continued, “McCarthy quickly formulated his vision for the network: bring back the teens and women who had fled by shifting the focus from scripted shows back to unscripted, coming-of-age themed series, and most importantly, reestablish the brand’s live bona fides.”
Siesta has won its share of national attention over the past 12 months, with Dr. Stephen Leatherman of Florida International University — Dr. Beach — ranking the beach No. 2 on his 2016 list and TripAdvisor in late February honoring the beach as its No. 1 pick in the U.S.
Two new SKA board members
During the SKA’s regular meeting on May 4, Secretary Joyce Kouba announced that two new people have joined the board of directors: Marilyn Romanus and Bob Spicer.
Romanus could not be present because of family illness, Kouba said. Romanus’ first job with the nonprofit, Kouba explained, will be to serve as assistant treasurer.
Spicer was present, so Kouba invited members to introduce themselves to him after the session ended.
Spicer has lived on the Key about seven years, Kouba noted. He spent much of his career with Proctor & Gamble, she added, drawing laughter when she continued, “So he’s going to be our shampoo person.”
In reality, Kouba explained, the other board members hope that Spicer — who has a marketing background — will help with fundraising for the SKA’s Environmental Defense Fund. The administrative appeal of the Dec. 22, 2016 Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) Notice of Intent to issue a permit for the dredging of Big Pass will take place in late August, Kouba said.
The SKA, Save Our Siesta Sand 2 and the Florida Wildlife Federation all have filed appeals of the FDEP decision and will be fighting it during a hearing scheduled in Sarasota over the last two weeks of August.
Finally, Kouba told the audience of about 60 people, “We now have three Bobs [on the board], which is going to be a lot,” eliciting more laughter.
The other two Bobs are Bob Miller, the treasurer, and Bob Stein.
‘A visual reference’
As the SKA directors were finishing up their monthly meeting on May 4, Director Joe Volpe “took the stage,” so to speak, to talk about the Lido Key Renourishment Project.
He offered what he called a “visual reference,” starting with points in the Parish Hall at St. Boniface Episcopal Church, to help members understand just how much sand the City of Sarasota and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) are proposing to remove from Big Sarasota Pass to renourish about 1.6 miles of South Lido Key.
He put things into writing for the News Leader after the meeting. The 1.2 million cubic yards from Big Pass, he pointed out, would be equal to a digging out a trench 1,950 yards long, 3 yards deep and about 200 yards wide.
“I call it the ‘boat channel,’” Volpe told the SKA members during the meeting.
For years, rumor has swirled that one significant, associated goal of the Lido project is to create a new channel to the Gulf of Mexico for the yachts that dock at Marina Jack.
“I’m a boater,” Volpe continued, noting that he has lived on the Key for 22 years. The accretion of sediment has produced the sandbar in Big Pass, he added, so he has been able to take his small boat there for picnics with his grandchildren. If the city and the USACE succeed in undertaking their Lido project, Volpe said, that sandbar will be gone.
Cosentino’s quest for a special SKA meeting
An attorney for Siesta resident Mike Cosentino appeared before the SKA members during the May 4 meeting to announce that a new petition drive is underway in the effort to persuade the organization to hold a special meeting on the issues relating to the County Commission’s May 11, 2016 vacation of a 357-foot segment of North Beach Road.
On April 6, Cosentino argued with SKA President Harold Ashby that the nonprofit’s bylaws call for the scheduling of a special session if at least 100 members request it. Ashby explained that the bylaws are not written clearly. Nonetheless, Ashby indicated the board might consider a special session if Cosentino collected the necessary number of member signatures.
On May 4, attorney Elizabeth Gomez-Mayo said the board had given her 120 seconds to address the petition drive. It was almost a year ago, she added, that “our county commissioners colluded with three property owners on our island to give away a piece of road that does not belong to them.”
Cosentino has brought suit against the county in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court. The first hearing in the case was conducted on April 5. It focused on a motion for partial summary judgment filed by intervenors Dennis and Wendy Madden, one of the three sets of property owners to whom Gomez-Mayo alluded on May 4. The judge ruled in favor of the Maddens. County Attorney Stephen DeMarsh reported that action to the County Commission during its regular meeting on April 25, as the judge’s order was a victory for the county, as well.
During her May 4 comments, Gomez-Mayo indicated that Cosentino merely wants the SKA members polled as to how they feel about the road vacation. “After the meeting,” she continued, “I’ll have all my papers out here. If you’d like to talk with me, I will be at your disposal.”
Her remarks lasted almost exactly 1 minute. Applause rang out in the Parish Hall at St. Boniface Episcopal Church — where the SKA meeting was taking place — as she prepared to sit back down.
More infrastructure replacement work planned
Residents of the Sanderling Club and Dolphin Bay are next in line for “sanitary pipeline infrastructure rehabilitation,” thanks to unanimous votes by the County Commission on May 9.
As with similar work last year, the contractor will be Insituform Technologies LLC, which has an office in Tampa.
The Sanderling Club Basin contract is for $192,786.41; the Dolphin Bay Basin contract, $107,084.04, according to memos from the county Utilities Department staff to the commission.
Both projects have been planned to begin early this summer and last all through the summer, the memos note. Residents in the immediate areas “will be notified by postcard of upcoming construction at least two weeks prior to the start of work,” each memo points out.
In both the Sanderling Club and Dolphin Bay basins, Insituform will undertake “trenchless reconstruction” of 8-inch diameter vitrified clay pipe (VCP). The projects should extend the life of the infrastructure by more than 50 years, the memos point out.
The Sanderling Club work will involve about 5,569 linear feet of pipeline; in Dolphin Bay, approximately 2,782 linear feet of pipe.
The projects will be paid for with revenue from the county’s penny surtax program and sewer rates, the memos add.
Wastewater plant update
As for the big sewer infrastructure project on the Key:
On May 5, Billie Havey, a member of the county’s Public Works Division staff, reported that the contractor for the Siesta Wastewater Treatment Plant/Master Pump Station project would be undertaking more investigative work to identify all buried utility lines along the Siesta Cove Drive cul-de-sac and at the intersection of South View Drive and Midnight Pass Road.
Formally, for Havey’s purposes, this part of the overall initiative to decommission the plant by the end of the year is identified as the “Siesta Key Force Main Phase 1 and Water Main, [Intracoastal Waterway] Crossing to US 41.”
“Portions of the Siesta Cove Drive south cul-de-sac shall be used for equipment and material storage,” she noted.
The contractor will be installing open-cut water main and force main (sewer) pipelines from Siesta Cove Drive to South View Drive.
A crew will be on-site along the west end of South View Drive, near Midnight Pass Road, to guide drivers, she continued.
“There will be an alternate through-traffic detour route in place with signage during construction. Residents will have access to their driveways. Please use caution as motorists and workers share the road,” Havey added.