Siesta Seen

Owners of 162 Beach Road parcel accept county’s purchase offer; redevelopment of Siesta Key Palms Hotel proposed; ‘Dr. Beach’ weighs in on the potential of paid beach parking; SKA members get an update on the wastewater treatment plant project; ‘sharrows’ still in the works for part of Ocean Boulevard; and the suspect in island vehicle burglary cases pleads not guilty

The property at 162 Beach Road is close to The Terrace condominium complex. Rachel Hackney photo

Ronald and Sania Allen of Osprey have accepted Sarasota County’s offer of $1.4 million for their parcel at 162 Beach Road, The Sarasota News Leader has learned.

However, neither Wendy B. Cooper, trustee of the Burton M. Cooper Credit Shelter Trust No. 1, nor the Cooper family’s attorney has responded to the county’s offer of $1,450,000 for the Cooper property at 168 Beach Road, county Media Relations Officer Jason Bartolone told the News Leader in an Oct. 13 email.

Staff is “in the process of finalizing a contract” with the Allens, Bartolone noted.

In their first regular meeting after Hurricane Irma swept through Florida, the commissioners discussed counter proposals the Allens and the Cooper family made to the county’s offers for their property earlier this year.

The commission has remained steadfast in refusing to grant a Coastal Setback Variance for construction on either parcel, because the residences would be fully seaward of the Gulf Beach Setback Line, the county’s line of protection from storm damage.

After more than an hour of discussion on Sept. 13, including exchanges with attorney William Merrill III of the Icard Merrill firm in Sarasota — who represents the Allens — the board members voted 4-1 to stick with the county’s offer of a total of $2,850,000 for the parcels.

Commissioner Michael Moran cast the “No” vote.

The vacant parcel at 168 Beach Road is across the street from a cottage the Cooper family owns at 145 Beach Road. Rachel Hackney photo

The Allens’ counter proposal was for $1.7 million, while the Coopers wanted $1.8 million for their property. Moran’s motion to split the difference between the $2,850,000 and the $3.5 million died for lack of a second.

Merrill had talked of the potential of filing suit against the county over an illegal “taking” of the Allens’ land because of the board’s refusal to approve several requests for variances for construction. Commissioner Charles Hines challenged Merrill on that issue on Sept. 13. The commission never had been asked about granting a variance for a parking lot on the land, for example, Hines said, while Commissioner Nancy Detert talked of the potential for a beach cabana on the property, for another example.

If the property owners took the county to court, Hines indicated he felt confident that the county would prevail.
Neither the Allens nor the Coopers nor the Coopers’ attorney was present for the Sept. 13 discussion.

Redevelopment proposed for hotel on Stickney Point Road

A limited liability company that owns the Siesta Key Palms Hotel and Resort at 1800 Stickney Point Road has filed a rezoning application with Sarasota County to allow the redevelopment of the 1-acre site.

The hotel website features this aerial view of the property. Image from

Sarasotaville of Siesta Key also wants to reactivate the Tourist Resort Redevelopment (TRR) zoning district that was moved to the inactive district list in 2003, when the county’s zoning ordinance was updated, according to the Sept. 18 application.

A letter accompany the application — written by Bo Medred of Genesis Planning and Development in Bradenton — points out that the TRR district is “designed to encourage the preservation and redevelopment of existing historic hotels and motels. This district is intended to apply to older transient accommodations and related tourism resort facilities,” the letter adds.

“The intent of allowing rezonings to TRR for such properties is to facilitate their being redeveloped with ‘boutique’ motel or hotel resort uses,” the application explains. Such facilities would be smaller than traditional hotels — having fewer than 75 rooms — and they would have unique settings and accommodations, the application adds.

The TRR zoning would allow a maximum of 36 rooms per acre, according to the application, but Sarasotaville of Siesta Key says the maximum planned with the redevelopment of the hotel is 30.

The Siesta Key Palms website names prominent developer Henry Rodriguez of Osprey as the owner of the facility. He is listed as the manager of Sarasotaville of Siesta Key in state Division of Corporations records.

The hotel has 21 rooms, its website says. The application notes that six multifamily units and eight motel units stand on the site. Part of the property is zoned Residential Multifamily-4, while the rest is zoned Office, Professional and Institutional (OPI), the application says. Sarasotaville of Siesta Key is seeking to have all of the property rezoned TRR.

An engineering drawing shows plans for redevelopment of the property. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Of the five buildings on the site, the applicant wants to preserve four and construct a new one. After Building 6 has been completed, the application adds, then Building 3 would be demolished “to make way for additional parking” for the motel units in the new structure, the application points out. Another goal is to add a new pool and spa.

Two accesses to the site are on Dawn Street, with another two on Avenue B. Those would be closed, the application adds, with an access on Stickney Point Road relocated further south.

Six-foot-wide landscape buffers would be provided along the Avenue B, Dawn Street and Stickney Point Road frontages, the application notes.

The project would not entail any increase in impervious surface greater than the 2,000 square feet proposed, the application says. However, in the event it appears that figure will rise, the application adds, low-impact design features “will be implemented by the engineer.”

Dr. Beach and the paid parking issue

On Oct. 11, when the Sarasota County commissioners were reviewing research staff had undertaken about paid parking options for Siesta Public Beach, Carolyn Brown, director of the county’s Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department, noted that staff had sought the views of Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman of Florida International University — known worldwide as Dr. Beach.

Stephen Leatherman addresses members of the Siesta Key Association on Dec. 1, 2016. File photo

In an Aug. 16 conversation, Brown continued, Leatherman said he considers parking fees in relation to beach access, “including how reasonable the charge [is] and how the revenues are used” — for example, if the money goes toward operations at the beach or related activities, as well as reinvestment in the beach.

He added that the free Siesta Key Breeze trolley is “a clear benefit to beach visitors,” Brown noted.

Irma delays wastewater plant project

As a result of Hurricane Irma and a lot of rain that fell about two weeks before the storm blew through, the project to replace the Siesta Key Wastewater Treatment Plant with a master pump station has been delayed, Siesta Key Association (SKA) members learned during their Oct. 5 meeting.

“I’ve been trying to make sure the county lives up to its commitment to get the plant shut down by the end of the year,” Robert Luckner, a member of the organization’s Environmental Committee, reported. County staff had foreseen completion of the project in November. “Now it’s in December,” Luckner said, but at least the schedule is not anticipated to run into 2018.

The pump station work was about 80% complete as of Oct. 5, he continued, and the entire project was about 70% complete.

The effluent will travel off the island through new pipelines, so it can be treated at county plants on the mainland, staff has explained at prior SKA meetings.

Staff also told him that the contractor hoped the pipeline connection across Midnight Pass Road to Shadow Lawn Way would be completed by Oct. 13, Luckner noted. About a week after that has been accomplished, he added, the blocked inbound lane of the street will reopen for traffic.

Equipment is idle next to a trench on Shadow Lawn Way on the evening of Oct. 5. Rachel Hackney photo

Noting that Siesta Isles residents won a county grant to make improvements to the median in late 2015, Luckner pointed out that if the construction work damages the median in any way, the contractor is obligated to make all the necessary repairs.

Staff also told him the construction on Shadow Lawn Way should be completed by the latter third of October, he continued.

Although the original plan was to use a method called directional boring to install the new sewer force main underground, Luckner explained, because of a problem the contractor encountered in one area, the contractor had to resort to the open trench method.

After everything has been finished on Shadow Law Way and the system has been pressure-tested, Luckner said, the road will be repaved. Staff told him that should take place before Thanksgiving.

Additionally, Luckner noted, staff reported that no problems had been conveyed to the county regarding the school bus stop on Midnight Pass Road, which is in the vicinity of the project. However, Luckner asked that if any of the SKA audience members knew of any issues the construction was posing to students at the bus stop, they should alert county staff.

Water pumped out of the construction site flows across Shadow Lawn Way on Oct. 5. Rachel Hackney photo

“We did have one odor complaint,” Luckner continued. Because the smell was similar to that of rotten eggs, he added, he feared that a problem had arisen again with the wastewater treatment plant. (The odor once was a major focus of complaints among residents who live near the plant. After the SKA invited David Cash, manager of the county’s Water/Wastewater Division, to a meeting in April 2016, Cash and his staff worked to alleviate the problem.)

As it turned out, the odor was a result of the contractor’s having to pump groundwater out of the construction site, Luckner told the SKA audience. Because of all the rain, the groundwater level had risen considerably, he said.

Cash reported back to him the same day Luckner asked about the odor, Luckner noted, and it was a weekend day, at that.

The normal discharge from the wastewater treatment plant into the Grand Canal flows from a pipeline that is below the canal’s surface, Luckner added.

“I’ll keep after ’em,” he said, in regard to the project’s staying on schedule.

‘Sharrows’ coming soon to Ocean Boulevard

During the February SKA meeting, President Harold Ashby talked about Sarasota County’s plan to paint “sharrows” on Ocean Boulevard where no bike lane exists, to make the road friendlier for cyclists.

The approximately 825-meter stretch of Ocean Boulevard from Beach Road, through the Village, to Treasure Boat Way is the area targeted for the directional arrows, Patrick Lui, coordinator of the county’s Bicycle, Pedestrian and Trails program, told the News Leader.

Ashby had anticipated the work would be completed during this summer.

A county graphic explains ‘sharrows.’ Image courtesy Sarasota County

The sharrows topic arose most recently during the Oct. 11 County Commission’s discussion of paid beach parking and other transportation options for Siesta Key. Carolyn Brown, director of the county’s Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department, explained that the sharrows are painted on paved roads to indicate bicyclists may use any portion of the full width of a lane. She added that they would be added to Ocean Boulevard in this fiscal year, though she did not specify a timeline.

When the News Leader checked with Lui on Oct. 13, he reported that the project will be completed “as soon as possible.”

The contractor the county hired to undertake the painting ended up with a backlog of work, Lui explained. Staff has been waiting “to get through their queue. … [The project is] planned and it’s funded.”

During the Oct. 11 County Commission discussion, Commissioner Michael Moran asked whether the members of the county’s Bicycle Pedestrian Trail Advisory Committee had discussed the sharrows and a proposed bike-sharing program for Siesta.

Paula Wiggins, the county’s transportation planning manager, responded that the committee members had talked about the plans. She added, “We are coordinating with our partners in the municipalities, and we are working on a scope [of work] to seek those firms that have the experience and the proficiency” to handle the bike-sharing program for the county.

She told the board that staff expects to have the draft of that scope completed “as early as this month.”

“That is great news,” Commissioner Alan Maio responded.

Maio has been pushing staff to get bike-sharing programs underway in the county.

Update on vehicle burglaries case

Sarah Young. Photo courtesy Sheriff’s Office

The Sarasota woman arrested last month in connection with six burglaries of vehicles on the Key was released from the county jail under bond on Oct. 3, the News Leader learned.

Sarah A. Young, 20, of 3616 Teal Ave. initially was arrested on Sept. 19 and then rearrested on Sept. 22.

Her arraignment is set for Oct. 27, 12th Judicial Circuit Court records show. She has pleaded not guilty to the burglary charges and to two counts of credit card fraud.

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office reported in late September that it anticipated more charges to be filed after detectives interviewed her and then took about five hours to inventory items she admitted to having stolen and then hidden in a Tangerine Drive house. She was living in that Sarasota house at the time at least some of the incidents occurred, based on Sheriff’s Office reports.