Siesta Seen

County Commission chair applauds citizen participation in SKOD hearing; Condo Council provides bus for SKOD hearing attendees; man threatens woman driver with gun on Stickney Point Road; 168 Beach Road negotiations end unsuccessfully; Sheriff’s Office has an especially popular patrol unit; island crime statistics mostly down in 2017; arrest made in Siesta Beach parking lot

The Commission Chambers is nearly full on Jan. 30 for the SKOD public hearing. Photo contributed by Lourdes Ramirez

When County Commission Chair Nancy Detert opened the afternoon session of the Jan. 30 meeting, she looked out over a proverbial sea of Siesta residents in the Commission Chambers in downtown Sarasota.

“It’s always great to see so much public participation in our meetings,” she said, pointing out that the board members do not often have that many people at their sessions.

“Every seat is full,” Detert continued. “This is super. Thank you.”

The attraction was the public hearing on the proposed amendment to the Siesta Key Overlay District (SKOD) zoning regulations that could lead to tall commercial buildings only 2 feet from the sidewalk.

After more than three hours of discussion and debate, Detert then said, “I would like to congratulate the audience. It’s good government on display. You have been able to express your opinion. You got dressed up; you came to the meeting. You demonstrated civility and kindness, frankly. That says something about where we all live, too.”

“The best thing you did,” she continued, was to stay until the end. Most people “say their piece” and then leave, Detert pointed out. They learn about the board’s decision from the news media.

She also explained that because the state Sunshine Laws prevent the commissioners from discussing issues except during public meetings, the board discussions can appear to be “a little messy.”

“Thank you for sticking to the end and watching the deliberations,” Detert told the audience members. “Good on you.”

It was about 4:43 p.m. on Jan. 30, by The Sarasota News Leader’s clock, when the hearing ended.

Speaking of the hearing …

Siesta residents board the bus provided by the Condo Council on Jan. 30. Photo contributed by Lourdes Ramirez

A good number of the Siesta residents who took the time to go to downtown Sarasota for that SKOD hearing traveled there by bus.

On Jan. 26, the Siesta Key Condominium Council sent out an email blast, advising its members of details about the upcoming consideration of the proposed zoning text amendment.

“We are asking people to attend (a big presence at the meeting will make a difference) the meeting on Jan 30th to ask the Commissioners to reject this request,” the email said.

“Since parking at the Commission building can be tight,” the email added, “there will be a bus available to take people to the meeting. The bus will be available at 12:30 pm at St. Boniface Church in the back of the building at 5615 Midnight Pass Road.”

Then the email advised interested persons whom to contact to reserve a seat on the bus, which had about 40 seats available at that time.

Based on the photos two of the meeting attendees — Lourdes Ramirez and Margaret Jean Cannon — contributed to the News Leader, the bus appeared to be full.

And based on the discussion of the hearing during the Siesta Key Association (SKA) meeting two days later, the News Leader expects another big turnout of Siesta residents when the county commissioners take up the issue again on April 11.

Driver threatens woman with gun on Stickney Point Road

Harry Shuback Jr. Photo courtesy of the Sheriff’s Office

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office arrested a 76-year-old Sarasota man on Feb. 1 after he allegedly threatened a woman driver with a weapon on Stickney Point Road.

The incident allegedly occurred at the U.S. 41 intersection, the office reported.

Harry A. Shuback Jr. of 8945 Whitemarsh Ave. was charged with Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon and DUI, the Sheriff’s Office said, adding that a breath test revealed Shuback’s level of intoxication was close to twice the legal limit. Shuback was released from jail on Feb. 2 under a $25,000 bond, the News Leader learned from the Sheriff’s Office’s Corrections Division.

According to the report, Kimberly Brewer of Bradenton was in the center lane, headed westbound on Clark Road in Sarasota, when she moved over to the left lane “directly in front of Harry Shuback Jr.’s vehicle.” She told deputies that Shuback “beeped his horn and presented her with his middle finger after she changed lanes.”

Then, about 1 p.m., as they approached the traffic light at Stickney Point Road and U.S. 41, she entered the left-most left turn lane and Shuback moved into the other left turn lane; he was one car length back from her vehicle, the report continues. Shuback exited his vehicle and approached the passenger side of Brewer’s vehicle “with a silver gun in his right hand,” the report says. He allegedly pointed the gun at Brewer, the report adds, and “tapped on the window with the end of the gun.” Brewer told officers that Shuback “yelled at her,” telling her, “‘Hey, girl, you better think again before you do something like that’” and then walked back to his vehicle, the report says.

“Brewer stated that she was in fear for her life and thought that she was going to be shot and killed by Shuback,” the report points out.

A deputy who spotted Shuback’s vehicle at the intersection of Stoneybrook Boulevard and Central Sarasota Parkway stopped Shuback and arrested him just before 3 p.m. on Feb. 1, the report says. He advised the deputy that he had a gun in his vehicle, the report notes; the deputy retrieved a 9mm Sig Sauer handgun “that was fully loaded with one round in the chamber,” the report adds.

A witness to the Stickney Point Road incident told deputies that she was directly behind Shuback’s vehicle at the U.S. 41 intersection, “and she saw him get out of his vehicle with a gun and point it at Brewer,” the report says. She provided photos of the incident that showed Shuback standing at Brewer’s passenger side window while Brewer was waiting for the light to change, the report adds.

After the deputy stopped Shuback, the report notes, the deputy “noticed the odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from [Shuback’s] breath. … The defendant appeared to have sluggish speech at times and had bloodshot watery eyes.”

Shuback “demanded he be given a breath test as he advised he was not impaired,” the report continues. The two breath test results conducted on Shuback showed his alcohol level at 0.128 and 0.125, the report says. The legal limit is 0.8.

168 Beach Road negotiations

A county aerial map shows the locations of 162 and 168 Beach Road and nearby county property. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Given the fact that Sarasota County concluded its negotiations with the owners of the 162 Beach Road parcel and closed on the property in late December 2017, the News Leader recently asked county staff what became of the talks involving 168 Beach Road.

Carolyn Brown, director of the county’s Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department, reported on Jan. 5 that on Nov. 27, 2017, “staff sent a rejection letter to the attorney” representing Wendy B. Cooper, trustee of the Burton M. Cooper Credit Shelter Trust No. 1, who owns the land. That followed offers and counter-offers that were renewed on Sept. 15, 2017, following a County Commission discussion about both 162 and 168 Beach Road. The board had remained firm during its Sept. 13, 2017 meeting that it would pay no more than $1,450,000 for the 168 Beach Road property.

A county staff memo explains that the property comprises 0.19 acres

A Sept. 15, 2017 letter from county staff renewed the county offer of that amount, which the owner previously had turned down. Additionally, the county gave Cooper until Oct. 16, 2017 to accept that offer.

On Oct. 16, Brown’s Jan. 5 memo says, staff received a counter-offer from Wendy B. Cooper’s attorney, seeking $1,775,000. The county rejected that in an Oct. 31, 2017 response.

Then on Nov. 13 and Nov. 15, 2017, the memo continues, “staff received two additional offer letters from the attorney representing the Property owner …” They called for payment of $1,568,658 with conditions, including $100,000 placed in escrow to be used “to investigate and clear ownership rights to county-owned beachfront lots 18 – 22 as well as offers for lots 15 and 26,” the memo notes.

That was what prompted the county’s Nov. 27, 2017 rejection letter. That communication “also stated that the [counter offers were] received after the expiration of the County’s offer.”

As a result, the memo concludes, “No further action will be taken in order to uphold the Board’s direction from the September 13, 2017 County Commission meeting.”

Popular patrol

Sgt. Jason Mruczek. File photo

During the Feb. 1 Siesta Key Association (SKA) meeting, Sgt. Jason Mruczek, leader of the Sheriff’s Office substation on the Key, told the approximately 65 people present, “We’re getting ready for spring break on our end; I don’t know about yours.”

One initiative the office has been working on for this year, he pointed out, is a “Park Smart” information card, which officers will distribute to condominium complexes that traditionally see a lot of activity during the spring break period. The cards will advise visitors, for example, that glass is forbidden on the beach and ask them not to litter. The cards also will note that it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to consume alcoholic beverages, “which is obvious,” Mruczek said, “but people forget.”

The latter comment drew a round of laughter.

Additionally, he continued, the cards will remind people not to leave valuables visible in their cars and to lock the doors of their vehicles and accommodation. Well more than half of the burglaries of vehicles and residences occur in situations when people have not used their locks, Mruczek pointed out.

The Sheriff’s Office spring break operation officially will begin on March 1, he noted. The Mounted Patrol will assist deputies on the Key, more officers will patrol the beach on ATVs, and extra Traffic Unit vehicles will be on the island at night, he added, to deal with the “big influx of people.”

In response to a question from SKA member Dave Patton, Mruczek said the Mounted Patrol officers probably will show up during the first week of March and continue to assist on the Key through mid-April, “maybe longer.”

Mruczek added, “They’ll be at the beach if anyone wants to say, ‘Hi,’ to the horses; they’re very popular.”

That remark drew more laughter.

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office will have extra personnel working on Siesta during the spring break season. Deputies on horses and ATVs keep an eye on beach-goers. Image from the Sheriff’s Office Twitter account

Speaking of the Sheriff’s Office …

During the Jan. 23 Condo Council meeting, Sgt. Mruczek provided the attendees a copy of the Key crime statistics for 2017.

Most types of crime recorded were down in comparison to the 2016 statistics, he noted. For example the number of residential burglaries dropped from 33 in 2016 to 26 in 2017. However, Mruczek pointed out, vehicle burglaries were up from 48 in 2016 to 58 in 2017. The primary reason, he said, was that a young Sarasota woman allegedly was targeting unlocked vehicles on the island during the summer.

Sarah Ann Young, who was 20 at the time of her arrest in September 2017, ultimately was charged with six counts of Burglary of a Conveyance. She was charged in connection with incidents on Higel Avenue, Siesta Cove Drive and Island Circle. Detectives reported that they were able to identify her from video surveillance provided by the owner of a residence near the house where one burglary occurred, the Sheriff’s Office reported.

Sarah Young. Photo courtesy Sheriff’s Office

In November 2017, Young pleaded nolo contendere to six counts of burglary of an unoccupied structure, which is a third-degree felony, court records show, and two counts of fraudulent use of personal identification information. In regard to the later cases: Detectives found evidence that she had used allegedly stolen credit cards to order a variety of goods on the internet.

A corrected Order of Probation, filed with the 12th Judicial Circuit Court on Jan. 4, says Young was placed on probation for five years and ordered to remain at her residence between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. She also was ordered to pay court costs and fines totaling $2,237. (An attorney with the Public Defender’s Office represented Young.)

Additionally, Judge Charles E. Roberts ordered that Young undergo a drug evaluation and, if deemed necessary, to “complete the treatment,” the document noted.

On Dec. 15, 2017, an officer had found she was not complying with the curfew, because she was neither at home nor at work, a court document says. As a result, she was placed under arrest on Dec. 29, 2017, another document says. She admitted to that violation of probation on Jan. 31, court records show, and she was ordered to serve 90 days of community control before being allowed to return to the original terms of probation. She also was ordered to pay $100 in court costs.

During the Jan. 23 Condo Council meeting, the crime statistics Sgt. Mruczek of the Sheriff’s Office distributed included a separate section for incidents reported at Siesta Public Beach.

For example: Only one robbery was reported in 2017, compared to two in 2016, and the number of thefts dropped from 49 in 2016 to 28 in 2017. Vehicle burglaries declined from 11 to eight.

Mruczek’s statistics for the beach park were listed under the heading, “At 948 Beach Rd,” prompting one woman in the audience to ask where that location is.

“The public beach parking lot,” he replied.

And speaking of the beach parking lot …

Devon Knight. Photo courtesy of the Sheriff’s Office

The Sheriff’s Office arrested a Sarasota man at Siesta Public Beach on Feb. 6 after connecting him with a vehicle burglary on the island, the Sheriff’s Office reported.

Deputies were called to 948 Beach Road about 6 p.m. after witnesses reported seeing a man with a black-and-white backpack pulling on car door handles in the parking lot at the beach, a news release said. After deputies arrived on the scene, the release continued, they quickly located Devon Knight, 27, of 2538 Rose St., who fit the description witnesses had provided them, the release added.

Witnesses also said the man was wearing gloves, blue shorts and a black shirt, the report said.

While they were speaking with Knight, the deputies received a report of a vehicle burglary at the same location, the release noted. The victim, a 49-year-old Connecticut resident who had been on the beach, reported several items had been taken from his car, including an iPhone charger, a Samsung tablet and a black iPhone 5S, the release added. Deputies valued those items at approximately $400, the report noted.

Knight agreed to a search of his backpack, where deputies recovered all three items, the release said.

Knight was arrested and taken to the Sarasota County Jail, the release added. He was charged with a single count of Burglary of an Unoccupied Conveyance and was ordered held on a $1,500 bond, the release noted.

On the arrest record, Knight listed his occupation as “Unemployed,” Corrections Division records show.

On Feb. 8, Corrections Division records say, Knight was released on bond of $1,000. His arraignment was set for March 9.