Commissioners agree to ask staff to conduct research and provide report on findings
Last month, during a Sarasota County Commission review of proposed projects that could be constructed with revenue from a 15-year extension of the county’s penny sales tax program, Commissioner Christian Ziegler touched on the idea of a new public beach site on north Siesta Key.
During the board’s regular meeting on March 8, he won his colleagues’ consensus to direct staff to look into the potential and provide a report to the commissioners on the findings.
“There is an opportunity to acquire property [on the northern part of the barrier island],” Ziegler told the other commissioners on March 8. “I think it’s kind of a heavy lift,” he added, but he had talked about the idea with County Administrator Jonathan Lewis.
“The price is pretty high,” Ziegler pointed out. “I don’t want everyone to get their hopes up.”
During his meeting with Lewis, Ziegler continued, Lewis “put a big map on a screen for me, and we went through each property [available for sale].” One is a bit farther south, Ziegler noted, while another parcel is closer to the midpoint between that property and the northern area of the Key. “If we were able to connect all that,” he said, “it would just flow down to our public beach. It would be incredible.”
Residents on the northern part of the island have a public beach access, Ziegler continued, but county acquisition of property on the beach would give them their own dedicated area of the shoreline.
Beach Access 1 is located at the western end of Shell Road, overlooking Big Sarasota Pass. However, controversy has ensued in recent years not only over private ownership of the beach at that site but also over activities that homeowners contend have been disruptive to their quality of life, including trespassing, public urination and defecation, and even alleged drug dealing.
“It’s very difficult to find open beach that we can acquire,” Ziegler emphasized on March 8. Therefore, he was asking for his colleagues’ support for the staff research.
He cautioned again that these are “very early stages, and there are a lot of hurdles to overcome. But I think it’s worth taking a step or two forward.”
“I agree,” Chair Alan Maio responded.
No other commissioner offered a comment.
When Maio asked whether he had consensus for the staff assignment, no one indicated opposition.
In a cursory search of Siesta Key properties with water access that are for sale, The Sarasota News Leader this week found mostly condominium units. However, it did see a listing on the realtor.com website for a 0.87-acre parcel located at 4137A Higel Ave., on north Siesta. That property had a price tag of $5,990,000.
Another north Siesta parcel, located at 4632 Ocean Blvd., appears to have a breakwater at its overlook of Big Pass. Michael Saunders & Co. is listing that property for $4,225,000. It comprises 0.51 acres, the company says.
South of Point of Rocks, Michael Saunders & Co. is offering an approximately 2-acre parcel at 7707 Midnight Pass Road for $5.5 million.
As Ziegler noted, prices for property on Siesta Key are not inexpensive.