Breeze ridership remains strong
The Siesta Key Breeze open-air trolley completed the final quarter of the 2019 calendar year with strong numbers, based on the data Lisa Potts, communications specialist with Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT), has provided to The Sarasota News Leader.
The figures follow for those three months:
· October — 20,435
· November — 25,440
· December — 25, 204
In the late fall of 2018, Siesta —like other county areas dependent on tourism — was struggling with the aftermath of graphic national publicity about the red tide bloom. The county’s Tourist Development Tax (TDT) — or “bed tax” — revenue was down close to $145,000 from October 2017 to October 2018, according to data from the Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office.
The revenue dropped again from November 2017 to November 2018 — a decline of almost $57,000, the Tax Collector’s Office noted.
Finally, by December 2018, the TDT revenue showed a small climb. The final report for the county’s 2019 fiscal year — which ended on Sept. 30, 2019 — showed the December 2018 revenue up $10,020.86, compared to the amount collected in December 2017, the Tax Collector’s Office reported.
With far fewer visitors on the Key in late 2018, the News Leader did not routinely request Breeze ridership figures.
However, in the trolley’s first year of operation — 2017 — SCAT told the News Leader that the trolley had 8,793 riders in October and 15,443in November.
For another comparison, in July2017, the Breeze recorded 25,506 riders. Given the traditional influx of visitors over the July Fourth holiday, Siesta is a very busy place for at least part of that month. Still, the ridership numbers for November and December of 2019 did not miss that July 2017 mark by much.
Great turnout for the 7th Annual Andrew Monroe Memorial Run/Walk
There were over 400 participants that supported the 7th Annual Andrew Monroe Memorial 5kRun/Walk that was held on our beautiful white sand Siesta Beach on Sunday, January 5. The race is in memory of a life taken to soon in 2011. The funds generated from this 5K and walk produce scholarships to senior soccer, track athletes and JROTC cadets at Riverview High School.
Also, there will be two $1000 scholarships in perpetuity thru the Andrew Monroe Memorial Scholarship Fund at the Sarasota Community Foundation. The overall winners for this event was Shawn Johnson, Male Overall and Heather Butcher, Female Overall.
Siesta Key Condo Council meeting
Membership meeting notice, at 3:00 P.M. at Siesta Key Chapel, 4615 Gleason Ave. Speakers will be from the County and other professionals. Topics to be discussed include: Sarasota County transportation/traffic study, Legacy Trail update, Sheriff’s 2019 statistics and related information, fire safety update, 2019 stats, and Station #13 status.
Chamber’s quarterly membership meetings may shift
More than a few Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce members may have wondered why the January newsletter did not list quarterly membership meetings. When the SNL contacted Chamber Executive Director Ann Frescura to ask why, she had a perfectly good explanation.
Because of the holidays, Frescura said, she was unable to reach both outgoing board Chair Eric Fleming, a Siesta attorney, and incoming board Chair Mason Tush, whose family owns CB’s Saltwater Outfitters, to confirm proposed dates.
Frescura added that she hoped to accomplish that this week.
“We didn’t forget about it,” she said of the schedule with a laugh. “We’ll get it all figured out.”
Frescura also noted that she was hoping to adjust those meeting dates this year to make them align better with the traditional concept of endings of quarters. If that worked out, she continued, the first session would be in March, instead of February. Then the final quarterly meeting of the year would be in December.
No quarterly session was conducted in November 2019 because of the intense time commitment of Chamber staff and directors in the management of the Siesta Key Crystal Classic International Sand Sculpting Festival, Frescura explained during a conversation with this reporter in early December 2019. The timing of Thanksgiving was another factor in the cancellation of that gathering, she noted.
During her Jan. 6 discussion with SNL, Frescura also pointed out that when the quarterly meetings began in 2017, they ended up on a bit of an unusual schedule, with the first conducted in February.
That was partly a result of the Chamber’s absorbing the Siesta Key Village Association (SKVA) at the end of 2016. The Village Association traditionally had represented business owners on the Key, but many of its leaders also were long-time Chamber directors. Finally, both groups felt the best option was for the Chamber not only to take over the SKVA’s responsibilities but also to expand long-time SKVA events so businesses on the southern part of the Key could participate in them more readily.
Condo Council releases Dec. 10, 2019 meeting minutes
In minutes of their Dec. 10, 2019 meeting, leaders of the Siesta Key Condominium Council have highlighted a number of comments of their guest speaker, Mike Angers, vice president of Brown & Brown Insurance of Sarasota.
Angers began his presentation by citing the amount of insurance losses experienced globally, the minutes said. “Specifically, for 2017 & 2018 — $219 billion!” the minutes pointed out.
Rate increases are driven by industry losses in general, “not just local experience,” Angers told the members, according to the minutes. An insurance company re-insures its policies through a network of re-insurance companies, he explained.
“These companies have taken a substantial global hit in the past two years and are increasing rates to your insurer,” the minutes added. Condominium associations should make sure that their brokers “shop” their policies, Angers emphasized. The market has become more competitive, he added, and, “naturally, older condos get fewer bids. Aged buildings tend to have more problems such as older roofing components.”
Angers further explained that flood insurance is limited to $250,000 per unit, “so don’t take out duplicate flood insurance on your own — it’s a waste of money,” the minutes quoted him. “With that said, nothing precludes you from buying supplemental insurance above $250,000” from Lloyd’s of London, for example. In effect, these supplemental policies have a $250,000 deductible, Angers noted.
“Contents are another matter — you should insure what you think is necessary,” the minutes quoted him.
In the event of a catastrophic loss, he pointed out, Sarasota County regulations dictate how a structure should be rebuilt. “Mike feels the county would be reasonable in the implementation of rebuilding guidelines,” the minutes said.
“Take pictures of all aspects of your condo” to have them ready in the event of future.
In addressing structural features of buildings, Angers explained that frame walls and roofs are the lowest rated; masonry walls and frame roofs have the next best rating; and masonry walls and concrete roofs are the highest rated, the minutes added. “Associations should be proactive about their roofs — schedule annual inspections and repairs,” the minutes continued. Normally, a condo association should obtain a mitigation survey. Surveys are usually required for obtaining individual homeowner policies, the minutes said. However, in circumstances in which old roofs that have not been rehabbed, Angerssaid, completion of a mitigation survey actually might result in a higher premium,the minutes noted.Regarding liability insurance, Angers said, “The trend is for insurers to putmore exclusions in the policy and/or add deductibles for liability claims.” Among such exclusions, the minutes continued are those for firearms and other weapons-related claims; a construction-related claim (for example, someone trips over a cable in the construction area); and insured versus insured exclusions. “This means that if the owner or family member is injured, coverage will not apply,” the minutes explained. Directors of an association “should carefully review the policy because the insurers are not going to highlight the exclusions for you,” Angers told the members, as noted in the minutes. Each association should consider having a catastrophe plan, Angers continued. He “mentioned that restoration companies such as Servpro and Wright Way” will send someone out and then prepare a catastrophe plan “at no cost or obligation to the condo. However, a cat plan will not result in an insurance credit — it’s just a good thing to have,” the minutes said.Yet another piece of advice he offered, the minutes continued, is “Allow your broker to obtain insurance bids on your behalf. Itis counterproductive to contact insurers on your own.” Finally, the minutes said, “How to save money on premiums? Consider increasing the deductibles on your wind/property and flood policies. ”
New owners, same great vibes
As of January 10, husband and wife team Tom Ilg and Melanie Dodge became the new owners of Siesta Key Wine Bar. Originally from Scottsdale, Arizona, but most recently from Playa del Carmen, Mexico, Tom and Melanie are familiar with the seasonal business that is Siesta Key and are excited to visit with the locals and tourists, alike. In Mexico, both sold real estate and Tom will continue to do so here, but together they will be very hands-on with the bar. Melanie’s past experience with restaurants in the wine region and Tom’s family-owned bars and restaurants make this venture a perfect fit for them. They’re grateful that previous owners Stu, Darlene, Kasey and Cole will be available during the transition, and don’t plan to change anything but will be adding a few new options over time. They have expanded the hours during the day and look forward to offering a Sunday morning Mimosa Bar very soon. A few other additions will include daily happy hour, tapas and charcuterie boards and wine delivery on Siesta Key. They will continue with the Wine Club and once a month wine tasting as well as offering the space for private parties. Stop by and wish the best to Melanie and Tom!
Siesta Key Wine Bar is open 11am – 9 pm Monday – Thursday, Friday and Saturdays 11 am – 11 pm, Sundays 10am – 6 pm. 5138c Ocean Blvd., Davidson Plaza in the Village. SiestaKeyWineBar.com
LeLu Coffee Lounge closes, New coffee shop to open
LeLu Coffee Shop has closed after 10+ years. Located at 5251 Ocean Boulevard, LeLu closed its doors for good on Sunday, January 19th.
Scott Smith, owner of Gilligan’s Island Bar & Grill next door to LeLu, will be opening a new coffee shop named Mojo Risin’ Coffee Company in the same building. The new coffee shop will be an extension of Gilligan’s and it will be an entirely new concept. The new coffee shop is expected to open in within the next couple of weeks.
Gilligan’s Island Bar & Grill is one of the most popular bars and night spots in the Siesta Key Village. It features both indoor and outdoor amenities including live music nightly and a large outdoor tiki bar.
New state bill on vacation rentals would exempt county
A new effort is underway in the Florida Legislature to make the state the sole regulating authority of vacation rentals.
However, Sarasota County’s ordinance governing short-term rentals would remain in effect, as the bill would “grandfather-in measures in place prior to June 1, 2011.
Introduced by state Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., a Hialeah Gardens Republican, the bill also would prohibit local regulations requiring inspections or licensing of vacation rentals; make the state responsible for regulation of advertising platforms for such rentals; and require “each advertising platform to quarterly provide the state’s Division of Hotels and Restaurants of the
Department of Business and Professional Regulation with certain information regarding vacation rentals in this state listed on the platform.”
Among that information from an “advertising platform,” the bill notes, would be “a list of all vacation rental listings in this state on its platform,” including the “applicable Florida sales tax registration and tourist development tax numbers under which taxes will be remitted for rentals commenced through the advertisement.”
The tourist development tax in Sarasota County is 5%; it is imposed on rentals of all accommodations for six months or less time.
During the Jan. 16 meeting of Sarasota County’s Tourist Development Council, members of that board discussed the increasing number of rentals of vacation properties through online platforms such as Airbnb and Vrbo.
The proposed state bill makes the case for what is called “state preemption” of local laws with the following statement: “Property owners who choose to use their property as a vacation rental have constitutionally protected property rights and other rights that must be protected, including the right to use their residential property as a vacation rental.”
The bill adds, “Vacation rentals play a significant, unique, and critical role in this state’s tourism industry, and that role is different from other types of public lodging establishments.” It further notes, “Vacation rentals are residential in nature, a residential use, and thus permitted in residential neighborhoods.”
As evidenced by discussion during the Jan. 9 Siesta Key Association(SKA) meeting, short-term vacation rentals of homes in single-family neighborhoods remain a focus of frustration for many residents on the island. Discussions at SKA meetings over the past couple of years have centered on disruptions such as loud partying at night and the attraction of vermin to garbage piled up at curbsides for days before Waste Management makes its weekly collection on the Key.
The proposed bill does say that local governments may “regulate activities that arise when a property is used as a vacation rental if the law, ordinance, or regulation applies uniformly to all residential properties without regard to whether the property is used as a vacation rental as defined in the Florida Statutes, the property is used as a long-term rental as defined in chapter 83 of the state statutes, or the property owner chooses not to rent the property.”
On Jan. 13, Senate Bill 1128 won a favorable report from the Senate Innovation, Industry, and Technology Committee on an 8-2 vote, according to a Florida Senate webpage.
The bill formally was introduced in the Senate on Jan. 14, when the 2020 legislative session opened.
Siesta transportation study to be presented to commission
At some point in the early part of this year, the Sarasota County Commission is expected to hear a presentation on a study begun in2019 that is assessing ways to improve transportation to Siesta Key and on the island itself. That news was part of a wrap-up County Administration provided to the commissioners during their regular meeting on Jan. 14.With the new year underway, County Administrator Jonathan Lewis asked his deputy county administrator and his two assistant administrators to update the board members on the status of the commission’s top priorities for 2019. As SNL reported in November, a note on the formal document provided to the board members prior to the Jan. 14 meeting says that the Public Works Department hired a consultant to undertake that study. The consultant met with leaders of organizations on the Key and others in an effort to pinpoint the most important transportation issues. The draft report was completed in December 2019. The work on the study was halfway complete by the end of 2019, according to the document provided to the commissioners for their Jan. 14 meeting. The document added that the report’s findings could be included in a comprehensive study of all of the county’s barrier island transportation issues. Then, county representatives could work through the Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) to try to win funding from the state to pursue specific initiatives.
Members of the Sarasota and Manatee county commissions, as well as leaders of the municipalities in the two counties, serve on the MPO board. Representatives of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) also attendthe MPO meetings, Sarasota County commissioners have pointed out. The regular gatherings provide opportunities for the elected officials and the FDOT staff to discuss potential projects. The MPO board members each year also set priorities that they hope will gain support from FDOT. After the Legislature each year approves funding for FDOT, that department revises its five-year work program to reflect changes in project priorities. For example, the current work program includes FDOT’s $360,138 grant to Sarasota County so staff can implement safety improvements at the intersection of Siesta Drive and Higel Avenue. Those are expected to get underway in 2021, after the county assumes control of Siesta roads as part of the deal swapping River Road to the state. The resurfacing of Midnight Pass Road from the Stickney Point Road intersection to Shadow Lawn Drive— a distance of 1.635 miles — is also listed in the current work plan, with a total expense of $3,667,439. That is set for the 2021-22 fiscal year. Each FDOT fiscal year begins on July 1. Additionally, the work plan lists the preliminary engineering phase of the resurfacing of Midnight Pass Road from Higel Avenue to Flamingo Avenue — a distance of1.022 miles — in the 2020-21 fiscal year at a cost of $1,000 and then in the 2022-23 fiscal year at a cost of $10,000. The work plan link on the MPO website notes that the document is tentative, as priorities can change throughout the year. The information on the Siesta projects, above, was in the Nov. 1, 2019 version of the workplan — the most recent on the MPO website at this writing.
An update on the Ocean pocket park/parking space
For those who have been as curious about the situation as this reporter, the News Leader asked county staff in mid-January for an update on the lack of signage at the pocket park/parking space next to the Oceane condominium complex on Ocean Boulevard. That parking spot is on the westside of the Givens Street intersection. To the average passerby, the space appears to be just a convenient pull-in for someone who needs to make a visit to Oceane. In a Jan. 16 email, county Media Relations Officer Drew Winchester reported that he had checked with the Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department (PRNR)about the lack of identification that the parking place is county property. “Parks staff is still determining type and placement of signage at this time,” he wrote.
A failed attempt at revenge
During his Jan. 9 report to the Siesta Key Association, Sgt. Arik Smith, leader of the Sheriff’s Office’s substation on the Key, drew laughter from the audience members in providing a summary of one December 2019 incident the office investigated. It involved juveniles breaking into a home to exact revenge on another juvenile, he said. However, it turned out that the juvenile being targeted no longer lived at that residence. The formal report from the Sheriff’s Office says that at 4:18 p.m. on Dec.21, 2019, a deputy responded to a call about a burglary of an occupied dwelling. (At the victim’s request, the address was not made public.) The suspects were Emma G. Loveall, 15, of Sarasota; Ariana M. Semprevivo, 17, of Sarasota; and Waylon E. Loveall, 16, of Sarasota. (Waylon Loveall and Emma Loveall had the same address listed the report.) The investigating deputy wrote in the report that probable cause affidavits were to be filed with the State Attorney’s Office. The deputy indicated that the Sheriff’s Office would charge each defendant with a count of burglary of an occupied dwelling. SNL found open records listed for Emma Loveall and Semprevivo on the Sarasota County Clerk of Circuit Court’s website, but documents were not available for public review.
Representatives of the State Attorney’s Office in the 12th Judicial District have explained that if the Sheriff’s Office conducts what is called a “direct file” of charges with the State Attorney’s Office, and the latter pursues a case, the record of that case will not be made available until the case has been closed.
Waylon Loveall and his mother, Michelle Loveall, were listed as “Cooperative” in the Sheriff’s Office report.
In the narrative, the responding deputy wrote that when he met with the victim of the incident, she “stated that unknown suspects forced entry into her home. The victim was in her bedroom at the time of entry. The victim was concerned for her safety,” the deputy added, so she hid in her bedroom.
“The victim heard the suspects opening draws/closets in the adjacent bedroom,” the deputy continued. Then the victim coughed, the report said, which made her believe she had alerted the suspects to her presence in the home.
The victim told the deputy she could hear “two males yelling” that someone was in the home and “Let’s go.”
Then the victim said she heard “multiple people flee the residence.” The report added, “The victim looked outside the front window and saw four people running from the home.”
“During my investigation,” the deputy wrote, “it was clear the suspects entered the unoccupied bedroom. The sheets on the bed were pulled up and closet doors opened.”
The victim was able to provide the Sheriff’s Office with video surveillance from the driveway of the home, the report noted. That video showed four suspects walking to the front door; three of them were “wearing hoods over their heads,” the deputy added in the report.
Then, after several minutes, the report continued, the video showed four people running from the home.
After the responding deputy provided other Sheriff’s Office personnel with the descriptions of the suspects, the report said, another deputy located suspects matching the descriptions. Those suspects were at 5023 Ocean Blvd., the report added. That is the Old Salty Dog restaurant on the northern end of Siesta Village.
The deputy contacted a parent of each suspect before speaking with them, the report pointed out. “All parents provided permission to interview the suspects,” it said.
Based on information provided during those interviews, the report continued, the responding deputy determined that Emma Loveall “had a disagreement with a resident who formerly lived at the incident address.” The suspects went to the residence, the report added, “to start a fight with the aforementioned resident. The resident was not home,” the report said, so three of the suspects “pushed the unlocked front door open and entered the residence.”
While inside, the report continued, the suspects’ objective “was to steal ‘small’ items described as liquor, drugs or shoes.”
Another suspect said he went to the refrigerator and removed an item, the report added. He then put the item back, the report noted, “and walked to the bedroom where the co-defendants were rummaging through bed/closet.”
At that point, the report continued, “A fourth person who did not enter the home yelled to the suspects that someone was inside the residence. All suspects fled the home,” the report added.
SKA February meeting to feature Ron Turner, Supervisor of Elections for Sarasota County
The February SKA meeting to be held on February 6th , at 4:30 P.M., at St. Boniface Church Parish Hall on 5615 Midnight Pass Road will feature special guest speaker, Ron Turner, Supervisor of Elections for Sarasota County.
Ron Turner was elected Supervisor of Elections in Sarasota County in 2016. Supervisor Turner began his career with Sarasota County elections office as chief of staff, serving from 2011 until his election. He serves as treasurer of the Florida Supervisors of Elections state wide association (FSE).
In addition to his work as an election’s administrator, Turner has extensive governmental and nonprofit leadership experience. Turner began his public service career, at age 23, as a city council member and deputy mayor for the City of Arcadia and later served as supervisor of elections for Desoto County, Florida.
A native Floridian, Turner earned a Bachelor of Arts in American Studies from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida, and a Master of Public Affairs from the University of Missouri’s Harry S. Truman School of Public Affairs. He is an alumnus of Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, where he completed its Program for Senior executives in State and Local Government and is a nationally Certified Elections/Registration Administrator (CERA) through the Elections Center.
Turner has been very involved in the community since moving to Sarasota County in 2001. He serves on the board of directors of First Step of Sarasota, is a graduate of Leadership Sarasota County, and is a member of the Disabled American Veterans. Turner is a proud veteran of the United States Army.