June Siesta Key Round Up

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By Rachel Brown Hackney

MTV meets Siesta Key

The Tampa Bay Times reported 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.

Pittsburgh woman apparently drowns while snorkeling on Siesta Key

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office has investigated an apparent drowning that occurred about 2 p.m. on May 10 near Point of Rocks on Siesta Key, the office announced.

Beach-goers found Aimee Sue Hoover, 44, of Pittsburgh floating face down in the water on the south side of Point of Rocks Beach, a Sheriff’s Office report said. Lifeguards with Sarasota County Emergency Services were the first to arrive on the scene, the report added, but their lifesaving attempts proved unsuccessful.

The preliminary investigation indicated Hoover was snorkeling with her husband in the Point of Rocks area when the incident occurred, the report noted. The couple was on vacation, the report added.

While the preliminary investigation indicated Hoover drowned, “as always, an official cause of death will be determined by the Medical Examiner’s Office,” a news release said.

Point of Rocks is a popular snorkeling spot on Siesta Key because of the generally excellent visibility of the Gulf of Mexico in that area and underwater sights that snorkelers can enjoy.

A more powerful pressure washing

Business owners have expressed frustrations over the years about the inadequacy of the annual pressure washings in the Village. As Michael Shay, manager of the Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp. has pointed out, remaining gum residue has seemed to be the worst problem.

That is all the more reason Shay happily reported to the in mid-May that the firm Sarasota County uses for projects all over the county undertook a recent pressure-washing test in the Village with excellent results.

That test section was from the northernmost property line of the Beach Club to the southernmost property line of Beach Bazaar, Shay said. About 80% of the gum was gone afterward, he noted, “which is something that we never had [seen] done before.”

The crew, he added, was even willing to go back over an area if it appeared the work was not satisfactory after the initial pass. “That’s important to me. … In the past, you got what you got.”

Shay said that Lisa Cece, the business professional in the county Transportation Department who oversees Village maintenance matters on behalf of the county, provided the firm the specs for a couple of other segments — those she felt were the worst, based on her regular visits to the Village — so the firm could provide quotes for them.

Shay learned that the cost of the test segment was “much more reasonable” compared to the expense the Maintenance Corp. has been shouldering for pressure washing, he added. After he and Mark Smith, director of the Maintenance Corp., review the quotes, Shay expects they will give the firm the go-ahead to tackle those two other areas.

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.

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 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.

Opening times could be changing for the Siesta Key drawbridges

The U.S. Coast Guard is considering reducing the number of openings per hour for both the Siesta Drive and Stickney Pont Road drawbridges.

The service in mid-February made available a survey — published on the Federal Register — that sought public comments on the bridge schedules; interested persons had until April 14 to respond.

Thus far, no changes have been made, SNL has learned. “We’re still taking a look at the pubic comments,” Lt. Ashley Holm of the Coast Guard said on May 15. “We have no timeline on making a decision],” she added.

Ron Farwell, who has been the Stickney Point Road bridge tender since 2013, said during a telephone interview that that drawbridge continues to open on weekdays at the top of the hour, at 20 minutes past the hour and at 20 minutes till the hour — but only if boaters request the openings. Weekend and holiday openings are solely at the request of boaters, Farwell pointed out.

The Code of Federal Regulations says the Siesta Drive bridge opens on the hour, 20 minutes after the hour and 40 minutes past the hour between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays. On weekends and holidays, the regulations note, the bridge opens on the same schedule between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Those openings also occur only if boaters request them, the regulations add. At all other times, the bridge opens by boater request.

On Feb. 13, the Coast Guard notice said it was proposing to modify the operating schedule for the two Siesta bridges, as well as those at Cortez and Anna Maria Island, because of “an increase in vehicle traffic throughout these areas at all times of the year.” The document added, “This proposed rulemaking would change the bridges’ operating schedule from … three times an hour … to twice an hour … throughout the year.”

The proposed schedule would have the Stickney Point bridge open on the hour and half-hour from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

The north Siesta bridge would open on the quarter hour and the three-quarter hour between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. daily. “This will align this bridge’s schedule with the opening schedule of the other bridges to the north and south,” the tentative rule points out.

“These proposed changes will meet the reasonable needs of vessel traffic passing through the bridges while taking into account the reasonable needs of other modes of transportation,” the proposed rule adds.

A check found 125 responses altogether were submitted prior to the April 14 deadline. The vast majority of those provided by Siesta Key residents and property owners indicated full support of the changes.

Farwell, the Stickney Point Road bridge tender, told SNL that although he believes the current schedule “is pretty decent,” he is well aware of people’s complaints about having to wait in traffic when the bridge opens. Still, he pointed out, “It’s only 4 minutes” from the time the drawbridge goes up until the time it is back in place. The passage of two boats, he noted, takes only an extra minute.

After motorists expressed much disgruntlement a couple of years ago about the bridge causing traffic back-ups on the south end of the Key, he said, representatives of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office spent time with him to survey the situation. They found the problem was the volume of traffic on Midnight Pass Road, Farwell added.

Gary Yee, president of the Bay Island Siesta Association, commented that his organization, which represents 290 homes, is fully in support of the proposed changes. “As you are aware,” he continued, “traffic on the North gateway (Siesta Dr.) to Siesta Key turns to gridlock many times during the day especially during season. I have recently witnessed the traffic back up all the way to Osprey [Avenue] and [U.S. 41] when the bridge is up.”

Restaurant closes its doors

On Monday, May 15, business owners located in the South Bridge Plaza were surprised to see moving trucks loading up equipment and supplies. The Stonewood Grill & Tavern located at 1894 Stickney Point Rd, just off the south bridge closed its doors. The restaurant has been an anchor for the strip center for years. There was no mention from corporate headquarters that the location was set to close at the of season.

New Members

Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce would like to welcome the following new members:

Florida Suncoast Tourism Promotion, Inc., Sarasota Sunny South RV Park & Cottages, and Thriveology, LLC – A Holistic Wellness Center.
The chamber office is located on Siesta in the Village, 5114 Ocean Blvd.(941) 349-3800.

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