South County Highlights

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By Debbie Flessner

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North Port’s Warm Mineral Springs officially reopened on Saturday, April 12, after having been shuttered in June of last year.

At that time, the city and Sarasota County, which jointly own the property, could not come to an agreement about a new operator for the 81-acre parcel. Finally, in late March, they selected a short-term operator, National State Park Concessions, Inc. After September 1, the short-term agreement will be over and a long-term contract must be signed, or the Springs will be at risk to close again.

In the meantime, locals and tourists are flocking to the 87-degree, mineral rich waters, even if the Springs is open only for swimming, and is without some of the other services they used to have, like the restaurant and nail salon. Warm Mineral Springs is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. It’s advisable to bring a chair, due to limited seating. For more information, call 941-426-1692.

Young family survives hit and run in Venice

A couple and their five-month old baby were the victims of a hit and run on Sunday, April 6 in South Venice.

Todd Hofmeister, his girlfriend Victoria Horton, and their son Trent Hofmeister were walking north on the edge of Cypress Road during the late afternoon, when a car came up behind them, hitting Todd first and then Victoria. The baby was in a stroller at the time, but was also knocked to the ground. Afterwards, the white Jeep Cherokee that hit them fled from the scene.

All three victims were immediately taken to Sarasota Memorial Hospital, and the baby and mother were later taken by Bayflight to other trauma centers, but have since been released. When they were hit, Todd was thrown from his shoes and suffered a sprained left arm, while Victoria had internal injuries and cracked ribs. Baby Trent had internal bleeding between his brain and his skull, but doctors at All Children’s Hospital said that it will be absorbed on its own.

The driver of the Jeep Cherokee has still not been found. Anyone who witnessed the crash, or has any information regarding the identity or location of the driver involved, is asked to contact Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Bruce MacWhorter at 239-938-1800.

New waterfront home development planned for Venice

Very soon, home buyers will have an opportunity to buy a townhome on the island of Venice that overlooks the Venice Train Depot and park, the Venetian Waterway park and the Intracoastal Waterway.

Waterfront building has been shelved in the town for several years, but the Tra Ponti Villaggio residential project, which means “village between two bridges” in Italian, will enable residents and guests to walk downtown and visit local cafes, restaurants and shops. As a bonus, they will enjoy the unobstructed waterfront views the townhouses will afford them.

Each of the homes in Tra Ponti Villaggio is designed around an outdoor courtyard that includes swimming pools, spas, outdoor kitchens, waterfalls, fountains and lushly landscaped areas for homeowners and their guests to enjoy. Homes will range from 2,000 to 3,500 square feet of living area and will sell from $490,000 to $1 million.

Upon City Council approval, construction should begin in the fall, with model homes completed in the winter of 2015.

Sea Venice auction earns more than $150,000

At an early April auction, “Seamore,” a turtle, sold for $6,200 and “Diamond Jim,” a dolphin, sold for $10,400.

The statues were two of a collection of forty pieces created during the Sea Venice public arts project three years ago.  Local artists, in partnership with Sea Venice sponsors, created unique designs for 20 fiberglass dolphins and 20 fiberglass sea turtles. The statues were adorned with a variety of mediums and were prominently displayed throughout the Venice area.

During the auction, the dolphins and turtles sold for prices ranging from $1,200 to $10,400, and between the auction and dinner prior to the event, $170,000 was raised. All proceeds will be going to the Venice Art Center, to support their programs, and help them to promote the arts and tourism for the community of Venice.

700-home residential home project gets initial rezone

A Neal Communities development of 350 acres, to include a residential community of 700 homes, received preliminary approval from the members of the city of Venice Planning Commission.

Tentatively called the Villages of Milano, the new development is planned for the land on both sides of the new Jacaranda Extension, which lies between Laurel and Border Roads. The rezone petition that was unanimously approved by the council called for a switch from a multi-family housing designation to a planned unit one, that will include a series of gated communities.

Commissioner Jerry Towery said that the primary reason that he voted in favor of the rezone is because in the new plan, more than 50 percent of the parcel was to remain open space, due to the wetlands in the area. As a result, the intensity of use on the property will be drastically reduced.

The Venice City Council still has final say over the rezone application, but it has not yet been placed on their agenda.

Pharmacy tech arrested for theft of pills

A Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office report shows that Nancy Keane, 57, allegedly took hydrocodone and carisopool pills from the CVS in Nokomis, where she works as a Pharmacy Technician.

The report states that Keane put the pills, amounting to about $267 of pharmaceuticals, into her smock as she was leaving work. She told a CVS loss prevention investigator that she had a valid prescription for the same medication, and then said that she had taken the pills to give to a family member.

The officer with the Sheriff’s Office was not satisfied with that explanation, so Keane has been charged with grand theft. Bond was set at $1,500.

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