What’s up with these docks?

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Grand Canal resident upset with what he says is ‘starting to resemble a marina’ across from his home

By Ned Steele

How much dock is too much dock?
Palm Island resident and former lawmaker Doug Holder says he knows “too much” when he sees it – and he says he sees it every time he looks out his back window on to the Grand Canal.
There, across from his home, sits a recently constructed four-boat slip, four-lift dock across Canal Road from the Siesta Shores condominium.
Holder says it is too big, jeopardizes navigation in the narrow channel, caused destruction of mangroves, and never should have been allowed without a public hearing.

Palm Island resident Doug Holder gestures toward the new docks installed by the Siesta Shores complex across from his home along the Grand Canal. (photos by Ned Steele)

Sarasota County disagrees with Holder, having issued a “minor work permit” for the dock – effectively determining that it is not “too much.”
Undeterred, Holder is calling for revegetation along the shore, and opposing a new application to further modify the dock. He also alleges the county used faulty measuring in assessing the permit application
“This is starting to resemble a marina,” Holder said. “… And now it’s being amended to be even bigger.”
Holder and a neighbor, David Wolter, became curious – and then angry – when a worker began cutting vegetation at the site one day last August. It was the first they knew of the dock.
They soon learned that the county had issued a permit for the work without public notice because under permitting rules it was designated as “minor work.” “That’s when we jumped into action,” Holder said.
While the county had measured the waterway at 88 feet wide using digital aerial photography, Holder and Wolter measured it at 82 feet. The difference, they said, enabled the dock to be built 1½ feet farther into the water than should have been allowed.
The difference, they said, is enough to risk unsafe navigation in the narrow waterway, and collision with other vessels. Holder said he feared his 30-foot Jupiter boat, docked by his home across the way, “is in jeopardy of getting hit by an unskilled boater.”
As of early February, they said no boats had yet used the dock, which was completed in late 2023.
Holder is also unhappy because the removed vegetation left busy Canal Road in plain sight, subjecting him and neighbors to noise pollution from the exposed road, and loss of privacy.
Holder submitted “before and after” photos to Siesta Sand that he said showed several mangroves were removed during the dock’s construction.
A Sarasota County spokesman said the dock application met the criteria for “minor work” that is approved by county staff without public hearing or commission approval.
The spokesman did not specifically address Holder’s claim that mangroves were removed. The spokesman said the shoreline’s “predominant vegetation” was a “non-native nuisance plant” and that “several mangroves along the shoreline were preserved.” Further, the spokesman said, “avoidance and minimization of impacts to mangroves is taken into consideration during…permit reviews.”
Approval of the permit was conditioned on preservation of all mangroves, although “limited trimming” of them was allowed. The permit further noted that if mangroves were lost during construction, the county could require replacement plantings.
Reached by phone, David Kessel, the registered agent for the dock owner, said, “There is nothing for me to say. We followed permitting, we did exactly what we’re supposed to, as others did.” He deferred further questions to the county’s statements to Siesta Sand on the matter.
The saga is not over. The entity that built the dock, Siesta Key Dock Association, has filed for a new permit that would modify the dock’s configuration. The county has determined that the new application is also a “minor work” matter to be resolved by a staffer. Holder and Wolter are calling for a public hearing and demanding that the owners revegetate along the shoreline of the original construction.
Holder says more mangroves will be lost under the proposed modifications. If the permit is approved, he said, it will lengthen the dock, “making something already too big, bigger.”
No decision has been reached on the new application, the county spokesman said, because the applicants need to provide additional information before it can be reviewed.

How the vegetation-heavy area appeared before boat docks were installed. (submitted photo)
Ned Steele
Author: Ned Steele

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