At a Thursday night Siesta Key Association meeting, county staff did their best to alleviate Siesta residents' concerns about multiple ongoing construction projects at Siesta Key Beach.
General Manager of Sarasota County Parks and Recreation Carolyn Brown along with Brad Gaubatz, Sarasota County public works project manager, gave a presentation on the $21.5 million Siesta Beach renovation project (which broke ground last month) as well as an update on the perpetually-delayed Beach Road Drainage Improvements project.
In front of the SKA board and the approximately 40 Siesta residents attending Thursday’s meeting, Brown and Gaubatz outlined the purpose of the two projects as well as their anticipated timelines.
The Beach Road Drainage Improvements project was originally slated to be complete by the end of 2013, but heavy rainfall stalled the project, requiring contractors to drain flooded areas of the construction site before resuming work.
Despite the delays, Gaubatz said that the unanticipated overlap of the drainage improvements and the beach renovations (two separate projects) offered some cost saving opportunities due to the dual use of construction equipment already staged at the beach, which could now be used for both projects.
Residents attending Thursday’s meeting expressed their concerns about the two projects.
One hot topic was whether or not the Beach Road Drainage Improvements would actually alleviate flooding on Beach Road.
Gaubatz’s answer was “no” — adding that the intent of the project was to prevent beach closures at the area’s No. 1 tourist draw due to contaminated rain runoff from the beach parking lots. The drainage improvements project, Gaubatz said, was built to collect rainwater runoff from the Siesta Beach parking lots and decontaminate it before it enters the Gulf of Mexico.
“The function of the retention pond is for water quality condition at the beach,” Gaubatz said.
“This project was engineered specifically to minimize the potential of bacteria in the water causing beach closures,” said County Commissioner Nora Patterson, who attended Thursday’s meeting. “Considering how important this beach is for the economy in the area, and for the recreation of people in the area, this project is well worth doing.”
Patterson said that when the project was originally conceived, there was some hope that it might alleviate some flooding on Beach Road, but the size of the retention pond required to achieve that goal made it unfeasible at the present site.
Another topic raised by several residents was a proposal to charge for parking at Siesta Beach to help offset the costs of the $21.5 million improvements.
While many attending Thursday's meeting voiced support for such a move, Patterson added that opinions throughout the county were divided on the issue, likely giving it little traction among county commissioners.
Other topics discussed Thursday included:
- An update on the proposed U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project to dredge the Big Pass shoal to renourish Lido Beach. The Siesta Key Village Association and the Siesta Condominium Association recently joined SKA in their official opposition to the project.
- A representative of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office updated residents on a string of robberies on the Key, reporting that the agency had a suspect and urged residents to keep their doors locked.
- SKA board member Michael Shay updated the board on the status of a push by Siesta Key businesses to draft an amendment to the Siesta Key Overlay District zoning rules, allowing limited outdoors displays of merchandise according to a one-year, $25 permit.
- Board members and residents pushed back against a proposed roundabout at the intersection of Beach Road and Midnight Pass Road. Patterson said the project, which is under FDOT control, was not yet funded and would not likely happen for another two to three years.
Contact Nolan Peterson at [email protected]