More than five months after the idea was broached publicly during a Siesta Key Village Association meeting, the No. 1 beach in the country finally will get its No. 1 beach sign.
During a ceremony at 10 a.m. Jan. 18, all five Sarasota County commissioners are expected to be present by the pavilion on the public beach for the unveiling of the two-sided sign, Teresa Mast, who is in charge of community outreach in the county’s Neighborhood Services Department said last week.
“And I am so thankful we are coming to the end (of the process),” Mast said.
The details for the ceremony had not been finalized, she said, but the commissioners will be joined by members of a Siesta stakeholders group, which had worked with county officials on the sign.
“I don’t know if there’s any pomp and circumstance (planned),” Sarasota County Parks and Recreation General Manager Carolyn Brown said, but she felt sure someone would make comments.
The Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau is covering the cost of the sign, which was estimated at $1,300.
Kate Harrison, a designer in the county’s Communications Department, completed the images for the 4-foot-by-8-foot sign at the end of December, she said. Although the county commissioners Dec. 14 unanimously approved the general concepts for both sides, they asked Rob Lewis, executive director of the Planning and Development Services Department, to see that the final versions included a few tweaks.
Commissioner Joe Barbetta had said the “#1” and “B” in “Beach” were too close together on the side with the sunset scene; Commissioner Jon Thaxton suggested staff work on more separation between the smaller signs and the background sign, designed to create an overall 3D effect. Thaxton said he wanted people to be able to put their hands around the smaller signs, for photos.
Lewis sent an email to the commissioners Dec. 19, saying the space between the “#1” and the word “Beach” had been increased. Additionally, he said, Harrison had increased the size of the words, “Sarasota Florida” on the sunset side.
Barbetta responded Dec. 20: “I thought it was finalized and ready to go, and approved by the (stakeholders) committee as is, along with our board, with the minor modification we discussed at last week’s meeting. Time is of the essence.”
Commissioner Nora Patterson responded Dec. 21, saying she was afraid that with the “1” more prominent, “now the ‘#’ is not very apparent, so if you don’t see it at first, you might wonder what the 1 meant.” However, she concluded, “I think we should leave all else alone and move ahead on it, and frankly, I am not sure we should touch the ‘#’ either, unless it occurred to others.”
Thaxton sent an email to Lewis about three hours later Dec. 21 to say, “Obviously, we are micromanaging.”
Commissioner Christine Robinson, who took over as board chairwoman this week, received an email Dec. 30 from a Sarasota resident who had sent a letter to the editor to an unnamed publication. Although the letter had not been printed, Robinson pointed out, in forwarding it to Interim County Administrator Terry Lewis, Rob Lewis and Deputy County Administrator Bill Little that the writer “makes some good points.”
The letter, from Carole Nikla said, “Elation set in when we won the #1 Beach Award last May. The increased awareness could only benefit us, and the possibilities of added exposure as #1 Beach would give us a competitive advantage over other destinations. The (SCVB) went into action immediately and added this information to all of our tourism and marketing efforts. But do we have any indication around town to show new visitors that Sarasota is home to the Best Beach in the nation? What a missed opportunity.”
Nikla added that the county should have made sure signs went up “all around town” right away. She wrote, “Unfortunately, the county commissioners did not feel compelled to fast-track any signage and have (asked for) the making of one billboard-type sign to be placed in the bushes at Siesta Beach, which is still, I think, in ‘development and code compliance mode’ at this time.”
When Mark Smith, a member of the Siesta Key Village Association first suggested Aug. 2 that “No. 1 Beach” banners should go up on the Key, Donna Thompson, the county’s assistant zoning administrator, cautioned that only certain signs would comply with the county’s zoning code. That discussion led to the creation of the stakeholders group that hashed out the designs presented to the County Commission Dec. 14.
Lewis said last week he felt the new sign at the beach “will be a great community asset.”