With Phase 1 improvements to Beach Access 12, just south of the Stickney Point Road intersection, mostly complete, county staff members are turning their attention to Phase 2.
The access closed Aug. 1 to enable county workers to improve drainage and realign the parking spaces. Over time, the parking lot had become known for standing water following downpours. The project involved replacing asphalt with impervious material, as well as the construction of a turnaround area at the western end of the access, so people parking there no longer would have to back out onto Midnight Pass Road when they were ready to leave.
Brad Robertson, the project manager in the county’s Public Works department, said he and other county staff completed a final walkthrough of the access Sept. 2. He saw one vehicle using the new turnaround area Sept. 8, when he was checking on the last of the final projects, he said.
Phase 2 entails modifications that would allow heavy county trucks to use Access 12 for emergency removal of seaweed from Crescent Beach. Presently, the county can use only the Siesta Public Beach access for those trucks, which means longer travel times for the workers and greater fuel expense, county project manager Rob LaDue has reported to the Siesta Key Association.
In years past, LaDue said, county staff has had to collect seaweed standing 5 feet high, spreading 30 feet wide and running the entire length of Crescent Beach. Ideally, he said, county maintenance staff would be able to close Access 12 for one day while workers came in with their heavy trucks to collect such large amounts of seaweed for proper disposal.
LaDue said early this month that before Phase 2 work can be undertaken, the Sarasota County Commission would hold a public hearing and consider granting a coastal setback variance request.
The law requires all residents within 1,500 feet of the access be notified in advance of that public hearing, he said.
Additionally, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection will have to issue the county a coastal construction line permit, LaDue said. About three weeks ago, staff requested DEP grant a 60-day extension for the completion of the permit application.
DEP has to rule on the project, because it involves the dunes on Crescent Beach. State officials will want to make sure the county will minimize impact to the flora and fauna in that area, LaDue said.
The earliest the County Commission will hold a public hearing on Phase 2 will be December, LaDue said.
If the County Commission grants the variance, staff will submit that documentation to the state, too, he said, as part of the application process for the DEP permit.
“We actually need both of those permits,” he said of the county variance and the DEP approval, before Phase 2 work can proceed.