There was something rotten on the island of Siesta Key, according to Prudie Varro.
In August, Varro noticed the dumpsters on adjacent properties were being left out in the open. The distinct odor of garbage was more than an unpleasant nuisance for Varro, the manager of resort Sunsets on the Key; it was harming her business.
“My guests were writing me, ‘We love the place, we love the staff, we love the resort, the village, the beach, but that smell — we’re not coming back,’” Varro said.
She knew an ordinance required the offending properties — located at The Arches and Key Corners — to conceal trash containers from the street, because in 2006 she had to outfit Sunsets on the Key with such an enclosure.
Varro reached out to various government entities with little success. When she talked to code enforcement, she says she was told the blame rested with waste management.
“I would do that every couple of months, and nothing happened,” she said.
On June 21, almost 11 months after her first complaint, she sent an email to the County Commission, the Siesta Key Association and Visit Sarasota County — whomever she could convince to get something done.
Thanks in part to a passionate response from Michael Shay, vice president of the Siesta Key Association, citations were issued to offending properties June 24, and the dumpsters are now off the street.
It’s a victory for Varro, but the protracted battle came with a cost.
“I don’t get old customers back,” she said. “They’re gone; they’re not coming back.”
Shay understood why Varro was frustrated with the county’s pace, but he was satisfied with how quickly everything came together when it was brought to the highest level.
“We all know that code enforcement is understaffed,” he said. “I think that, as in any business where you are understaffed, things fall between the cracks.”
Varro doesn’t believe this is the end of her issues.
“What I’ve seen in the past is, it gets the attention and the problem is resolved — for now,” she said. “Then, slowly but surely, it starts creeping back in again, and we’re right back to where we started. It’s really hard to keep up the fight.”
Contact David Conway at [email protected].