Sarasota County — and Siesta Key in particular — has garnered a lot of online media coverage this fiscal year, largely due to Visit Sarasota County initiatives. Now the regional tourism organization, formerly known as the Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau, will ask Sarasota County commissioners for more funding to bolster its promotional toolbox.
Visit Sarasota County will ask for a budget amendment for $769,000 greater than the $5.6 million already earmarked for the 2014 fiscal year. The additional funds would come from tourist development taxes, which are levied on rentals of six months or less.
"Visit Sarasota County has identified some promotional and sports opportunities that will enhance the planned summer leisure and sports tourism efforts already underway," said VSC President Virginia Haley in a March 5 memo to the Sarasota County Tourist Development Council. "Our Board of Directors felt that by utilizing these funds now, we can continue to push the positive growth in visitor spending that we have been producing for Sarasota County."
The breakdown of $769,500 funding request is as follows:
+ Advertising — $255,000
+ Website and online initiatives — $73,000
+ Media relations — $50,000
+Arts and cultural advertising — $250,000
+ Sales — $16,500
+ Research — $30,000
+ Sports marketing and grants — $95,000
The Tourism Development Council recommended approval of the request.
Commissioners will also will review Ronald and Sania Allen's plan to build a three-story single-family home with a garage on the first story seaward of the Gulf Beach Setback Line (GBSL). Sarasota land use attorney William Merrill, representing the Allen's, will ask commissioners for a coastal setback variance allowing for construction seaward of the GBSL, and two setback variances related to the parcel's boundaries.
Commissioners granted Merrill a continuance of a public hearing that was held Feb. 19.
The property, valued at $1.04 million, is covered in native and non-native dune vegetation and has never been developed. The petitioner has proposed 1,350 square feet of new shoreline plantings and the removal of invasive species to offset the project's impact, according to a staff report.
Residents of the Terrace East and West condominiums have sent at least eight emails to commissioners protesting the proposal citing concerns about building displacing wildlife and worries about setting a precedent developers will use in the future to build seaward of the GBSL.
"The Gulf Beach Setback Line was established for a reason — as a society we cannot afford to continue to build stuff in harm's way," wrote Siesta resident Mark Anderson in a Jan. 28 email to commissioners.
Commissioners denied the Allen's variance request last year to build on the lot, but the new design has reduced the size and intensity of the proposed structure.
IF YOU GO
What: Sarasota Count Commission meeting
When: 9 a.m. Wednesday, April 23
Where: Commission Chambers, Administration Building, 1660 Ringling Blvd. Sarasota