The lights from the Terrace Condominiums are multiplying in the evenings, and the bicycle lanes along Midnight Pass Road are becoming crowded with beach cruisers and recumbent bicycles.
Yes, Hurricane Sandy and the election may have delayed the return of part-time Siesta residents, but season is just around the corner.
Notice anything different?
For one, residents who remained on the island probably noticed the appearance of a tan young man at association meetings, events, and perhaps in their neighbor’s backyard.
That would be the news editor of the Pelican Press, Alex Mahadevan, who joined the paper in time to keep snowbirds up on Siesta news through YourObserver.com this summer.
We waded through Beach Road after Tropical Storm Debby pounded the island in June, and survived the stench of hundreds of tons of algae that washed ashore after to bring you the news.
But, if you happened to be traveling through the jungles of the Amazon, or other parts of the world that (gasp) lack Internet access, here is a rundown of news highlights from this summer.
+ Pelican welcomes editor
The Pelican Press welcomed Alex Mahadevan as its news editor. Mahadevan was born and raised on Siesta Key and leads the news coverage of the paper, after serving as Tampa Bay editor for the Gulf Coast Business Review. Before tackling the Tampa business beat, he completed his master’s degree in applied economics from the Florida State University, where he also completed his undergraduate degree.
+ Sarasota says bye to AirTran
Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport President Fred Piccolo announced AirTran, owned by Southwest Airlines, would halt service to the airport starting Aug. 12. Piccolo also announced the airport had attracted the likes of JetBlue and Delta Airlines for service to LaGuardia International Airport, and United Airlines, which began offering flights to Chicago in November.
+ Loggerhead turtle observed
Members of Mote Marine’s turtle patrol witnessed a loggerhead turtle nesting on May 1, the first day of turtle-nesting season. Nesting numbers were high this season with a total 2,385 loggerhead nests recorded between Longboat Key and Venice.
+ Total Tennis leaves Village
After 35 year in Siesta Village, Total Tennis announced it will move to a new location on the mainland, sighting parking issues as a reason. The store has since vacated the 2,400-square-foot location and moved to a space on Bee Ridge Road.
In October, Sarasota restaurateur Sean Murphy announced plans to open a third Eat Here in the former Total Tennis location. Eat Here is slated to open in January after renovations are completed and will operate from 5 until 10 p.m. on weekdays, and close at 11 p.m. on weekends.
+ 40 years of priesthood
The parish of St. Michael the Archangel celebrated Msgr. Joseph Stearns’ 40th anniversary of being a priest Sunday, May 20. Stearns was honored during a Mass for his 40 years of serving as a priest, five of which have been at St. Michael.
+ Library design unveiled
The design plans for the new Gulf Gate Library were released May 24, for public comment. The design received a positive public reaction. Commissioners came to a consensus in support of the project renderings June 26. Sarasota County will decide on a final design in January, with construction set to begin in February. A grand opening is scheduled for May 2014.
The county has a little more than $3 million appropriated for the $10 million project and the remaining amount earmarked in the 2013 fiscal year budget.
+ Gabbiano gets new owner
Marc Grimaud took over ownership of Café Gabbiano from Peter and Susan Migliaccio, who opened the restaurant in 2003. Although Grimaud kept the mainstays on the menu, he added his own flair with options such as “Sunset Baskets” to go.
+ Another mainstay leaves
After 15 years, Anna’s Deli shut down its Siesta Village location May 29. Owner David Havill cited parking pressures as the reason for vacating and stated that laws allowing 24-hour parking in Sarasota County led to beachgoers occupying spaces during the restaurant’s short hours. Anna’s still maintains south Siesta Key, Sarasota downtown and East County locations.
+ Bridge work commences
The Florida Department of Transportation closed one lane on the Siesta Key north bridge Monday, June 11, marking the start of nightly lane closures for construction.
Bridge Lane closures ended in October, but bridge repairs are ongoing.
+ New pipeline approved
Sarasota County commissioners unanimously approved a coastal variance May 23 and a $1.1 million price tag June 5, to allow the construction of a new water main pipeline between Siesta Key and Casey Key. The new connection will eliminate future water disruptions, such as the one that occurred Oct. 18 that affected 2,600 Siesta residents.
+ Millage rate increases
County Administrator Randall Reid announced a 3% increase in the county preliminary budget over last year, with spending projected at $834 million in the 2013 fiscal year. The total county millage rate is set at 3.39% for 2013 compared with 3.33% in the previous fiscal year.
+ Beach Road project delayed
Sarasota County Commissioner Nora Patterson announced at the Sarasota County Commission June 26 meeting that the expected July 7 start date of a $2.8 million Beach Road drainage-improvement project will be delayed due to blueprint changes. The project is out to bid and work is on track to start in February.
+ Beach Road fix
Tropical Storm Debby worsened an already damaged portion of Beach Road. The county got a permit for and conducted an emergency fix in June; it worked on another emergency patch Oct. 3.
That portion of Beach Road completely collapsed Oct. 29.
County Administrator Randall Reid authorized a $250,000 emergency procurement request for another temporary fix Nov. 5.
+ Siesta tourism up, then down
The Sarasota County Tax Collector showed tourism was the strongest it’s been in more than 10 years, with a tax jump of nearly 50% from May to June.
Siesta Key accounted for 38%, or $367,476 of the $1.03 million collected in tourist taxes in June.
The string of record-breaking months for tourist development tax collections ended in July, with short-term rental units on Siesta Key contributing $358,796 — 14% less than July 2011.
+ New contractor chosen
Championship Landscape Professionals was chosen as the new Village maintenance contractor July 20, with a $97, 417 contract. According to the contract, Championship must keep the Village in “resort-style” condition.
Sarasota County commissioners voted to approve the deal Aug. 21.
Championship Landscape took over Village upkeep duties Sept. 10.
+ Seaweed cleanup starts
During the month of July, Sarasota County removed more than 140 tons of seaweed from Siesta Key beach. The unattractive seaweed had washed up and accumulated as an after effect of Tropical Storm Debby.
The task of removing the seaweed was accomplished while bending to the needs of endangered sea turtles and snowy plovers, avoiding days with heavy beach traffic and squeezing an already strained budget.
+ Plover babies spotted
Two plover chicks were spotted Aug. 7, in the sand dunes near Beach Access 8.
Volunteers from the Sarasota Audubon Society and Siesta Key Association roped off nesting areas and placed warning signs in strategic locations to prevent startled plover mothers from abandoning nests.
+ Turtle hatchlings on Siesta
Despite Tropical Storm Debby’s devastating blow, Siesta Key experienced a record-setting sea-turtle nesting season and, as of Saturday, Aug. 4, 322 nests were recorded on Siesta Key.
+ Issac causes false alarm
Tropical Storm Isaac whirled past the tip of Florida into the Gulf of Mexico Aug. 28 and took an unexpected left turn, leaving Siesta Key and Sarasota largely unaffected with the exception of a storm surge that, once again, put parts of Beach Road under water.
+ Crystal Classic gets buses
Siesta Key Village Association members, during a Sept. 4 meeting, learned that 10 buses would be trucking people to the island from the mainland during the popular five-day event.
A new bus route allows an additional stop in the Village and streamlines vehicle activity.
The Crystal Classic kicks off Thursday, Nov. 8.
+ Chamber gets new website
The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce’s announced its website will be getting a facelift to increase user-friendliness. It hopes to debut a beta version of the site by the end of the year.
+ Bronze cranes stolen
Twin bronze crane statues were stolen from Siesta resident Ron Flynn’s yard between Sept. 4 and Sept. 5.
The bronze birds landed in three different scrap yards in Manatee County, before Det. Tony Colonna arrested Jason McMahon, a pool cleaner, Sept. 21, in connection with two lawn-ornament thefts.
Deputies say McMahon stole $8,500 worth of bird statues from at least three homes on Siesta Key and Prestancia.
+ Crosswalk construction begins
FDOT started construction of six crosswalks on a 1.23-mile stretch of Midnight Pass Road Sept. 24.
Federal funding will pay for the total cost of the road improvement, which engineers estimated to cost about $155,000.
As of the last week in October, crosswalk construction had hit the halfway mark.
+ Ocean Club gets approval
Alex Gutierrez, a Siesta Key property owner and 23-year resident, applied for a certificate of occupancy July 20, for an Internet café in the Village. Ocean Club is similar to 777 Internet cafés around Sarasota County, in which customers can pay for Internet time to check email, surf the web, receive faxes — and play casino-style Internet games.
Currently, all of the machines are in place and there is talk of a soft opening this weekend.
+ Turtle Beach renourishment
Sarasota County Administrator Randall Reid received approval Sept. 11 from the County Commission to apply for $5.5 million from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for Turtle Beach sand restoration.
The quick pace of erosion moved the estimated timeline for the second phase of the Turtle Beach Restoration Project to 2014 from 2015.
The county estimates the project will take six months and be complete in March 2015. State grants and monies from tourist development taxes are expected to cover the renourishment costs.
+ Red tide hits the county
Water samples analyzed the week of Oct. 11 showed a red tide bloom moved into Sarasota County.
Medium to high levels of Karenia brevis, the organism that causes Florida’s red tide, were discovered off southern Sarasota County, as far north as Casey Key, while low levels were detected further north in the county.
No red tide was detected off the waters of Siesta Key, because currents in the Gulf of Mexico and wind directions kept the bacteria at bay and the beaches open.
+ Board abolishes district
Multiple lawsuits initiated by Siesta Key business owner Chris Brown forced county commissioners to make changes to the district.
County commissioners voted 4-1 Oct. 10, to abolish the Siesta Key Parking Public Improvement District. The move will save Village property owners $344,000 in taxes over the next seven years.
The remaining funds, which are used to pay down debt from part if the construction of the municipal parking lot in the Village, will now come from the county’s general fund.
+ New development unveiled
Taylor Morrison Inc. announced plans for a new 77-acre development near the intersection of U.S. 41 and Clark Road, with model homes expected early next year for the proposed Esplanade. The long-term vision for the property encompasses 247 home sites, surrounded by more than seven ponds, wetland preserves and pedestrian trails.
+ Beach access parking
Sarasota County decided to install signs at each of Siesta Key’s beach accesses notifying people that if they aren’t heading to the beach, they’ll have to find another place to park or face enforcement.
At the end of October, county parks and recreation staff had posted parking regulation notifications at Beach Access 5.
Plans for signs at other accesses could be in the works.
+ Food truck denied permit
During the first public hearing Oct. 23 to consider private use of a county-owned right of way in the Siesta Key Overlay District, the Sarasota County Commission voted unanimously to deny a permit for Gumbo Mojo Food Truck to operate in the Village.
The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, Siesta Key Association and the Siesta Key Village Association came together in opposition of the food truck location.
Code enforcement barred a shave ice truck from operating in the Village soon after.
+ New sandbar brings boaters and beachgoers together
A sandbar emerged on the northern tip of Siesta Key Beach. Siesta residents said the sandbar had existed in the location for sometime, but it became more pronounced than it had ever been. It was estimated to be a football field’s length and width at low tide, making it an ideal place for meet-ups, by way of boat or beach. The depth of the ridge of sand connecting the sandbar to the beach barely reached 4 feet.
+ Tropical Storm Debby causes floodingto town
High winds and downpours from Tropical Storm Debby pommel Siesta Key for four days starting June 25. The storm’s biggest impact is flooding, which prompted the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office to close a 0.7-mile stretch of Beach Road. The tropical storm eroded nearly 30 feet of Turtle Beach, leaving 50% of sediment placed in 2008 during a $10 million nourishment project. Siesta Key public beach was spared.
+ Code enforcement officer position added
Siesta Key welcomed Kevin Burns, a former military intelligence agent, as the newest code-enforcement officer. Earlier in the year, county commissioners voted to expand the 2013 fiscal year budget for overtime code enforcement during weekends. The push for the expanding enforcement came partly due to Siesta residents’ complaints about noise levels in the Village, which are most prominent during weekends and holidays.
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