Siesta Key Beach has been named the top beach in the country. No news there.
The designation was snagged last month when Dr. Beach — nationally recognized Dr. Stephen Leatherman, director of Florida International University’s Laboratory for Coastal Research — named our white-sand attraction as tops.
Naturally enough, Siesta Key hotels, restaurants, other merchants and leaders want to let the world know. They will be doing so in marketing campaigns at every opportunity. They also rightly want to let people know upon arrival.
The Siesta Key Village Association and Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce want banners to be flying from both approaches to the island, loudly proclaiming that drivers are entering the home of the best beach in the nation. Rightly so. Everyone should be proud that we have such a jewel.
Alas, the problem being run up against — and this cannot be a surprise to anyone — is government regulations at the county level.
Sarasota County has strict zoning regulations for signage. Some of those regulations are clearly over the top and even dangerous. Those looking for a retailer for the first time and trying to find it among the small monument signs, which commissioners and bureaucrats have grown so fond of, is apt to cause problems for others by having to drive so slowly to find their destination.
Among the sign regulations is a general ban on banner signs, except for special occasions, such as temporary community events. Apparently they are too gaudy. Whatever.
The thing is, county officials seem to want to accommodate Siesta Key’s desires. But they are going to have to massage their own rules to make it happen.
Honestly, this should have been an easy action, except for the constant trip wires of government regulations. It is always interesting to watch how government deals with getting around the same rules it is less inclined to let private citizens get around.
Nonetheless, Sarasota County needs to find a way, and swiftly, to allow banner signs to be put up for this year. Find a zoning loophole such as community events that last most of a year, or some sort of emergency exception. Once a beach reaches the No. 1 designation, it is retired from the list. So maximum exposure this year counts and time is ticking away.
However, Siesta Key and county leaders should find a way to more permanently memorialize the designation. One suggestion might be for a plaque or other sign on the north and south bridges that would let everyone know they are entering the Key with the No. 1 rated beach in 2011. Or perhaps leave off the date.
Maybe a sign reading:
“Welcome to Siesta Key, home of the No. 1 beach in the nation.”
It has a nice ring to it. Let it ring out for a lot of years.
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