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Sarasota Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016 5 years ago

Controversial builder draws complaints on Siesta

After being banned from building on Anna Maria Island, Shawn Kaleta has started generating concerns from Siesta Key property owners.
by: Anna Brugmann Community Editor

Since buying a home on Siesta Key in February, Les and Marsha Dunbar haven’t had the relaxing island lifestyle they originally envisioned.

They purchased the house at 89 Avenida Messina, located on a street west of Siesta Key Village with a mix of residential and rental properties. They saw it as a relatively low-key area, but the street quickly turned into a construction zone when contractor Shawn Kaleta began renovations at 95 Avenida Messina.

The overhauls were significant, including an interior remodeling and the installation of a pool in the front yard. Beyond the scope of the work, though, residents have suggested the construction isn’t being done by the books.

“He moved driveways,” Marsha Dunbar said. “The stuff he is doing is so questionable, anyone who is looking at the before and after pictures wonders how they got it done.”

Since Kaleta bought the home in December, eight complaints have been filed claiming he or his contractors are building on the property without proper permitting. County records show contractors on the property have been cited twice for failing to pull necessary permits. The Dunbars said the interior work was mostly done at night and on weekends.

Despite the complaints, county staff has not observed any major violations of building regulations.

The development may be getting extra scrutiny because of Kaleta’s reputation. In September 2015, the mayor of Anna Maria Island announced he was banning Kaleta from obtaining new building permits, citing public safety concerns and a history of unpermitted work.

Anna Maria Island officials say Kaleta was issued eight stop-work orders between 2012 and 2016. 

The Dunbars believe Kaleta hasn’t changed his building tactics since moving to Siesta.

Pool contractor Beach Monkey Pools was cited in June for operating outside the bounds of the approved permits for the property. A stop-work order notes the constructed pool does not match plans submitted to the county. In addition, the county also cited crews for constructing a tiki hut on the property without approval.

Les Dunbar said he has had several run-ins with Kaleta and his construction crews, including a dispute over a fence that separates the two properties. According to Dunbar, Kaleta claimed that a portion of the fence was over the property line by a matter of inches. Although the Dunbars believed the fence was on their land, crews working at 95 Avenida Messina eventually demolished the structure.

Dunbar contacted a lawyer regarding that incident, but the lawyer suggested it would be cheaper to replace the fence than pursue legal action.

Kaleta did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The overhaul of the property isn’t finished. A new permit shows plans to install an addition to the rear of the house. The owners seemingly intend to boost the home’s appeal as a rental property: an advertisement on touts the house’s eight bedrooms, seven bathrooms, pool and rear courtyard.

Dunbar believes the commercial nature of the property highlights another way in which Kaleta may be exploiting the county’s established procedures.

As work continues, Marsha Dunbar would like to see more oversight from the county.

“He needs to be controlled,” Marsha Dunbar said. “Not stopped, controlled.”

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