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Longboat Key Friday, Oct. 11, 2019 1 month ago

Sarasota seeks OK to use Lido park as staging area

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County wants more information on proposal linked to Big Pass dredging.

As the city of Sarasota moves toward dredging Big Pass to renorish Lido Key beaches as soon as early 2020, officials are seeking permission from the county to use Ted Sperling Park at South Lido Key as a staging area.

Earlier this month, Sarasota City Commissioner Shelli Freeland Eddie appeared at a County Commission meeting to formally share the city’s request to use the county-owned park site popular with kayakers and other watersports enthusiants during construction.

She read a Sept. 27 letter from City Manager Tom Barwin into the record.

The letter said the use of the land at Ted Sperling Park could save the city and the U.S. Army Corps of

Ted Sperling Park is operated by Sarasota County Parks and Recreation.

Engineers hundreds of thousands of dollars. The Army Corps is in the process of preparing a new bid proposal after the group’s first attempt failed to secure a satisfactory price for a contractor.

The meeting drew residents from  Lido Key and Siesta Key who spoke for and against, respectively, the use of the park as a staging area.

Siesta Key resident Bob Luckner reiterated the argument that the city had failed to properly authorize the dredging project. Lido residents pointed out a judge had ruled to the contrary and noted the park had been used as a staging area for dredging work in the past.

“I’m also concerned to hear the never-ending procedural arguments from Siesta Key,” Lido resident David Rayner said. “If you were to follow their advice today, I’m sure we would not have any sand left on Lido the next year.”

The County Commission directed staff to produce a report with more information on the city’s request, including the costs and benefits of using Ted Sperling Park during the dredging work.

Although the city’s plan to renourish Lido Key’s shoreline with sand dredged from Big Pass has withstood a series of legal challenges, the Siesta Key Association is continuing to mount an argument against the project.

On Friday, Oct. 4, the Siesta Key Association filed an appeal contesting a ruling that rejected the resident group’s lawsuit regarding the dredging effort. In September, 12th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Andrea McHugh said the city followed proper procedures.

The filing in the state’s Second District Court of Appeal also appeals orders from October 2018 and January 2019 in which McHugh dismissed challenges from the Siesta Key Association.

At an Oct. 3 Siesta Key Association meeting, board member Bob Luckner took issue with McHugh’s determination the city had taken the necessary steps to move forward with the project. The Siesta Key Association argued the city needed to produce an official determination stating the project was consistent with its own comprehensive plan.

The group is focusing its attention on raising funds to sustain another legal challenge. Luckner said it was uncertain whether the appeal would be successful, but the group is committed to keep fighting a project it fears could hurt Siesta Key’s shoreline.

“We just weren’t successful at the local level,” Luckner said. “Whether we can get, as a matter of law, three judges and the middle of state to agree with us, I don’t know, but it hasn’t been for lack of trying.”

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