With the deadline looming for use of a $1 million grant, Sarasota County officials are trying to resolve concerns raised by some Siesta Key condominium residents about plans for the new stormwater retention pond at Siesta Key Public Beach.
County officials have planned a July 22 meeting with what Spencer L. Anderson, program manager for capital management services, calls “the larger stakeholders” involved in the matter.
If the county does not go ahead with construction of a new stormwater pipeline to the Gulf of Mexico by December, it will lose a $1 million grant from the Southwest Florida Water Management District that has been planned to cover about half the project’s cost, Anderson told the Pelican Press.
“We have to get moving on that project very quickly,” he said.
“Spencer’s right,” County Commission Chairwoman Nora Patterson said. “We can’t afford to lose that grant.”
Catherine Luckner, president of the Siesta Key Association, also concurred.
“We’ve got to get the go on this,” she said. “This has got to be a No. 1 priority. Other things don’t have to be decided right now (about the redesign of the beach park). … We’ve wanted (the new pipeline) for five years now.”
Because Gov. Rick Scott and his staff are scrutinizing all state funding, Anderson said, if the stormwater project is not under way by the end of the year, the county could lose the SWFWMD grant.
Before the work can begin, however, Anderson said, county officials must determine the size of the new stormwater retention pond that will be part of the Siesta Public Beach improvements.
The county’s plans for the larger pond and the new pipeline to the Gulf resulted from a couple of swimming closures of Siesta Public Beach in recent years. County health department staff had detected high levels of E. coli and fecal coliform bacteria in the water. Runoff from the surrounding area, flowing into the Gulf of Mexico, was linked to the contamination. A May 2005 report to the county by University of South Florida biologists noted, “There is evidence that the stormwater conveyance system is acting as a reservoir, or ‘breeding ground’ for (the) bacteria.”
During a March open house at St. Boniface Episcopal Church to unveil the latest design for the beach improvements, about eight Gulf & Bay Club residents approached her, Patterson said, worried about an expanded parking site that would be separated from Gulf & Bay Club by a vegetation buffer. The stormwater pond is in the same vicinity of the beach park plan as the new parking area.
One idea Gulf & Bay residents had broached, Anderson said, was moving the stormwater retention pond to the property line between the condominium complex and the beach park, just south of Fire Station No. 13, instead of keeping it parallel to Beach Road. Now, Anderson said, they’ve received some objections to that move.
“It’s probably not the best idea,” he said.
Patterson said she also had heard recently “that the Gulf & Bay Club folks … maybe like (the stormwater pond) where it is” in the proposed beach park redesign.
Patterson cautioned that no one had seen the final plan for the improvements.
A spokesman for the Gulf & Bay Club told the Pelican late Tuesday afternoon that the homeowners association board of directors had no comment at this time.
In a July 8 email to Anderson and Curtis R. Smith, the project manager for the beach redesign, Patterson wrote that she had spoken the previous day with a Gulf & Bay resident who had told her, “The Gulf & Bay board is not necessarily representative of the residents.”
Anderson said he had invited representatives from the Gulf & Bay Club, the Siesta Key Association, the Siesta Key Village Association, the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce and the Sarasota County Council of Neighborhood Associations (CONA) to the July 22 stakeholders meeting.
“The beach is for everybody in the community,” Patterson said. “We will certainly please Gulf & Bay if we can, but, in the end, we probably will have to move on with something.”
Contact Rachel Brown Hackney at [email protected]
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