Siesta Sand (section 1)- March 2024

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John B. Davidson Sept. 2, 1931 — Jan. 22, 2024

It’s that time of year again!

We’ve lost a leader extraordinaire Few names were more synonymous with Siesta Key than that of John Davidson

As with every spring, the tourists are loading up their gear and heading to the fluffy sand of Siesta Beach. (photo courtesy of Sarasota County

By John Morton

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hen in need of something on Siesta Key, how many times have you heard these words: “I’ll bet you Davidson’s has that.” The man whose business had it all certainly gave his all and did it all. For generations of residents and visitors alike, John Davidson’s name not only resonated throughout the island it seemed almost palpable. You heard it wherever you went. One of Siesta Key’s undisputed pioneers and leaders, Davidson died peacefully Jan. 22 at age 92 having lived an exemplary life. “Energetic, warm, friendly, Continued on page 28

No-go for traffic model, county leaders say By ChrisAnn Allen

It is no secret; Siesta Key stakeholders are concerned with how proposed development might affect their quality of life. Especially regarding traffic flow on increasingly congested roadways. During their Jan. 30 meeting, Sarasota

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County commissioners voted 3-2 against a proposed Siesta Key “transportation microsimulation model,” which would have provided a detailed evaluation of how vehicular, pedestrian and multimodal transportation might be affected by new

development in the area -- specifically, the proposed new hotels. The motion to commence with the model was made by District 2 commissioner Mark Smith and seconded by District 4 commissioner Joe Neunder, the two elected

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Rest in peace, Nora Patterson

Chamber honors its biz standouts

Brown purchases Boatyard complex

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officials who represent the Key. “We got sandbagged,” Bob Luckner, Siesta Key Association treasurer, said regarding the denial of the model at the group’s Feb. 1 Continued on page 25

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Greetings from the Gulf Mr. Bates, I’m ready; Mr. Davidson, Ms. Patterson, I’m honored; Dad, I’m grateful By John Morton

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rediction: The next person to apply for a permit here to create a place for lodging goes by the name of Bates. Not that I’m going Psycho or anything but yes the never-ending coverage of the hotel horror story I’m living may very well be getting to me a bit. For example, I’ve removed all shower curtains from my home. So much for my roommate-wanted ad. Meanwhile, everywhere I go I’m asked if there’s anything new with the hotels. I tell them that all work and no play makes John a dull boy. Yeah, I know that’s a different movie, but I’ve pretty much checked myself into that hotel as well. Not even this particular “I’ve seen it all” columnist saw a situation where, just a few weeks after a judge supposedly ended this saga, a sequel as thick as War and Peace was hitting our figurative newsstands. The idea that Benderson Development is the publisher, with its proposal for an 85-footer in the Village, makes this all even more of a must-read. And all great stories need a conflicted character. Enter Dave Balot. The hopeful hotelier wants approval for his place, but that means two troublesome competitors would also be breaking ground. How’s this for a head-spinner: He coowns the Siesta Key Beach Resort and Suites, which for decades on end stood as the Key’s only traditional hotel, and a few years ago considered tearing it down and rebuilding from 55 rooms to 170 on plenty of acreage at likely no more than three stories in height. This, in part, because a guy first proposed building a 170-room, eight-story hotel just two doors down. And now, the new eightstory Benderson hotel would be just a couple blocks down the street as well. Those monstrosities would overshadow

his hotel both competitively and literally, as in blocking his sunshine in the morning. All the while, Balot has wanted to build his own mid-island six-story hotel at 5810 Midnight Pass Rd., at the old Wells Fargo bank location. It’s a site that required him to change his designs because of the protected grand oak tree that stands in front. Contrastingly, something tells me the discovery of the Holy Grail itself buried alongside Jimmy Hoffa wouldn’t convince the other hoteliers to change a thing. Balot in January made a political move that indicated he was playing to win more than ever. At his Beach Resort and Suites he hosted Sarasota County District 3 candidate Tom Knight (the former Sarasota County sheriff) for a speech. District 3 is located

down around Venice. Now remember, thanks to single-district voting being upheld we can’t vote outside our districts (you, as a Siesta Key resident, are in either 2 or 4). Still, hotel opponents want Knight to beat incumbent Neil Rainford next November -- assuming the comp plan vote that determines the unlimited density future has yet to take place -- because Knight has gone on record in saying no and Rainford has a voting history that says absolutely yes. A reminder: A comp plan amendment of this sort will take 4 of 5 county commissioners, known as a supermajority. Siesta Key’s Mark Smith (of District 2 representing the north half of our island) is an obvious no vote, but Joe Neunder (of District 4, representing the southern half) remains an unknown commodity. You may recall he was absent Nov. 28 when the vote was taken to accept Benderson’s comp plan amendment for entry into the political process (instead of more restrictive ones separately submitted by Balot and the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce). Only Smith was in opposition. Then there’s this -- a Benderson comp plan-proposal rejection means all the other hotels go down with it. Only a possible revisit, maybe with restrictions that fit Balot’s request (52 rooms per acre with a 1-acre minimum), would eventually save his day. Balot wants six stories with 112 rooms on 2.15 acres. Benderson wants eight stories with 147 rooms on 0.97 acres. What shouldn’t be lost in the shuffle is that the August ruling by a county judge reinforced the existing limits of 35 feet and 26 rooms per acre as established in 1989. Did this not count for anything? I mean, Hunter Carroll spent a lot of time on this! OK, exhale. So, I recently asked Neunder how he felt about possibly representing the ultimate deciding vote on this matter -- especially if it

comes to a head prior to November elections (where neither Smith nor Neunder are up for re-election). Does such a potential vote make him feel anxious? Or would it be exhilarating to have that kind of responsibility? His response? “As a chiropractor, I’m always looking out for the health, safety and well-being of my patients. I see my commissioner role as one in the same.” I asked as a follow-up for him to be more specific but got no answer. Well, this is the kind of tap dancing that tends to land a man in the office of ... well, I don’t know ... a chiropractor? Hey, I gave him a chance to back (ha!) up his quote, right? Neunder clearly is a smart guy who’s careful with his comments. And I’m convinced he has what is best for Siesta Key on his front burner. But, as we know, everyone’s recipe for what’s best here seems to vary. I’m so curious to see what Neunder has cookin’. ***

John

Ray

Nora

John Davidson Nora Patterson Ray Morton R.I.P. I just hit “enter” on my keyboard, creating a literary moment of silence for these three exceptional people. A far as I’m concerned, I’ve known Mr. Davidson most of my life. Back in the 1970s, when the last day of spring break meant Continued on page 34

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Ramirez, Sax team up for non-profit Victorious anti-hotel lawsuit plaintiffs create Protect Siesta Key organization, pledge to keep fighting By John Morton With a another push underway by developers for unlimited density for new hotels, the winners of two lawsuits against Sarasota County to prevent such a thing have joined to form an opposition organization. Siesta Key activist Lourdes Ramirez, who won a case last year that halted development of the three large hotels approved by the county, and Rob Sax, whose separate lawsuit prevailed via the same ruling, created in November the notfor-profit Protect Siesta Key. According to an electronic newsletter distributed by Ramirez in January, the organization’s mission statement is “ … to promote good governance to enhance the public health, safety, and preservation of the quality of life for residents, visitors, and property owners on Siesta Key through educational awareness, advocacy, and, if necessary, appropriate legal action.”

Rob Sax speaks out; guest editorial on page 21 The organization’s web address is protectsiestakey.org. In Sax’s lawsuit, he was joined by the Marina Del Sol condominium (where he’s president of the homeowners association) and the 222 Beach Road condominium. Marina Del Sol sits near the seven-story, 120-room hotel that was initially approved near Siesta Key’s south bridge, while 222 Beach Road is across the street from the eight-story, 170-room hotel initially approved at the edge of the Village. That second hotel has re-emerged through the application process as a sevenstory, 163-room complex and in January completed its mandated neighborhood workshop. The two hotels have yet to do so. Judge Hunter Carroll in August ruled

that no hotel could exceed the limits of 35 feet in height and 26 rooms per acre as set forth in March of 1989. In her announcement of the new organization, Ramirez said “During the Ramirez last go around on megahotels, I worked on the problem with just my attorneys. I developed white papers, spoke before the county commission in 2021, and eventually filed the lawsuit. “Although individuals Sax have supported me by donating to the effort, I was restricted from working with anyone but my attorneys because of the sensitive

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Wallace ready to sue county

5

By John Morton Siesta Key resident Jim Wallace is going forward with his threat to sue Sarasota County in its relation to approving late last year a revised plan for the building of the Siesta Promenade mixed-use development at the northwest corner of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road. That is what he told attendees at the Feb. 1 meeting Wallace of the Siesta Key Association civic group, with a filing to likely occur before the end of February. At the crux of Wallace’s concern is that a county-mandated stoplight was approved at the intersection of Stickney Point and Avenue B & C, where an entry point into the Siesta Promenade would exist. The signals and related infrastructure have already been installed, but the light is not yet activated. Wallace maintains that studies show that traffic would stop every 85 seconds as a result on a roadway that is already congested. His recent fight against the Florida Department of Transportation for issuing the needed permits failed last year on appeal, and now he’s taking aim at the county itself. Wallace says that recent court decisions against the county by both the state’s Division of Administrative Hearings and Sarasota County’s 12th Judicial Circuit Court in relation to the approval of high-rise hotels should also put a halt to Benderson Development’s Siesta Promenade project. Those decisions said, in part, that development on barrier islands should be discouraged in part because of issues with ease of hurricane evacuation. “The access roads are included,” said Wallace. Stickney Point Road, home to the south bridge, is one of only two leading to the Key. Thus, the Siesta Promenade project violates Sarasota County’s comprehensive plan that governs land use.

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Brown strikes again, nabs Boatyard complex Real estate investor adds to robust Siesta Key-area list of acquisitions with purchase of strip of businesses near south bridge By John Morton Chris Brown’s Siesta Key-area real estate portfolio continues to grow, and his recent purchase of the 2.03-acre village of businesses where the Boatyard Waterfront Bar and Grill is located adds a highprofile property that packs a punch. “I like one-off properties that you cannot replicate,” said Brown, who paid roughly $8 million. “I also like properties that seem to have a tremendous amount of upside potential. With over 2 acres of commercially Brown zoned waterfront land, and with almost 30,000 square feet of buildings, there definitely is upside potential. “This seems to check all of the boxes.” Located in the 1500 block of Stickney Point Road at the mainland base of the south bridge, the property contains deeded canal-front access to Sarasota Bay, Little Sarasota Bay and the Intracoastal Waterway and is known for spacious water views. It also features multiple tenants beyond the restaurant, including a watersports rental operation and assorted boutiques. Brown’s acquisition, as part of the Above the Bar Hospitality Group he operates with business partner Mike Granthon, is his second major

one on Siesta Key’s south end; in 2022 he purchased for $7.3 million the plaza in the 1200 block of Old Stickney Point Road that is home to Crescent Beach Market and was first built in the 1950s. “Again, these properties do not become available for decades,” Brown said of his subsequent purchase of the Boatyard parcel. Previous to being called the Boatyard, the business was known as Coasters until 2010. Last year, Boatyard co-owners Karl Knocker and Madeline Nikolson were convicted of tax fraud charges related to the business. Previous to that, most of Brown’s properties were situated in the Siesta Village. They include The Cottage, Hub Baja Grill, the Beach Club, My Village Pub, and the plaza that holds Morton’s Market. Kevin Robbins and Troy Robbins of Harry E. Robbins Associates facilitated the transaction on behalf of the buyer and seller, according to a Feb. 2 press release. “As a highly visible waterfront parcel so close to Siesta Key, this is obviously a very, very sought-after location. We fielded hundreds of requests for information on this listing, and we received multiple offers within a single week,” said Troy Robbins. “We only had three weeks to field offers, and we hosted multiple site visits with the buyers and the seller. Ultimately, we were able to put together a package offer that was acceptable for all parties

Views of the parcel of businesses in the 1500 block of Stickney Point Road (as outlined to the left) that include the Boatyard Waterfront Bar and Grill (in the foreground below). (submitted photos)

— and all within that three-week window.” Brown and his team are finalizing plans to upgrade the complex and promote a more customer friendly environment to benefit new and existing tenants, including the waterfront restaurant, boat rental, watersports facilitators and shopping boutiques, according to the announcement. Full plans for renovation and tenant mix will be released soon. The property also contains existing parking as well as boat access for visitors. “The Boatyard is an iconic property. This is a generational asset for someone to own and develop,” said Kevin Robbins. “There are not many

opportunities to secure this kind of commercial property with frontage on the water, let alone a deeded canal access. “The buyer is a well-established hospitality/restaurant operator with multiple locations. We are excited to see how this project will be improved and enhanced to

benefit the community.” Meanwhile, the Boatyard’s general manager expresed her support of the transaction. “We welcome the new owners and look forward to the upgrades and improvements they are going to do for the Boatyard complex,” Siobhan Fox said.

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Time to slow it down in Turtle Beach Lagoon By ChrisAnn Allen

“We bought our condo based on the beautiful setting,” said Michael Gallagher, a Siesta Key resident, “The thing that really sold us on it was this beautiful lagoon, which to us, is a little bit of paradise.” Gallagher is part of a group of residents that pushed for the Sarasota Board of County Commissioners to work with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to post an “Idle Speed/No Wake” sign in Blind Pass Lagoon across from Turtle Beach on south Siesta Key. The measure, brought forward by District 2 commissioner Mark Smith, also a Siesta Key resident, and seconded by District 4 commissioner Joe Neunder, the representative for that portion of the Key, was unanimously approved by the commission during its Jan. 30 meeting. Smith pointed out there is a sign where people launch at Turtle Beach Lagoon and also Little Sarasota Bay on the other end -but nothing in between -- an area frequented by kayakers, stand-up paddle boarders, and wildlife. So, Gallagher and other residents reached out to Smith and Neunder, who visited the area and observed the boating behavior in question. “I am not, by any stretch, antiboaters,” Gallagher said. “I like boaters and I love boating. It’s just that while sitting on my lanai or spending time around our condo complex at the end of the Key I regularly see in the late afternoon -- early evening and on weekends -- folks going much too fast in the

Two separate views of the lagoon on the bay side of Siesta Key’s Turtle Beach Park from the north (above) at the public launch area and then south (left) near the area known as Blind Pass. (submitted photos)

lagoon.” Gallagher said he has boating experience and understands there are times to recognize the importance of taking it slow. “Having boated for a lot of years, I know when you can put the pedal to the metal or when you should slow to an idle or no wake speed,” he said. “The lagoon itself is only about a third of a mile long and, at times it is as narrow as 30 to 40 feet and so that’s an area where we see great numbers of kayakers, paddle boarders and aggregations of manatees in the warmer weather.

“And, too often, I have seen jet skiers or boaters being a little irresponsible.” In addition to potentially harming people and wildlife, the structural integrity of seawalls is another factor, Gallagher noted. “Because of the narrowness of the lagoon, the sides of the seawalls get swamped, and in the last year, our neighboring condo complex to the right had to replace their seawalls and, more recently, we have learned that the complex to the left has to replace theirs as well,” Gallagher said. “Whether

there is a direct cause and effect, I don’t know, but it is not helpful when watercraft speed through this area.” In order to post the sign, county staff must draft an ordinance and present it to the FWC for approval. Additionally, staff must reach out to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and to the U.S. Coast Guard to ensure the area in question is part of the navigable waterway. “We didn’t realize at the time all the regulatory hurdles that the county will have to go through to

obtain a simple sign,” Gallagher said. “There were efforts by the residents to encourage folks to slow down -- handmade signs – but not sure how many people pay attention unless there is official looking signage. “That was the reason for our request; this is a real quality of life issue. I would say most everyone bought in this area because of the proximity to Turtle Beach and because being on the lagoon is really great. “It’s just a beautiful area.”

All Roads Lead to Made in Rome Organic Gelato on Siesta Key! Seven days a week, for up to 14 hours a day, Diane Cuna churns out a rainbow of organic gelato flavors for her Made in Rome shop in the middle of Siesta Village. Diane was born a third-generation circus performer in the famed Theron Family, a French bicycle act who fled Europe during World War II and performed all over the world with Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus. Cuna grew up performing cycling feats and crossbow stunts with her siblings. She retired from show business at age 40 and, inspired by her Italian husband whose family been making gelato for many generations, began channeling her creativity and gregarious energy into gelato. She opened Made in Rome on April 19, 2017. Six years later, you can still find her there, telling stories and serving up her fiery spirit in frozen form. Cuna dedicated herself to organic, all-natural ingredients from the very beginning. For her flavors, she started in Italy. Her pistachios come straight from Bronte (Sicily), hazelnuts from Piedmont (Northern Italy). “Everything in the shop is Italian,” she said. “I make it here from scratch,” said Cuna. I do not use artificial flavoring. People love the key lime. They love the teacher’s coffee [flavor]. I offer traditional Italian flavors and American flavors. Among her more unusual creations, Cuna makes a popular “Red Tide” flavor: chocolate gelato with pepperoncino, sea salt, and Italian cherries. She also serves a gelato with activated charcoal for a sort of dessert detox. Made In Rome Organic Gelato is located at 5204 Ocean Blvd, in the Siesta Key Village. Their hours are Mon. - Thurs: 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and 11:00 a.m. - 11:00 Kylie, Grace, and Natasha are ready to serve customers. p.m. Fri. - Sun.

Jenn Eshbaugh

First, the gelato is the best I’ve ever had. It was the owner who served us. Little did she know my boyfriend has been teaching ServSafe classes for many years. He raved about how well the frozen treats were store and how well she handled the act of serving it to us. She did everything by the book. No cross contamination and very clean. The little paddle spoons are made of 100% recycled corn husks and the gelato is served with a kosher and vegan little baby sugar cone. We found this gem the first day in Siesta Key and we will DEFINITELY be back every day we’re here. So good! My one regret was I didn’t get a picture (maybe because I ate it so fast.)


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9

Reviewed December18, 2023

★★★★★ Tara H. via TripAdvisor SECOND VISIT

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Nora Patterson July 23, 1944 — Feb. 8, 2024

She always stood up for Siesta Nora Patterson championed many causes for our island, but her reach went so much further By Jane Bartnett Nora Patterson, the former Sarasota County commissioner and longtime Siesta Key resident, died Feb. 8 at age 79. She was widely known as a “champion of Siesta.” Patterson began her career as a teacher in Florida public schools. When she and her husband, John Patterson, moved to Siesta Key in 1970 she taught at the Out-of-Door Academy, owned the Greenwood Garden Center on Osprey Avenue, and began a career in real estate and investments. She also began dedicating much of her time to Siesta Key, Sarasota County, the environment, the business community, and tourism. Serving the public became Patterson’s driving force. Elected to the Sarasota City Commission in 1991, she also served as mayor. In 1998, Patterson was elected to the Sarasota Board of County Commissioners and served four terms. In 2003, the Siesta Key Association civic group named her its Person of the Year. In 2014, Patterson announced that she would not seek a fifth term as commissioner. Two years later, she ran as a candidate in the Florida State Senate District 23 Republican primary but lost her bid to Greg Steube. During the years that Patterson served as a county commissioner, Siesta Key and the entire Sarasota

Nora Patterson speaking in November 2022 at the county park that bears her name. (photo courtesy of Sarasota County)

region struggled through the real estate depression of 2008. She won praise for her efforts to cut property taxes while supporting the area’s infrastructure. A strong advocate for a new Gulf Gate Library, whose fate had been debated, funded and defunded since 2004, Patterson was able to see the completion of the new library that opened its doors in January 2015. During a 2014 interview with the Siesta Sand, Patterson spoke of her love for Siesta Key and the decision that she and her husband made to make it their home. “We fell in love with the place and, when we moved here, we moved onto the Key and never moved off,” she said. In 2015, to recognize her long

commitment to the region’s environment and the waterfront, Sarasota County renamed the Bay Island Park, situated near the north bridge that links the mainland to Siesta Key, the Nora Patterson Bay Island Park. Since then, significant improvements have been made to the park. It is a popular spot for boaters, fishermen and those who enjoy strolling along its waterfront. Siesta Key resident Lourdes Ramirez, a longtime advocate for the island, remembered Nora Patterson fondly. “She was an excellent county commissioner in Sarasota,” Ramirez wrote of Patterson on the Dignity Memorial website. “Her attention to detail was always visible during commission

Patterson

meetings. She was fair and kind in her dealings with others and deserves recognition for her efforts in protecting Siesta Key for many years.” Sarasota County Administrator Jonathan Lewis said that Patterson’s “dedication and service will continue to shine throughout Sarasota County because of the relationships that were formed throughout her decades of public service.” Born to a celebrated theatrical scenic and Broadway lighting designer, Patterson – with the birth name Leonora “Nora” Kerz -- was raised in New York City. The young Nora studied at the exclusive Brearley School, a private school for girls located on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. She went on to graduate from Duke University, in Durham, North Carolina where she met her husband. The young couple moved to Gainesville where he attended law school, and she received a Master of Education degree from the University of Florida. In 2000, the Pattersons’ daughter Kimberly, a 29-year-old artist, died of complications from leukemia. The family established Kim’s Fund, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Sarasota to support leukemia research. It also provides financial assistance for

leukemia patients in need who are being treated at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, where Kimberly was treated. During her many years of service to the community, Patterson represented Sarasota County on many public boards including the prominent Sarasota/ Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization – the maintenance of the Intracoastal Waterway that passes through Siesta Key is one of the its focuses. Patterson also served on the boards of numerous non-profit organizations including the Teen Court of Sarasota, the Jewish Family and Children’s Service of the Suncoast, and Plymouth Harbor. In Patterson’s last Siesta Sand interview, when asked what advice she would give incoming county commissioners representing Siesta Key, she said: “Please keep sight of the fact that while Siesta Key is an important economic asset, it’s also a place where people live and enjoy a wonderful quality of life. Please pay attention to that and go to the meetings of the various stakeholders, the people that live on the Key as well as the people who work on the Key and let them get to know you. Let them get to feel comfortable to sharing their issues and thoughts with you.”

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Group asked to solve issue of commercial activity at public water access points By ChrisAnn Allen

Both sides have spoken and it’s time for action. The Sarasota Board of County Commissioners on Jan. 30 unanimously approved a motion to create a task force to consider the best way to handle commercial boating businesses -- such as charter fishing, tour boats, and scuba diving -- in light of some businesses of that nature using public access points for pick-up and drop-off. The two county parks on Siesta Key with such offerings are at Nora Patterson Bay Island Park near the north bridge and Turtle Beach Park at the south end. According to a motion by District 3 commissioner Neil Rainford, the task force will consist of two charter tour operators who can provide local business tax receipts, two water access/marina property owners or lease holders with a tour operator business with land abutting the Marine Park District, and one member at-large. This means two members will represent businesses operating out of county parks and two will be owner/operators using privately owned marinas -- and this is the dividing line within the issue. During public comment, representatives from both sides provided feedback on the matter. Capt. Scott Tesinsky, owner of Sarasota Family Fishing Charters, said fishing operations have been using the public ramps to pick up and drop off clients for “generations,” and asserted private marina availability is very limited. He said no business is conducted at the ramps; rather, it is just the spot for departure and return. “I ask that you work with us to try to find a solution, where we can continue to do what

Nora Patterson Bay Island Park (above) and Turtle Beach Park (left) are Siesta Key’s public spots with access to the water. (photo above by David Geyer and photo to the left courtesy of Sarasota County)

we do,” he said. “My livelihood is at stake and, honestly, what we do is literally just pick up someone and that’s it.” He added the area has increased in tourism in the 25 years he has lived in the county, and the water recreations activities

are the draw. “We are a water community,” Tesinsky said. “Without the water, the people wouldn’t be here.” Brandon Paonessa, a permitted jet ski business operator, also spoke on the matter. However, he expressed concern over the

lack of action by the county to enforce rules regarding commercial operations at public accesses. “Sarasota County code enforcement does not enforce their own ordinances and laws, hence allowing any bro with a jet ski, trailer and credit card processor able to run their business at the park with no cost,” he said, adding that anyone legitimately starting a business must have a plan that incorporates costs such as permitting, insurance and leases. He also said there are eight jet ski rental business websites which can be found through Google that list county parks as their place of business. Following an uptick in unauthorized use of the parks by unpermitted businesses in 2022, the commission directed staff to research a permit program for such businesses and, in late 2023, the board opted to allow the activity to continue unenforced until staff could present a plan for a task force. Currently, if enforced, a violator could be fined $500 per day or spend 30 days in jail. Considering the activities had been in progress for decades without enforcement and that private marina spots are at a premium, the commission felt the punishment outweighed the crime and opted to continue the pause in enforcement until a new plan could be developed. However, some business owners operating within the current legal parameters say it is unfair to allow unpermitted businesses to operate in the same market. “The amount of commercial activity at county parks has become an overwhelming situation for the county to enforce, which Continued on page 34


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From John’s Hopkins All Children’s, BayCare’s St. Anthony’s, Bayfront Health and Tampa General Hospital to Moffitt Cancer Center, world class care is readily available. Need a massage or acupuncture? No problem. There is a fresh market nearby almost every day of the week, year-round. There are more pets here per capita than any similar sized metro area in the state. Tampa was named #2 by Wallethub and St. Petersburg #3 out of 100 metro areas in the state, for pet friendliness. Budget was one of three factors used, and this corner of the world is still an affordable destination that is being discovered by relocating Floridians, Californians, and Coloradans, in addition to a steady stream of the usual mid-western retirees. Despite recent post pandemic inflation in rents, real estate in Paradise remains a bargain compared to most any other luxury residential beach destination, especially since interest rates have increased. If you are thinking about relocating, check it out!

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What’s up with these docks? Grand Canal resident upset with what he says is ‘starting to resemble a marina’ across from his home By Ned Steele

How much dock is too much dock? Palm Island resident and former lawmaker Doug Holder says he knows “too much” when he sees it – and he says he sees it every time he looks out his back window on to the Grand Canal. There, across from his home, sits a recently constructed fourboat slip, four-lift dock across Canal Road from the Siesta Shores condominium. Holder says it is too big, jeopardizes navigation in the narrow channel, caused destruction of mangroves, and never should have been allowed without a public hearing. Sarasota County disagrees with Holder, having issued a “minor work permit” for the dock – effectively determining that it is not “too much.” Undeterred, Holder is calling for revegetation along the shore, and opposing a new application to further modify the dock. He also alleges the county used faulty measuring in assessing the permit application “This is starting to resemble a marina,” Holder said. “… And now it’s being amended to be even bigger.” Holder and a neighbor, David Wolter, became curious – and then angry – when a worker began cutting vegetation at the site one day last August. It was the first they knew of the dock.

Palm Island resident Doug Holder gestures toward the new docks installed by the Siesta Shores complex across from his home along the Grand Canal. (photos by Ned Steele)

They soon learned that the county had issued a permit for the work without public notice because under permitting rules it was designated as “minor work.” “That’s when we jumped into action,” Holder said. While the county had measured the waterway at 88 feet wide using digital aerial photography, Holder and Wolter measured it at 82 feet. The difference, they said, enabled the dock to be built 1½ feet farther into the water than should have been allowed.

The difference, they said, is enough to risk unsafe navigation in the narrow waterway, and collision with other vessels. Holder said he feared his 30-foot Jupiter boat, docked by his home across the way, “is in jeopardy of getting hit by an unskilled boater.” As of early February, they said no boats had yet used the dock, which was completed in late 2023. Holder is also unhappy because the removed vegetation left busy Canal Road in plain sight, subjecting him and neighbors to

noise pollution from the exposed road, and loss of privacy. Holder submitted “before and after” photos to Siesta Sand that he said showed several mangroves were removed during the dock’s construction. A Sarasota County spokesman said the dock application met the criteria for “minor work” that is approved by county staff without public hearing or commission approval. The spokesman did not specifically address Holder’s claim

that mangroves were removed. The spokesman said the shoreline’s “predominant vegetation” was a “non-native nuisance plant” and that “several mangroves along the shoreline were preserved.” Further, the spokesman said, “avoidance and minimization of impacts to mangroves is taken into consideration during…permit reviews.” Approval of the permit was conditioned on preservation of all Continued on page 22

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Conveniently located across from public access #12, we carry everything you need so your vacation time is spent making memories. Visit our deli and cafe for delicious food and drinks, grab your beach gear, or stock up on beer, wine, snacks and key lime pie. We have a full selection of groceries for a perfect island stay!

Eilieen Carrigan has a bagpipes blast at her Irish pub. (photo by Jane Bartnett)

A chance to strut her stuff Eileen Carrigan prepares to do the Shebeen Irish Pub proud with her first St. Paddy’s Day party By Hannah Wallace “Our mission is to become as close to a true Irish pub experience as one can get in this country,” said Eileen Carrigan, owner of the Shebeen Irish Pub and Kitchen on Midnight Pass Road. And there’s no better date to demonstrate a true Irish experience than March 17. Since she purchased the Shebeen in September, this will be Carrigan’s first St. Patrick’s Day as a pub owner — and her biggest chance yet to prove the pub’s authenticity. In fact, because this year’s holiday falls on a Sunday, Carrigan has planned a whole weekend of celebrations. Live nightly music begins Thursday evening, culminating Sunday in an all-day festival of bands, Celtic dancers, and (of course) bagpipes from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Naturally, menu specials will feature fish and chips and corned beef and cabbage. Dining tables will be moved just outside the door, onto Crescent Plaza’s shaded veranda, so there’s more room for general revelry inside. Born and raised in an Irish-rich suburb of Philadelphia, Carrigan, a second-generation American herself, brings a strong pub pedigree to her work — though her formal, full-time restaurant training only began four years ago when she joined the staff of Pub 32 on South Tamiami Trail. There, then-owners (and Irish ex-pats) Ross and Louise Galbraith provided Carrigan with immersive training in the logistics and attitude of Irish hospitality. “Louise and Ross are very gracious tutors,” Carrigan said. “Louise is almost to me the epitome of a gracious pub hostess. Her primary concern is everybody’s wellbeing. And from Ross, he’s all about the nuts and bolts.”

In 2022, Carrigan followed the Galbraiths as they moved pub operations from the South Trail to a smaller space in Siesta’s Crescent Plaza, calling the new spot the Shebeen (essentially “tavern” in Irish). A year later, the couple decided to sell, and Carrigan was happy to accept the challenge. She said the new responsibilities “have very much been an adventure for me.” But the responses from patrons near and far have been more than worth it. Carrigan said she regularly gets messages from Dubliners planning a vacation on Siesta Key and in search of a homey pub to visit while they’re here. She also described a pair of sisters recently reveling in the Shebeen’s live music, one even strumming air guitar on her cane, while their 94-year-old mother soaked in the atmosphere. “The smile never left her face,” said Carrigan. “There’s no shortage of pubs and bars that call themselves Irish because they have an Irish name or serve Guinness,” Carrigan added. “But the heart and soul of an Irish pub is not about the food and beverages. It’s the way that you feel when you walk through the door. They’re rarely very fancy, often a bit dark. What you feel is that you are welcomed. People don’t go to an Irish pub for the same reason they go to McDonald’s or Applebee’s. They’re going for the experience.” The Shebeen St. Paddy’s Day celebration will feature music from Kevin McGuire’s Fresh Air duo, Prodigal Sons (Dana Lawrence of Kettle of Fish and Tom McNulty), Ross the Piper, and Celtic fiddler Emily Ann Thompson and band. Menu specials include corned beef and cabbage, and fish and chips.

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Community Spotlight A busy man who takes the time to care

Mike Evanoff pursues plenty of projects, including the restoration of Midnight Pass

Q

You live in an amazing setting on Blind Pass Road at the southern tip of Siesta Key. Tell us about your history with the island. I first moved from Palmer Ranch to Siesta Cove. This was my first time on the island, roughly 22 years ago. I lived there for approximately six years and then moved to Avenida De Mayo -- the street behind the hardware store in the Village. I lived there for around four years and then moved off the island to San Remo (neighborhood on the mainland near the north bridge). I recently move back on the island to south Siesta Key and I love it. We are currently residing in one of the most unique homes on Siesta.

Left, Evanoff with sons (from left) Chase, Christian, and Cole. Right, Evanoff (with microphone) speaks at a Midnight Pass Society II event at Spanish Point with co-founder Scott Lewis. (submitted photos)

A

Q A

What is so unique about the home and the locale? The house is the southernmost property on Siesta Key and abuts a huge park and preserve with the most incredible views and privacy -- one of the few properties that has gulf and bay access. Not to mention the most incredible floor plan and interior that brings the outdoors in and really showcases the beach lifestyle.

Q

You own and operate quite the compound at Spanish Point on Little Sarasota Bay, among quite the list of other entities. Please name your various business ventures. I have been in business since 1997 when I first move down here. It’s been years of slow growth -- a little at a time -- and we have built up many businesses. • Evie’s Management Group • Evie’s Golf Center • Evie’s Tavern Ellenton • Evie’s Tavern on Main • Molly’s Pub • Evie’s Car Wash • 1223 Parking Inc. • Evie’s on the Run • Spanish Point Tiki • The Point • Marker 38 (tour boats) • Brady’s Neighborhood Bar • Evie’s Catering • Spa Hollywood I’m also involve in the local real estate

A

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market with some commercial units. Sometimes, having many businesses seems glorifying but it has been very difficult for the last few years with employee shortages and inflation.

Q A

You are the president of Midnight Pass Society II. How and why did you get involved? I was speaking with (local Realtor) Scott Lewis and we both had a passion for Little Sarasota Bay. We decided to join forces and start Midnight Pass Society II. For me, the main reason was that the smell of the water at Spanish Point was so bad when guests where eating they would complain. They thought is was our septic. We would continually tell them it wasn’t us -- we are not on septic -- but they would call the health department and it would do a full inspection every time. I think this happened more than 10 times one year. This was the time I knew something needed to be done.

Q A

If things go as you hope, what in your estimation is a realistic target date for seeing an actual tidal connection in place? This question is probably better answered by the county and permitting agencies. We know the process will not occur overnight but for the first time we have local, state and federal policymakers supporting the effort to restore Midnight Pass. We hope this political momentum will keep the project moving at the proper, but quick, pace.

Q A

How do people get involved in the cause to restore Midnight Pass? Visit our website (restoremidnightpass. org) and sign up for email updates.

Q When you are not being pulling in a million directions, how do you spend your leisure time? I love to travel. I enjoy skiing/ snowboarding, golfing, and nights out. I have three boys, so spending lots of time with the family is important as well.

A

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Here’s to Crescent Club’s diamond day The beloved establishment celebrates its 75th year with March 2 party; join us here for some stories, some history, and a Siesta Key toast! By Jane Bartnett

H

appy 75th birthday to the Crescent Club! Cheers to quenching the thirsts of countless visitors and residents alike. “People that I met at the Crescent Club became my lifelong friends,” said Monica Condon, who tended bar there throughout the 1970s. It was also a place that changed her life. She met her husband, Frank, a geological engineer who was working in the area on an assignment from Canada at the Crescent Club. It was a place, Condon recalled with great nostalgia, that owner Charlie Walker, the bar’s second owner, wanted to be like the TV show Cheers. “Charlie’s vision was for a down-to-earth place where he could bring his family and friends. The characters were the people who walked in. Charlie wanted conversation and a place where people could talk to each other. No music. Just good conversation,” Condon said. For 75 years, Siesta Key’s venerable watering hole at 6519 Midnight Pass Rd. has gained international recognition and has made the various “best bar” lists time and again. It’s impossible to know just how many people have passed through those rustic saloon doors to come to bask in the glow of this historic piece of island history. When the Crescent Club and Package Store opened in 1949, four

Left, manager Mary Pisano and owner Gary Kompothecras get ready for the Crescent Club’s 75-year celebration. Above, the original building at its original location a bit south of where it sits today. (photo by Jane Bartnett and submitted photo)

years after the end of World War II, life on the south end of Siesta Key was quiet. The post-war years were drastically different than today. Former owner Julie Brown, who spent 39 years there (10 as an employee and 29 as owner), said that when the Crescent Club first opened it was located on the property that now houses the 7-Eleven store. Walker moved the building to its present location after

he purchased it from the original owner. A former buyer for a women’s specialty retail store in Michigan, Brown began working for Walker as a temporary job in 1980. She stayed on, learned the business, and in 1990 purchased the Crescent Club from Walker, becoming owner No. 3. “Charlie was the most wonderful person,” Brown said of Walker,

who mounted an image of Brown on the wall alongside paintings of other former bartenders, including Condon. “The conversation just flowed. It was a true melting pot. It was always the people who were the special sauce.” Much to the relief and delight of her customers, Brown maintained the Crescent Club as Walker and his predecessor had kept it for more than 40 years. She managed and ran the place herself. “We kept it simple. I stuck with what worked. No karaoke -- we didn’t jump on the gimmick bandwagon. We kept the prices reasonable,” Brown said. Her only change to the exterior of the unpretentious little building was the addition of “Lynn’s Front

Porch,” named for Brown’s late sister, in the 1980s. Inside, loyal customers would while away the hours in the smokefilled bar. A small parking lot sat in front of the building and, in keeping with the “package” in the name, Brown continued to offer customers a drive-up window on the side of the building where they could pick up a bottle or two and be on their way. Meanwhile, Brown’s loyal customers thanked her for finding a way to stop the clock from ticking by keeping the tavern true to its roots. She made the decision to maintain the interior as it was. “People liked walking into

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That’s where you’ll meet internet superstar Scot ‘Scooter of the Beach’ Ruberg and pick up on all the positive vibes he brings every morning he’s on duty

I

f you’ve got a famous beach, you’ll want a famous lifeguard too. Happily, Siesta Key has both. The beach, you already know. The lifeguard? Meet Scot Ruberg, also known as Scooter of the Beach – a definite internet celebrity. If you’re a Facebook regular, you may already know him. Some 71,000 followers around the world do. He’s the creator and star of “Scooter of the Beach’s good morning beach report!” – the daily report, featuring an exuberant Scooter decked out in a glorious palm-leaf top hat, is always enthusiastic. It’s a way better wakeup than an alarm clock or a fresh cup of joe. As we know, there’s never a bad day on Siesta Beach. Scooter of the Beach has become an Internet star by getting on Facebook every morning to tell us just why today is going to be a great day. Consider Scooter’s commentary back on the chilliest day of January’s cold snap: “It is cold-front perfection! The beach looks so good with no one on it! People are wearing parkas, multiple layers. Guess what? (Later in the day) we’re gonna see people peel off layers!” A (very slightly warmer) day later: “It’s a great day, the sun is trying very hard to poke through! And tomorrow will be another 10 degrees!” The next day: “It is cool. It is clear. It is clean. We have the solar heater cranking. Gaawwwd, I love this place!” You get the idea: never a bad day, and Scooter wants you to enjoy every one of them. It’s not his job to see you out on the beach from his lifeguard stand; it’s his joy. Through his Facebook presence he has become an unofficial ambassador of good will for Siesta Key. And he draws a crowd of beach-goers that congregate around his domain, the green lifeguard stand, when he works. “It’s a win-win,” said one of them, Raymond Grimaldi. “It’s such a positive vibe he gives out that makes people feel good. It attracts people to him.” It’s important to note that Scooter of the Beach is a serious lifeguard every minute of his daily shift. He has pulled countless swimmers out of trouble, rescued hundreds of beachgoers and boaters in distress. He has saved many lives, and inevitably he has seen some lives lost – more likely from medical emergencies on the beach than accidents in the water. (Because, he says, “We focus on prevention, prevention, prevention. When the water gets rough, we don’t let people get in past their belly buttons.”) But before his shift – and before the daily hour of training required of all Sarasota County lifeguards – he does his thing as Scooter of the Beach. It’s a 2-minute video. Up it goes on Facebook, and people around the world smile. Once, Scooter was just Scot Ruberg, ordinary lifeguard. A refugee from Illinois, he started at Siesta Beach in 1994, before the guard stands had colors. Back in 2017, he decided to adopt his online persona: “I like people; I like to spread positive energy,” he explained. “It just evolved.” Scooter is now a robust 59 – currently the beach’s oldest lifeguard, though not the oldest ever. He passes the county’s annual recertification qualifiers every year, and he’s good to go for a few more.

By Ned Steele

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Between saving lives, posting morning beach reports, representing his own brand of rum, and collecting license plates gifted by his fans, let’s just say that Siesta Key’s Scot “Scooter of the Beach” Ruberg stays pretty darn busy. (photos by Ned Steele, David Geyer, and submitted photos)

But at some point, he realizes, it will be time to retire. With that day in mind, he is building his brand as Scooter of the Beach. You can expect to see that evolve and develop as he grows into the persona he has created. Scooter of the Beach will still be there pitching positive vibes when he finally steps down from that green tower. And when he does, it will still always be a beautiful day at the beach, and he will tell the world.

One more thing. Scooter wants you to know that he lives in Osprey with his wife, Mandy, and 12-year-old son. He wants you to know this, because once before he was interviewed for another publication and he neglected to mention her. He regrets it to this day. So, Mandy, rest assured that Scooter loves you even more than he loves his job and his life as Scooter on the Beach.

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Doing business was never so much fun Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce honors its shining stars at annual awards dinner

The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce on Jan. 31 at Marina Jack held its annual awards dinner, as recognition in several categories went out to members of the business community, orgaizations, and volunteers. They are: • Small Business – Pestmaster • Large Business – Gilligan’s Island Bar & Grill • New Member Business – Coastal Concierge • Business Person – Eric Fleming • Shining Star – Jasmine Valentino • Community Partner – Catherine Wunderlich • Volunteer of the Year – Cynthia Brock • Shawn McLoughlin Siesta Selfless – Lourdes Ramirez • Service & Leadership – Andy Daily • Sharon Cunningham Visitor Center Volunteer of the Year – Mike Netkovick Also, the new Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors was established. The members are: • Eric Fleming, chairman • Mike Gatz, immediate past chairman • Mason Tush, incoming chairman • Gabe Garcia, treasurer • Doug Black, secretary • Kara Altice Montes, Angela Carlson, Steve Cavanaugh, Kathy Elliott, Wendall Jacobsen, Helene Hyland, Syd Krawczyk, Nathan Reid, and Jerry Williams. Three community donations were also presented, thanks to the success of the Siesta Key Crystal Classic International Sand Sculpting Festival held in November. The chamber made a $10,000 donation to the Ringling College of Art Scholarship Program and, on behalf of the memory of former chamber employee Mia Leone, a $1,200 donation to All Faiths Food Bank and a $3,200 donation to Humane Society of Sarasota County.

Community Partner -- Catherine Wunderlich

Business Person -- Eric Fleming

Service & Leadership -- Andy Daily

New Member Business -Coastal Concierge

Shining Star -- Jasmine Valentino

Sharon Cunningham Visitor Center Volunteer of the Year -- Mike Netkovick

Small Business -- Pestmaster

Large Business -- Gilligan’s Island Bar & Grill

Volunteer of the Year -- Cynthia Brock

Shawn McLoughlin Siesta Selfless -Lourdes Ramirez

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Guest editorial

Protect Siesta Key By Rob Sax

E

arly in 2021, attorneys for two different developers made presentations to neighborhood workshops during which they advised that the approvals they sought from Sarasota County for construction of their proposed large hotels on Siesta Key would require an amendment to the county’s comprehensive plan. Later in the spring of that year, those developers back-tracked and each decided to convince the county staff that those same hotel approvals could be achieved without a comprehensive plan amendment. Such an amendment would have required the support of a super majority of the Sarasota Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), and it is clear, in my view, that the developers had become concerned about whether they had the required support from enough commissioners. What is not clear is why the county staff and its attorneys, all of whom were well-versed in the land-use regulations and restrictions contained within the comprehensive plan, would so readily agree to be convinced that the proposed high-density, highintensity hotels could be approved absent a comprehensive plan amendment. They had to know that such approvals were inconsistent with the comprehensive plan, but the BOCC proceeded to issue those approvals notwithstanding the overwhelming outpouring of opposition from their constituents on Siesta Key. The county was not swayed by arguments against those approvals until two different courts stepped in and confirmed them to be illegal. It is mindboggling that a small handful of Siesta Key residents had to litigate against the county at their great personal risk and expense to overturn approvals that the county’s attorneys, staff and BOCC all had to know were inconsistent with the comprehensive plan and thus would ultimately need to be rescinded if challenged in court. The taxpayers of the county have had to pay significant costs as a result of defending this litigation. The obvious motivation of the developers to seek the hotel approvals is huge profits. But what is the motivation of the county to approve these mega hotels on Siesta Key? Does the BOCC misguidedly believe that the incursion of a multitude of these immense hotels throughout Siesta Key would actually benefit the region’s economy? Apparently so. Never mind that what attracts the large influx of visitors and countywide residents each year to our beautiful sugar-sand beaches is the bucolic small-town charm of the island. In this writer’s view, the over commercialization of Siesta Key would actually work to harm the region’s economy. Now, fast forward to what is happening at the beginning of 2024. The county has allowed the same developers to resubmit requests for approval of their new hotels despite guardrails in place against such resubmittals for at least one

year following rejection. Even more significantly, the county has agreed, on an out-of-cycle (fast track) schedule, to take up consideration of a request by the Benderson Development group to amend the county’s comprehensive plan. Yes, the very same Benderson that will be rendering the south bridge virtually unusable by impeding traffic on and off the Key with its Siesta Promenade development on the corner of U.S. 41 and Old Stickney Point Road and its associated Avenue B&C traffic light. Benderson is now proposing amendments to the county’s comprehensive plan that would remove ANY room density requirement for a hotel. A limitation on transient accommodation (hotel) room density has been a protection embedded within the county’s comprehensive plan for generations. It was put in place by far-wiser county leaders than those governing today to limit transient accommodation growth on the barrier Islands. For the past 40 years or more the county has limited hotel room density to a maximum of 26 units per acre. The proposed comp plan change is a forerunner to Benderson’s proposal to build a 147-room hotel in the Village on approximately 1 acre. I invite the readers to do the density math. I also invite the readers to log on to the website protectsiestakey.org to view the entire scope of comp plan changes Benderson is proposing. These changes, if enacted, adversely impact the health, safety and quality of life of visitors and residents alike. An example of a Bendersonproposed change would have the effect of limiting emergency evacuation concerns to just residents and expect snowbirds and visitors to fend for themselves. Emergency evacuation in the event of, say, a rapidly developing Categorie 5 hurricane, should, by itself, be sufficient reason to restrict the development of high-density hotels on barrier islands. In addressing concerns about the increased traffic these mega hotels would bring to the island, Benderson’s response is that traffic will actually be improved because all the people who want to come to the beach are already staying at his hotel! Never mind the scores of employees, service personnel and truck traffic that would need to get on and off the Key every day. This, on an Island with only two access bridges and an already maxedout infrastructure ill-equipped to handle the demands that mega hotels would bring. Without enacting Benderson’s comp plan amendments, the county cannot approve the construction of any of the proposed mega hotels. I believe the next time the county says “no” to a major developer will be the first time the county says “no” to a major developer! The strong support of all the residents and taxpayers throughout Sarasota County is needed to win this critical next phase of the battle against over development on our beautiful island. (Rob Sax is president of Marina Del Sol homeowners association and a plaintiff in a successful hotel-related counrt ruling against Sarasota County.)

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Message to the masses Our county commissioner Mark Smith addresses an audience both up close and on the radio in Q&A discussion with WSLR By John Morton

Mark Smith, the Siesta Key resident who holds the District 2 Sarasota County Commission seat, took the stage Feb. 8 in a town hall meeting and faced some of his constituents in what was in part a Q&A format. The gathering, which drew about 30 residents, was moderated by Cathy Antunes, host of “The Detail” on WSLR and allowed for viewers/listeners to submit questions in advance. It’s a show upon which anti-hotel advocate Siesta Key’s Lourdes Ramirez appeared in late 2021. Smith was more than happy to participate, addressing issues and question that were both local-based for Siesta Key residents but mostly beyond our island. Smith’s turf runs primarily along the coast of Gulf of Mexico, from the county’s north border on University Parkway southward to where Stickney Point Road intersects Siesta Key. Heading inland, parts go as westward as McIntosh Road. “I believe, as being a public official, that being accessible and communicating with the community is extremely important,” Smith said afterward. “The radio town hall was a great way for the public to ask questions and hear directly from me on subjects that are of concern to them.” Among the subjects related to Siesta Key included the proposed hotels and the trend he has seen in being a lone vote on matters – a retort that drew a laugh from the crowd. His responses are in some cases edited for length and/or pertinence, but context is respected. On the proposed hotels: “What scares us all is that every community in Sarasota County – if you think you’re safe, if you think you’ve got everything under control, you’ve got to

Mark Smith and Cathy Antunes tackle some Sarasota County issues. (submitted photo)

think about Siesta Key. In 1999 there was a community plan that was done with the county and the citizens, both commercial and residential on Siesta Key … on how we wanted to see Siesta Key both developed and basically preserved. … By the way, at that time, incorporation was being threatened ... So, the Siesta Key Overlay District was developed based on that community plan. So, then you think ‘OK we’ve got a codified element that is going to keep things where we want it – scale, and that type of thing.’ “Then the developers come in and they want to do these hotels and they got the special exception that (resident) Lourdes (Ramirez) fought and won. “So, if you think about it, if you’re a community and you think you’ve got it safe … they can contemplate changing the comp plan to make sure they get what they’re looking for.” On the 4-1 votes: “I’ve often been on the ‘1’ end of the 4-1 vote; it seems to be my mantra. When I run for re-election (in 2026), my motto’s going to be ‘I’m the 1.’”

Grand Canal docks

More on the hotels: “It bothers us all, and it should bother everybody in Sarasota County. “Unlimited intensity, four hotels, up to 15% of the commercial property which I think is nonsense … the folks that own commercial property that aren’t in that lucky 15%, you think they’re going to sit back and say ‘Hold it, hold it?’ A camel under the tent thing. “So, it’s going to look like (Fort) Lauderdale, or Miami Beach, or Clearwater before you know it. And we’ll lose the Village. I predicted we’ll lose the Village – I thought five years, but with this latest effort (brought forth by Benderson Development for an 85-foot hotel in the Village) it may be three.” On the questions: “Do developers buy county commissioners? What can we do as citizens to elect better representation?” In his response, Smith also addressed the challenges of representing more than his home base of Siesta Key. “I spoke before the League of Women Voters, and they asked me what can we do when a commissioner votes the way we don’t

want them to vote. And I said, well, let’s see – nothing. We have the power. “You’re the League of Women Voters. So, you need to vet the candidates, look into their background, and see who they’ve worked with, and push it. We need to stop looking at elections like a sports event and determining who has the most money must be the best candidate. And that’s not the way it works. You need to find folks who have character and are grounded enough to not be tempted. “Now, in full disclosure, developers did give me a lot of money to win. I’m not sure that’s going to happen for re-election. But I told them what my thinking was when they were interviewing me to see if I was worthy and I told them that I didn’t like the big hotels on Siesta Key and Siesta Promenade didn’t thrill me. But I think it was the lesser of evils, perhaps. “I won, and thank you to all the folks who voted for me … I had to convince the neighborhoods in Sarasota that a Republican architect on Siesta Key gave a damn, so that’s been my mission, Esther and I, my wife, to go to very community that invites us.” Finally, on his desire to see countymandated neighborhood workshops (allowed to be virtual during the COVID-19 days) return to an in-person format: “I’ve made that fight; I haven’t been successful. You need to express to the folks in power that they shouldn’t have any problem meeting with neighborhoods. The (Benderson Development-related) hotel virtual workshops were a joke. It was shut off, there were miscommunications. “It epitomized what’s wrong these virtual workshops that are supposed to allow more people to join in.”

Continued from page 14

mangroves, although “limited trimming” of them was allowed. The permit further noted that if mangroves were lost during construction, the county could require replacement plantings. Reached by phone, David Kessel, the registered agent for the dock owner, said, “There is nothing for me to say. We followed permitting, we did exactly what we’re supposed to, as others did.” He deferred further questions to the county’s statements to Siesta Sand on the matter. The saga is not over. The entity that built the dock, Siesta Key Dock Association, has filed for a new permit that would modify the dock’s configuration. The county

How the vegetationheavy area appeared before boat docks were installed. (submitted photo)

has determined that the new application is also a “minor work” matter to be resolved by a staffer. Holder and Wolter are calling for a public hearing and demanding that the owners revegetate along the shoreline of the original construction. Holder says more mangroves will be lost under the proposed modifications. If the permit is approved, he said, it will lengthen the dock, “making something already too big, bigger.” No decision has been reached on the new application, the county spokesman said, because the applicants need to provide additional information before it can be reviewed.

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Continued from page 5

“Everything we’re fighting has been done in an illegal fashion,” Wallace said. He has also pointed to transportation reports that note that Siesta Key’s major roadways have been rated with a “D” grade

or lower in terms of safety. If the county is required to halt the Benderson project, all improvements related to the installation of the traffic lights would be required to be removed, Wallace added.

“It would all have to go back to the way it was,” he said. Before pulling out, Wallace was originally part of one of the two hotel-related lawsuits that were victorious last year on the county level against Sarasota County

commissioners. He joined fellow Marina Del Sol resident Robert Sax along with the 222 Beach Road condo residents. As for Siesta Promenade, it will be comprised of 414 apartments/ condominiums, a 130-room hotel,

33,000 square feet of retail space and 7,000 square feet of office space. Its developer, Benderson Development, is also now proposing to build an eight-story hotel in the Siesta Village.

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Left and clockwise, bartender Dana Weppner works the cozy inside area; how the business looks today and when the outdoor project began; the re-created phone booth and how the Crescent Club looked for much of its recent existence. (photos by Jane Bartnett and submitted photos)

Crescent Club turns 75 the old-time vibe,” she said. That meant retaining the original dark decor, the red table cloths and candles, and allowing customers to smoke -- keeping things pretty much as they had been since in 1949. Even a cigarette machine remains. “It worked for Charlie,” said Brown. “It wasn’t broken. The customers liked it, and I kept it as it was. A lot of customers enjoyed the cool dark interior after a day on the beach.” Among those relieved to see the tavern’s interior stay the same was longtime patron John Whipple. “It’s the way the bar always was and the way a bar’s supposed to be,” said Whipple, a Siesta Key resident. “My father started taking me here when I was 14, back when you could come in with a parent. When he’d go to the bathroom, they’d put my beer back behind the bar until he’d return. The bartenders were the best and knew everyone by name. That hasn’t changed.” How personalized an experience has

Continued from page 17

Whipple enjoyed? In front of his seat in the center of the curved bar is a small, mounted plaque with his name engraved on it. And above that is the name of another customer who previously made that same spot his home away from home. A transition of sorts In late 2018, Brown sold the Crescent Club to Siesta Key resident Gary Kompothecras. Many know him as the man behind the 1-800-ASK-GARY legal referral service, as well as the MTV show Siesta Key. Portions of the reality show would be filmed at the tavern. When news of the sale broke, Brown received praise for maintaining the Crescent Club as a Siesta Key landmark. “A saint of a woman,” wrote the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. “She has done a damn fine job preserving the only real dive bar left on Siesta Key and one of the greatest bars, period, in southwest Florida.”

Although many loyal customers were nervous when Kompothecras became the new owner, he made it clear that a major change was not his intent – at least not on the inside. “I bought the Crescent Club to keep it the way it was and to enhance the outdoor experience,” he stated. Kompothecras remained true to his word. “Gary has done a fabulous job in keeping the old watering hole. It’s so historic,” said Hazel Goers, an employee who’s been behind the bar for more than 20 years. “Gary even re-created the old phone booth that had been taken out in the ’80s. The Crescent Club is the heartbeat of Siesta Key. It still has the red candles, the photos on the wall, and the red light outside the door. “If only the bar could talk!” Out front, an open-air sports-bar concept would arrive in 2020 – built during the down time created by the pandemic -- that drew an often-younger crowd. Nightly live music

would be a focal point as well in the new space. “There are two bars now,” said Condon. “Inside is a different vibe than the outside bar, and that’s OK. I like visiting both places.” Brown agrees. “The larger outdoor space was a good idea,” she said. And now, it’s the kind of place that seems to have at least another 75 years left in the tank. Just what is it about the Crescent Club that has made it such a treasured and enduring part of Siesta Key? According to Kompothecras, “It’s an authentic piece of America.” Now on to the celebration: A 75-year anniversary party is set for 6 p.m. to closing on Saturday, March 2. Customers will be able to enjoy a complimentary buffet, cornhole games, and T-shirt giveaways. Free rides will be available from 1-844-Frog-Hop. Visit crescentclubsiestakey.com for more details. John Morton contributed to this report.

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meeting, noting that two of three opposing commissioners — Mike Moran and Neil Rainford — offered no reason for their no vote. Luckner was among those who requested this type of study which, according to Spencer Anderson, the county public works director who led the presentation, “is much less generalized than the usual traffic simulation.” “Their request was for us to develop a model and calibrate that to the specifics of Siesta Key, which they say is different than what it may be off-island,” Anderson added, pointing out the beaches create demand times which are distinct from regular business traffic. Anderson said they must determine if the model would just be for Siesta Key or include other parts of the county, because the state repealed concurrency in 2016 to nothing beyond a quarter mile of the developed property is required for denial or approval of such projects. However, an assessment provided by the model could be used as a tool for planning. As part of the presentation, Anderson said there are two companies currently offering these models and the base cost would be $500,000, with ongoing maintenance as a separate, not yet determined fee, throughout the course of the study lasting 12 to 18 months for the final product. Smith was the first to respond, following Anderson’s presentation. He repeated Anderson’s claim regarding concurrency, but asserted because of the Key’s unique geography and layout it would be best for the model to

extend beyond the quarter-of-amile specification. “Talking to my constituents out there on Siesta Key, we feel strongly that this model is needed to not increase the intensity of development on Siesta Key, or at least measure it,” he said. “We need a baseline to know what we’re talking about. So, this microsimulation would do that for us.” Smith also referred to the two rulings against the county, through the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings as well as the circuit court, that future development should not allow already compromised roadways to further degrade. “I believe, since we haven’t heard from the governor and cabinet, that this model would show that Sarasota County is abiding by these court rulings,” he said. “And we can’t make the assumption that a future comp plan change to intensify use on barrier islands won’t go without challenge and is actually going to be implemented.” District 5 commissioner Ron Cutsinger said he did not support the study and cited cost without clear benefit as a concern, as well as the lack of need for concurrency as a determining factor for regulation of development. “I agree that we need to do everything we can ongoingly with transportation and every option that we have, but we can continue to do those things without this study,” he said. “I just can’t see any real benefit here so I am not going to support it.” Neunder asked Anderson the cost-benefit analysis for the study,

adding that he’d “rather have the information and not need it than need it and not have it.” Anderson responded the costs are based on “data collection” and cited the different traffic patterns generated on the Key compared to the mainland and, due to on/ off season and special events, information must be collected for at least a year, but it is difficult to determine how helpful the data

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to protect this in a meaningful way?” Smith asserted the study is necessary so “we don’t continue to keep making a difficult and bad situation worse.” Smith motioned to approve the study and Neunder seconded it with “reservations on cost,” but the motion failed due to lack of support from Cutsinger, Moran and Rainford.

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Protect Siesta Key legal process. After we won our respective lawsuits, Rob and I spoke about combining our efforts as we face the next mega-hotel challenge. We have experience and extensive knowledge on the topic so it made sense to work together.” Benderson Development, which late last year not only announced its interest in building an 85-foot, 163-room hotel on land it owns on Ocean Boulevard in the Village,

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but it submitted a private, out-ofcycle amendment to the county’s comprehensive plan that would allow for the needed increase in density and intensity. If approved, the other three hotels would fall under the umbrella of what would be allowed. Initially, county commissioners approved those hotels based upon the county’s interpretation of the guidelines already in place; now,

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an actual change on paper is what’s being considered. County commissioners in late November chose the Benderson comp-plan amendment recommendation for study while ignoring two other proposals that had more stringent parameters. Added Sax in the newsletter, “The county fails to accept that these proposed mega-hotels, and others sure to follow, are damaging to the health, safety and quality of life of the residents of Siesta Key and would destroy the charm and beauty of the Island which drives the tourism fueling Sarasota’s economy. “The existing Siesta infrastructure cannot support this type of development and, rather than improve Sarasota’s economy as the county believes, an influx of these hotels is more than likely to damage it. “We need the support of everyone in the county to help preserve Siesta Key as the very desirable destination for residents and tourists that it is today.” The third hotel initially approved by the county is at 5810 Midnight Pass Rd. and includes six stories and 112 rooms. Dave Balot, its principal, proposed one of the two comp plan amendments denied by commissioners (limiting new hotels to 52 rooms per acre on a minimum of 1 acre). The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce submitted the other, also recommending no more than 52 rooms per acre with a maximum of 75 rooms and a height limit of 45 feet in commercial areas and 35 feet in residential areas. It also recommended a traffic study.

Spa Experience Siesta Key The Synergy of Acupuncture and Infrared Light Therapy: A Powerful Healing Duo In the pursuit of holistic healing, the convergence of ancient wisdom and modern technology has given rise to innovative therapeutic approaches. Spa Experience Siesta Key is now offering a combination of acupuncture, an age-old practice rooted in traditional medicine, and infrared light therapy, a cutting-edge technology, to help promote healing and well-being. Together, they form a dynamic synergy, addressing both the body and mind's intricate needs. Acupuncture, based on the principles of balancing Qi, taps into the body's energy pathways, addressing physical and mental imbalances. Through the strategic insertion of fine needles, acupuncture stimulates natural healing processes, addressing issues such as chronic pain, digestive disorders, and immune imbalances. Infrared light therapy, on the other hand, harnesses the healing power of light wavelengths. Penetrating deep into tissues, infrared light stimulates cellular activity,

enhancing circulation, reducing inflammation, and promoting tissue repair. This non-invasive therapy has gained recognition for its ability to accelerate healing and relieve pain. When acupuncture and infrared light therapy are combined, their benefits amplify. Acupuncture prepares the body's energy pathways, optimizing the receptivity of cells to light therapy. The infrared light, in turn, enhances the effects of acupuncture by promoting faster recovery, reducing pain sensitivity, and aiding in the resolution of chronic conditions. The combination of acupuncture and infrared light therapy is particularly effective in addressing chronic pain conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, and musculoskeletal disorders. The therapy duo reduces inflammation, eases muscle tension, and promotes joint mobility, offering relief to those suffering from persistent pain. Both therapies also contribute significantly to mental well-being and clarity. ADVERTORIAL

Acupuncture's stress-relieving properties, coupled with infrared light's ability to regulate neurotransmitters, create a powerful synergy for managing anxiety, depression, and stress-related disorders. This dual approach not only fosters emotional balance but also enhances overall cognitive function. The integration of acupuncture and infrared light therapy marks a significant milestone in the realm of holistic healing. By combining ancient wisdom with modern technology, individuals can experience profound relief from pain, enhanced mental wellness, and accelerated healing. As this dynamic duo continues to garner attention in the healthcare landscape, it offers a beacon of hope for those seeking comprehensive and effective solutions for their physical and mental well-being. Marika Doviak is a Florida licensed Acupuncture Physician and Massage Therapist. You can find her at Spa Experience Siesta Key, located at 5700 Midnight Pass Rd. Unit 4b, Siesta Key, 34242. Office Tel: (941) 349-4833.


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Time: A key element of investing

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Sarasota Local Brings Experience & Trust to Siesta Key Who knows where the time goes? We’ve reached the end of another year, so it’s appropriate to reflect on the nature of time and how it affects us. And time certainly is a key element in the pursuit of your financial goals. As an investor, time can be your greatest ally. If you hold some investments for the long term, you could achieve an impressive cumulative growth in value. Furthermore, if you keep adding shares to these investments, possibly through a dividend reinvestment plan, you could attain “growth on growth” through the power of compounding. Of course, when you own equity investments, you will experience market fluctuations, but in general, the longer you hold these investments, the more you can reduce the effects of market volatility. But you also need to consider aspects of time in these contexts: • Checking progress on achieving goals – When you establish a goal, such as saving for

a child’s education or your own retirement, you know the end date of when you’ll need the money, but it’s also important to mark your progress along the way. So, each year, see how far along you are in meeting your goal. If you’re falling behind, you may need to adjust your investment mix. • Choosing an appropriate strategy – The time needed to achieve a goal should drive your investment strategy for that goal. For example, when you are saving for a retirement that won’t happen

for three or four decades, you will need to invest for growth by placing a reasonable percentage of equities and equity-based investments in your portfolio, based on your comfort with the various types of risk, including interest rate risk, credit risk and market risk. You will experience some bumps along the way — keep in mind that the value of investments will fluctuate and the loss of some or all principal is possible — but you likely have time to overcome the “down” periods. On the other hand, when you are saving for a short-term goal, such as a vacation or a new car or a wedding, you’ll want a set amount of money available precisely when you need it. In this case, you may need to sacrifice some growth potential for investments whose principal value won’t fluctuate, such as certificates of deposit (CDs) and bonds. Keep in mind, though, that when you’re investing for long- and short-term goals, it doesn’t have to

be just one strategy or the other. You can save for retirement with primarily growth vehicles but still have room in your portfolio for shorter-term instruments. And even when you’re specifically investing for some short-term goal, you can’t forget about your need to save and invest for retirement. And here’s one final point about the relationship between time and investing: Your risk tolerance can, and probably will, change over the years. As you near retirement, you may feel the need to adjust your portfolio toward a more conservative approach. That’s because you may want to consolidate any gains you might have achieved while also recognizing that you simply have less time to bounce back from down markets. Still, even in retirement, you’ll need some growth potential in your portfolio to help you stay ahead of inflation. When you invest, one of your biggest considerations is time — so use it wisely.

Joe St. Onge, ChFC® Financial Advisor, Edward Jones Investments 5011 Ocean Blvd., suite 205 Siesta Key, FL 34242 (941)-346-0560 phone (941)-320-4030 mobile Joe.StOnge@edwardjones.com This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

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Sheriff’s Report Jan. 12, theft Sheriff deputies were dispatched to Beach Access 5 with respect to a reported theft. Complainant indicated he parked two bicycles at the entrance at approximately 6 p.m. When he returned 30 minutes later hours the bicycles were missing. They were mountain-style bikes and were both green and silver. Later in the evening a deputy observed subjects on what appeared to be the missing bicycles. Upon making contact with the subjects riding them, one of the subjects indicated they had borrowed them and were just riding around. The complainant confirmed that the bicycles were the missing ones and that since they were recovered undamaged did not wish to press charges. The subjects were advised they were not getting the bikes back and one

of the subjects responded “Yeah, I know, we sole them.” Jan. 16, theft An employee of construction company reported a propane tank was stolen from a home under construction. The propane tank was an underground tank that was being stored above ground pending its installation. The value of the tank was $2,500. A witness reported seeing several subjects load the tank on a trailer and drive away with it. Jan. 23, theft A condominium representative reported a break-in at a shed and that a leaf blower was missing as well as miscellaneous hand tools. Video footage was obtained which showed a suspect around the shed and then running toward Midnight Pass Road.

Jan. 24, burglary Complainant contacted the sheriff’s department to report a vehicle burglary. Complainant states his van was parked in parking lot of his apartment complex. In the morning he entered the van and noticed his backpack was missing from the van. Complainant did not see any signs of forced entry and also believed that the van was left unlocked. Jan. 24, theft Complainant, who was a representative of a condo complex, reported that keys to four units were missing. She explained that she had placed eight keys (two for each unit) in a lockbox when leaving for the day. Approximately an hour and a half after she dropped the keys in the lock box a guest reported they

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Thoughts on Mr. Davidson

Thoughts on Mr. Davidson

“My longtime friend John Davidson was a brilliant visionary who brought more to Siesta Key and gave more to Siesta Key over the years than anyone. “He deserves a monument.” Anna James, founder of Anna’s Deli

“There’s comfort in familiar places, people and memories of early times on Siesta Key. His enduring presence on Siesta Key is hard to lose. He is the link between early times of Siesta Key and families who raised families here. “Our landmarks for life here are forever because he made his family life on Siesta Key.” Catherine Luckner, president Siesta Key Association

“John Davidson has always had great interest in the well-being of Siesta Key, especially the Village. He had strong ideas and several times encouraged the effort to have the Key incorporate -- turns out the residents should have listened. “He is probably the strongest supporter the Key ever had. We will feel his loss.” Anne Johnson, longtime Pelican Press editor “John Davidson was the patriarch of Siesta Key, a pioneer of the Key when Siesta Key was just getting discovered. He was a visionary, opening up his drug store in Siesta Village with a doctor’s office next door. “John always wanted what was best for Siesta Key. He will be sorely missed. Rest in peace Mr. Davidson, you deserve it.” Mark Smith, Sarasota County commissioner “It was a pleasure to work for ‘Mr. D’ for 40-plus years. He walked me down the aisle when I got married! “He was a good man who loved his red licorice.” Vickie Compton, store employee

Above, John and Rita Davidson. Below, sailing in Sarasota Bay on the Equanimity. (submitted photos)

John Davidson

Continued from page 1

generous,” were words Rita Davidson, his wife of 43 years, used to describe her husband. “He lived life to the fullest and we are grateful for that. “He really had a fabulous life.” The day before his death, all six of Davidson’s children were at his side for what Rita called “lots of wonderfully tender moments.” A celebration of that life was scheduled by the family for Feb. 27 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Field Club, 1400 Field Rd., on the mainland along the Intracoastal Waterway just across from Siesta Key. That was where he served as the club’s commodore. It was the longtime home to his Equanimity sailing boat, providing an activity along with golf, tennis and croquet that gave the hardworking Davidson a reprieve from the many business and volunteer endeavors he pursued. And he pursued them full bore. “My dad taught us about the importance of work ethic through leading by example. One of his core principles was, ‘If you’re going to do something, do it 110% and see it through,’” his daughter Suzanne Munroe said. “That has always stuck with me.” Born in Highland Park, Michigan, Davidson was raised in Elmhurst, Illinois. He became an Eagle Scout, attended Duke University, and later received his pharmacy degree from the University of Colorado. A vacation to Sarasota in 1956 introduced him to a place he’d fall in love with and eventually call home, establishing in the Siesta Key Village what would become Davidson Drugs in 1958. That business, which

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would grow to seven locations throughout the area -including in the 1960s a second Siesta Key store on the southern portion of the island -- lasted 65 years before coming to an end right at the time of his passing. Throughout those years, he also invested in numerous pieces of commercial real estate on the Key and managed the properties. The creation of the award-winning Pelican Press newspaper in 1971, which was sold in 1998, was another accomplishment. On the volunteer front, the list of organizations with which he was involved is varied and impressive. It includes Little League, Boy Scouts, 17 years as a trustee with the Selby Foundation, president of both the Argus Foundation and Sarasota Bay Rotary Club, founder and director of Enterprise Bank, and director of Selby Gardens. His hobbies were also often on the grand scale. He enjoyed working his lush gardens, especially the coconut palms within, and planted select coconuts to cultivate the next generation. He collected antique maps, representative of his love of travel. And such travels, coinciding with a love for photography, took him as far as Africa where he captured images of the “Big Five” -- the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and African buffalo. His lens also took him to Hudson Bay, Canada to photograph polar bears and Antarctica to capture images of penguins. Back on the business front, all six of Davidson’s Continued on next page

“John Davidson was a wonderful man who I deeply admired. And what a great businessman! When we worked together on getting things estbalished at Southbridge Mall, I quickly learned I had to get up awfully early in the morning to catch up with him.” Cope Garrett, longtime friend and business associate “Nora had the utmost respect for him. They worked together on many projects and he always had the best interests of the community in his heart. It was never about putting a feather in his cap.” John Patterson on behalf of Nora Patterson, former Sarasota County commissioner “Mr. Davidson was a strong proponent of protection activities of all types for our iconic Siesta Key. His willingness to spend his resources and time to help maintain the Siesta Key way of life will be missed.” Frank Jurenka, president Siesta Key Condominium Council


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Top left and clockwise, snapping the perfect nature pic; relaxing at home; visiting with resident Laurie Chandler outside a Save Siesta Key event; as a newcomer to his pharmacist career. (submitted photos and file photos)

John Davidson Continued from previous page

children worked in the stores in some manner or another. Son Richard would eventually serve as president of Davidson Drugs and son Bob owned Davidson Home Health, a separate division of the family business. Behind the scenes, the children would bless Davidson with 12 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Finally, Davidson’s quest to incorporate Siesta Key as an island with its own government was a major focal point for him down the stretch. He made efforts to do such in the 1960s, again in the 1990s, and beginning in the spring of 2021. As he approached age 90 is when he took it to the next level as chairman of Save Siesta Key. The non-profit group would raise roughly $250,000 and take a bill to the Florida Legislature in the spring of 2023. “Siesta Key is a natural for incorporation. I’m just amazed it wasn’t incorporated before,” Davidson said in the spring of 2021. “I plan to work hard on this and get it to a vote this time. Let’s see what happens.” While the push did not come to fruition, having inexplicably failed in committee in Tallahassee, it positioned the incorporation effort for what likely is another attempt in the coming years. Davidson was chairman of Save Siesta Key’s first year, replaced by Tim Hensey who he helped with the transition while Davidson remained on the group’s board despite some developing health challenges. “John was always there for Save Siesta Key, always there for me,” Hensey said. “For Save Siesta Key, he had an unwavering focus.” The group’s meetings first were held in Davidson’s office behind the Southbridge Mall where his south store resided and, as things progressed, often moved inside his beachfront

“I worked for John Davidson as a pharmacy manager for more than 30 years. ‘Mr. D,’ as we referred to him, was an astute businessman, full of integrity and compassion. “Though he could be frugal, he treated his employees very well. At our company’s annual Christmas parties, he would recognize and say a few kind words about every employee. I truly admired him, both as a businessman and as a person. He will be missed.” Beth Martin, pharmacist

Sanderling Club home.. “We started meeting with influential politicians, and he opened up his home to them,” Hensey said. And Davidson’s impact on Hensey was profound, beyond those incorporation efforts. “It was an absolute honor and privilege to get to know him as a person. He was absolutely a class act,” Hensey said. Meanwhile, as the final Davidson business signs come down, the name remains cemented in Siesta Key history probably like none other and likely will transcend time. The 65 years of business success and community involvement seems like the tip of the iceberg as far as John Davidson’s legacy is concerned. “My father was very humble. He was always just our dad -- growing up on Siesta Key as a Davidson,” Munroe said. “As I grew up, I discovered how much of an impact he made in our community. I am so proud of my dad in every way.”

Thoughts on Mr. Davidson “John was a wonderful family man, a thoughtful businessman, and an involved community citizen. “He cared deeply about Siesta Key and advocated for the quality of life for its residents and visitors. He was always looking to the future. I can’t imagine a better spokesperson for our island.” Gary Rodkin, Sanderling Club neighbor and fellow Save Siesta Key board member

“The Siesta Key business community has lost a true pioneer for businesses on the Key with the passing of Mr. Davidson. The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce recognizes the tremendous impact that Mr. Davidson and his business expertise had on Siesta Key. Undeniably, the history and legacy of his vision and achievements cannot be matched. Eric Fleiming, chairman Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce

“John was like the father of Siesta Key. He was incredibly successful because he saw what this island could be long before anyone else. And as one of the largest property owners he wanted to keep its unique charm. He loved the silence and did not want to see it overrun by intensity with hotels that simply weren’t meant to be on a barrier island. “I really had hoped that incorporation would have been part of his legacy. “ Tracy Jackson, vice-chair Save Siesta Key


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Provided by William Raveis Real Estate / www.raveis.com

The Highs and Lows of Properties Sold on Siesta Key

The following are properties sold on Siesta Key in the last 60 days, providing a snapshot of home values on the Key for both single-family homes and condominiums. HIGHEST-PRICED SINGLE-FAMILY RESIDENCE 8324 SANDERLING RD. $6.75 MILLION This is the only property on either Siesta, Lido, or Longboat keys that fronts directly onto the walking sand. You can walk the entire stretch of beach right out your back door. In a close call for No. 1, HGTV viewers selected this spectacular beachfront property as their runner-up in the Ultimate Beachfront Homes Category. The home offers views of the Gulf of Mexico and the rarity of stepping directly onto the sand. Enveloped by magnificent tropical palms, the 1.3-acre site spreads 150 feet across the shoreline.

LOWEST-PRICED SINGLE-FAMILY RESIDENCE 1020 GLEBE LN. $825,000 This four-bedroom, two-bath, twocar one-story pool home is a half mile from Siesta Beach. Rental policy: 30-day minimum 12 times per year. New in 2023: air conditioning system, one pool pump, tented for termites, sliding door rollers replaced for easy open and close. AE flood zone. The pool has been resurfaced and it looks amazing! Courtesy of Brock Realty

Courtesy of Michael Saunders

HIGHEST-PRICED CONDO 1660 SUMMERHOUSE LN., #104 $1.925 MILLION This exquisite condominium at Summer Cove is a true gem of coastal living, boasting the perfect fusion of modern elegance and laid-back charm. You will love the layout of this condo that truly lives like a single-family home, with each of the three bedrooms boasting its own ensuite bathroom and walk-in closets for ultimate comfort and convenience. This home exudes elegance and sophistication with panoramic windows, high-end finishes, and a gourmet kitchen.

LOWEST-PRICED SINGLE-FAMILY 1350 N. PORTOFINO DRIVE $460,000 Upon entering, you’ll be captivated by the modern elegance that graces this residence. The kitchen is a haven for any chef, with its top-of-the-line stainless steel appliances and elegant stone countertops that exude sophistication. Not only do the impact windows and sliders enhance the overall aesthetics, but they also provide added security and peace of mind during adverse weather conditions. Courtesy of Compass Realty

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Keeping it Real By Natalie Gutwein

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Why live here? Join me as I count the reasons I

t’s March. Many of you picking up his newspaper are visiting us and embarking on the journey to find your dream home. As a real estate professional frequently connecting with soon-to-be residents, I’m often posed with the question “Why Siesta Key?” Let’s delve into what sets this island apart and makes it the destination you should choose. First of all, Siesta Key boasts not only one, but two lively villages that add character to our island. We have about a million restaurants (give or take), offering a myriad of dining options from savoring island-inspired cocktails accompanied by live music at Gilligan’s, to relishing the finest steak at Summerhouse, or indulging in reeeeally good Italian at Flavio’s or Cafe Gabbiano, the island is a haven for food enthusiasts. I would be remiss if I left

out pizza lovers. Ripfire, Pi, IL Panificio, and Flavio’s offer the pizza connoisseur a plethora of options for the pizza palette. And of course, Blasé Cafe serves up martinis that are second to none. Breakfast choices are equally impressive, with Village Cafe, Bonjour French Cafe, Sun Garden, Another Broken Egg, and Toasted Mango catering to various tastes. Asian cuisine aficionados can satisfy their cravings at Star Thai and Sushi. And Siesta Key takes the crown for its abundance of ice cream shops, ensuring a sweet treat is never too far away. Don’t forget the south village! It adds an extra layer of vibrancy with spots like Captain Curt’s, the Crescent Club – an old-school bar with character – and the Daiquiri Deck. From live music to boat and jet ski rentals, this area is a hub of food and entertainment. Siesta Key goes beyond the culinary and entertainment delights, with two gourmet grocery stores offering an array of meat and side choices that would put any

supermarket to shame. Although these stores won’t eliminate the need for the weekly shopping trip, they provide quality ingredients for those impromptu dinner plans or everything you need for your picnic on the world’s most beautiful beach. The island is also home to a wide array of clothing stores. From the ultra-designer options at Foxy Lady, to the casual exuberance of Coral & Reef where you can always find something perfect for that night out, to Casa Smeralda’s where she always has a hidden treasure waiting for you to find. The allure of Siesta Key extends to the convenience ingrained in our landscape. Have you ever been stuck at a bridge on Longboat Key and had to turn around and go all the way back to the other? You very quickly learn why it’s called Longboat Key! There is the occasional incident that closes one bridge or the other, but the charm lies in the manageable distance of just about 5 miles from bridge to bridge. This compact layout ensures that any bridge closures are more easily

navigable, allowing residents and visitors to maintain a seamless flow of movement – a distinctive advantage of Siesta Key’s wellplanned geography. A key highlight for Siesta Key is its convenient trolley system. Stretching from Turtle Beach at the southern end to Morton’s Market, this free-ofcharge service operates daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. The beauty of the trolley lies in its accessibility – simply wave it down at any point along the route to hop on. Beyond the obvious convenience, the trolley plays a crucial role in alleviating traffic congestion on the island, ensuring a safer and more enjoyable experience, especially for those indulging in a refreshing drink at one of our esteemed dining establishments. Noteworthy is the fact that our island boasts a remarkable 12 public beach access points, offering a myriad of opportunities for both residents and visitors. Embracing the spirit of leisurely exploration, many opt for the enjoyable

alternatives of biking or cruising in a golf cart to access the diverse array of beach options available. Admittedly, my perspective may be influenced as I am both a resident and a real estate professional on this captivating island. Yet, when evaluating the spectrum of island living options from Anna Maria to Manasota Key, Siesta Key undoubtedly stands out as an exceptional choice. Its unparalleled allure lies in a seamless fusion of culinary delights, lively entertainment, diverse retail experiences, efficient transportation, and idyllic beach access points. As you embark on the quest to find your dream home, take a moment to contemplate the distinct advantages that Siesta Key offers, promising an unparalleled and truly exceptional island living experience. (Natalie Gutwein is a licensed Realtor with Premier Sotheby’s International Realty’s Judie Berger Team and a member of the board of directors of the Siesta Key Association.)

WHO YOU WORK WITH MATTERS SOLD

622 TROPICAL CIR | $1.65M

319 OGDEN ST | $1.725M

NE W

5102 SANDY COVE AVE | $2.25M

HAMILTON CLUB | $1.695M

SO LD

1280 HIDDEN HARBOR WAY | $7M 778 SIESTA DR | $6M 3731 INDIAN BEACH PL | $6M 4034 ROBERTS POINT RD | $5.6M 521 CASEY KEY RD | $5M 8415 MIDNIGHT PASS RD | $4.775M 854 N CASEY KEY RD | $4.35M 5315 HIDDEN HARBOR RD | $4.15M 1035 SEASIDE DR #501 | $3.95M 326 ISLAND CIR | $3.9M 3423 LA PALOMA AVE | $3.55M 7340 PINE NEEDLE RD | $3.5M | RECORD SALE 7323 PINE NEEDLE RD | $3.375M 642 WATERSIDE WAY | $3.2M 713 TREASURE BOAT WAY | $3.1M 5382 SHADOW LAWN DR | $3M | RECORD SALE 746 SIESTA DR | $2.75M 8008 MIDNIGHT PASS RD | $2.675M 6909 LONGBOAT DR S | $2.615M

1

No. 5305 AVENIDA DEL MARE | $1.745M

SIESTA KEY’S TOP SELLING REALTOR ® SINCE 2005

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Ranked in the Top 1.5% of Realtors ® in the USA Over $175 Million Sold In 2022-2023

Judie Berger, P.A., REALTOR ® Judie.Berger@PremierSIR.com 941.928.3424 homesofsarasota.com

Natalie Gutwein, REALTOR ® Buyers’ Agent

Sotheby’s International Realty® and the Sotheby’s International Realty logo are registered service marks used with permission. Each office is independently owned and operated. Equal Housing Opportunity.


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5333 SIESTA COURT • Siesta Key • 4B/2B Tucked away on a secluded street on the island of Siesta Key, this renovated home offers all the modern conveniences. The spacious and inviting fourbedroom home creates an immaculate yet comfortable estate for family living, friendly gatherings, and quiet relaxation. Offered at $1,339,000

5400 EAGLES POINT CIRCLE #405 • Sarasota • 2B/2B This totally renovated 4th floor condominium is tucked away amid the serene natural beauty of The Landings. This light, bright and architecturally delightful residence exudes comfort and class, with an open floor plan spanning approximately 1,695 square feet of living area. Offered at $725,000

5400 EAGLES POINT CIRCLE #206 • Sarasota • 3B/2B This renovated 2nd floor end unit offers expansive lake and mangrove views. Features include 9-foot ceilings, new luxury vinyl flooring and impact glass windows and doors throughout. The gourmet kitchen features a breakfast bar, granite counters and stainless-steel appliances. Offered at $715,000

1684 PINTAIL WAY #7 • Sarasota • 3B/2B Rarely available in Portside Villas. This 1,705 square foot home provides an open and flowing floor plan with volume ceilings, expansive living room, well-appointed kitchen, formal dining room, breakfast area, and peaceful brick paver patio set alongside the serene lake. Offered at $659,000

5063 KESTRAL PARK DRIVE #73 • Sarasota • 2B/2B Located in the sought-after gated community of The Landings, this impeccably maintained villa begins with an inviting front entry. The gracious family room with fireplace opens onto the private patio. You can entertain effortlessly in the formal dining room or open kitchen. Offered at $ 515,000

1654 STARLING DRIVE #201 • Sarasota • 3B/2B Located in The Landings gated community, this residence offers an ideal living flow and is the perfect opportunity to renovate to your desired taste and style. The split plan boasts approximately 1,775 square feet of living area with 13-foot soaring ceilings. Offered at $499,000

443 John Ringling Blvd. Ste. F Sarasota, FL 34236


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Residential 8767 MIDNIGHT PASS RD Unit#204F SARASOTA, FL 34242 2 bd • 2 ba • 1,421 sqft

SO

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is creating an environment where the inmates are now running the asylum,” Paonessa said. “They have defeated the rule of the law by strength in numbers and relentless perseverance.” Similarly, Richard Campbell, owner of Siesta Key Aqua Adventures, a boat tour company, said in 2019 a circuit court judge ordered him to obtain a business use permit at a valid leasehold commercial interest property directly abutting the Marine Park District or cease and desist all commercial activity within the district. He was given 30 days to come into compliance, which he did at a cost of $120,000. “I’ve got commercial slips for rent,” he said. “I don’t have any phone calls. No one is calling to rent my spaces that I’ve paid for because the county doesn’t make them.”

Sold

DIRECT WATER VIEWS Located near Siesta Key’s Turtle Beach this Somerset Cay 2nd floor condo has spectacular water views from your private 900 SqFt lanai! Furnished 3BR / 3BA, 2558 SqFt featuring high ceilings, crown moldings, bamboo floors, generous storage, restricted entry and an oversized 2 car garage. 9122 Midnight Pass Road, Unit # 24 $1,450,000 Murphy Stevens, Realtor 941-587-8879

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Exceptional service, exceptional results. “Stephen was excellent in negotiations and looking out for my interests, [selling our home for] $35,000 - $45,000 more than [what] other realtors were willing to even list it for… I would be happy to hire him again and recommend him to anyone.” — TONY C. Unlock Your Home’s Potential. Call Stephen Today!

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Commission response During the meeting, District 4 commissioner Joe Neunder said he is “sympathetic” to the business owners who have been using the public parks for access as it has been done for decades, but is aware a change must be made. “I am a private business owner,” he said. “However, I want to be very clear and I’ve said it before; you have to pay to play. We all have certain financial obligations that must be well-researched and thought out before you enter a certain demographic market within the free market economy.” Neunder continued by saying he supports the businesses operating in compliance and understands their plight. “I hear you loud and clear,” he said. Rainford said he agrees with Neunder and directed Nicole

Morton

Continued from page 11

Rissler, the county’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources director who was tasked with creating the updated plan for commercial activity at parks, to amend the amount of time the task force will meet from the initial six months recommendation to two months, and specified that members would include those operating within full compliance and those that have been illegally using the parks as a place of business. Rainford acknowledged the potential for struggle when members of opposing situations come together on the task force. “I would just ask that both sides work together in a way that’s best for all of our businesses,” he said. District 4 commissioner Mark Smith shared Rainford’s views. “I think the sooner the better,” Smith said. “I’m looking forward to the groups working together and coming to the resolution we need.” According to the proposed schedule, the board will review applications from the public in April and, following appointments, the task force will meet June through August. “I don’t want to believe there is anybody in the community that wants to be operating out of compliance, illegally, with a competitive advantage,” Neunder said. “I would hate to think that that’s the case because that’s just not the way we should be doing business here in Sarasota County. If it is, shame on them. “So this task force is going to provide an opportunity for our business community to allow some of their perspective, their hardships and everything that they have to do to come into compliance and conduct business the right way.”

Continued from page 3

getting as burned as possible as not to return to Wisconsin without a tan, this guy was taking care of me. After all, his store introduced me to aloe vera. That glorious green goop saved my hide many a time. Fact is, I didn’t meet him until the spring of 2021 when he began his newest incorporation effort. He invited me into his home, he invited me into his office. And he was just like I thought he’d be -- a man of determination who did it with warmth. He balanced those two traits so well. I called him Mr. Davidson, without exception. I couldn’t help myself. And he spoke often of how he enjoyed the Siesta Sand. Coming from a newspaper colleague, that meant a lot. Right back at ya, Mr. D, because I enjoyed your Pelican Press. In fact, throughout the years, your decision to run the syndicated Dave Barry humor column was not lost on me. I leaned on his every word, and it set the stage for my interest in being a writer. So, I have you to thank and blame all at once. By the way, those who enjoy Dave Barry have a sense of humor. So it’s no wonder you named your dog Harley. As for Nora Patterson, it’s always nice to finally meet someone you’ve heard so much about. Whenever I heard Siesta Key residents speak of how the county had abandoned our island, they say Nora was the last one to truly care. So, in November of 2022 when she shined again under the spotlight of what she likely considered it not only her civic duty but a privilege to speak at the park that bears her name, the former city

and county commissioner was right back on her game. This, despite some significant health challenges. Those in the know around here have made it very clear to me: Patterson was among the most influential people in our island’s history. Davidson passed on Jan. 22 and Patterson on Feb. 8. Well, we know these things come in threes, and I’ll be darned if on a personal level it rang true on Feb. 12. That’s when my father died. I was at his side. How do I best describe Ray Morton? As a wildly successful CPA? As a man who, in his 90s, still had clients thanks to the lighted jeweler-type headgear he wore that allowed him to see the ledgers? He was that dedicated. No, I instead tell people how he convinced his grandkids who sat in his lap at the Buccaneers games that when fans on one side of the stadium yelled “Tampa!” and the other responded with “Bay!” they were actually going back and forth with “Grandpa! ... Ray! Grandpa ... Ray!” That’s him in a nutshell. To family, he was even more dedicated. Still, as a kiddo, when I heard folks refer to him as the smartest guy in the room I had my doubts. Heck, he was just my dad after all and I had just finally beaten him at Yahtzee! He had to prove it. In 1977, he did. He bought a condo on Siesta Key and changed our lives forever. And those of generations of Mortons to come. (John Morton is managing editor of Siesta Sand.)


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