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Date of Issue: November 30, 2006

Sandscript

Sarasota tales, from butts to lines in the sand

A dispute regarding home heights prompted this piece of "artwork" to be added to a house on the side facing the homeownerˇ¦s detractors.

The beach-butt debate has reared itself again in Sarasota County.

But don't expect the tale to involve T-back bathing attire. This time the topic is cigarette smoking on the beach and the disturbing mounds of cigarette butts left behind as a result. They're toxic, too.

Sarasota County commissioners discussed a ban on beach smoking a year or so ago after staff members brought the matter to their attention. The quantity of litter left on the beaches was reaching epic proportions, and the solution offered then was to clear much of the beach of smokers, but to allow a "smoker's zone" at all public beaches.

Commissioners demurred. Concerns were voiced that enforcement of the smoker's areas would unduly task the already-overworked parks and recreation department, and turn them into "butt cops." It was decided that a more aggressive educational effort aimed at keeping all trash - either butts or plastic or cans or whatever - off the beach was a better approach.

The educational effort didn't work.

Last week, two of the commissioners who had previously objected to the ban did a reversal and said that the butt litter problem was increasing. Both said they would now favor regulations to prohibit smoking on the beach, and the matter was scheduled to come back to the board in a more formalized manner early next year.

Although a non-smoker, I'm not particularly rabid about it. Heck, some of my best friends smoke cigarettes. But it doesn't seem all that difficult to be a responsible smoker and take the butts back from the shore with you for proper disposal.

Of course, I also don't understand why people leave cans or bottles on the beach, either, and it would appear that the same crowd of jerks who litter the beach with butts don't mind leaving a pile of trash in the sand.

It will be interesting to see how the whole issue shakes out in the months ahead.

More sand for Siesta - not!?

Anna Maria Island has had an interesting year in the beach renourishment front. A problematic effort to add sand to the shores of much of the Island ran afoul of lots of issues, leaving about a third of the project undone, including much of Bradenton Beach, and a desperately shrinking shoreline on the north end.

A season of mostly nonexistent hurricanes didn't cause the beach to get chewed up, so properties were protected by the narrow ribbon of sand that is left in much of the southern strip of the Island, and county officials say they're working on coming up with some sort of plan to finish the project eventually.

Now, it seems our neighbors to the south are also in the midst of a sand brouhaha.

Sarasota County folks have been working for a couple of years to renourish a two-mile stretch of southern Siesta Key. They had most of the permits necessary, a contract with a dredging company, and the work was slated to start at the end of this month on the nearly $12 million project.

But a property owner has filed an objection to the path of the erosion control line, and requested an administrative hearing on the matter. There are some legalities that need to be worked out - the objection was filed about six months after the deadline for such things - but the whole process could stall the project for quite a while.

Erosion control lines are literally lines in the sand that reflect where private property ends and public sand begins. Property owners must sign agreements that any sand beyond the line is indeed public property, and governmental bodies agree that if the sand erodes into the private beach zone, it will do its best to renourish the beach.

Beachfront property owners run the risk that the beach could naturally accrete in time and give them hundreds of yards of sand in front of their homes or businesses. However, with the long-term trend of erosion rather than accretion of beaches prevalent in Southwest Florida, that seems to be a high-stakes gamble.

But the real irony in the Siesta Key sand squabble lies in the players. But first, a little history.

 Siesta Key property owners Syd Solomon and Pasco Carter had some serious erosion impacting their beachfront homes about 25 years ago. The waves were literally lapping at their doors, and government officials granted permission for the two to relocate the rapidly migrating Midnight Pass - cause of the trouble to their property - farther away from their estate.

After eight tries, the pair gave up the effort to dig a new pass, and the coastal inlet was closed.

Erosion continued. Carter died, and Solomon sold his house, which was eventually purchased by Susan Burns Stratton. The waves eventually claimed the house, damaging it to the point that county officials declared it a hazard and had it demolished.

It's Stratton who is blocking renourishment project today - the person who was the hardest-hit by erosion is now the one who wants to stop the sand-saving efforts for herself and her neighbors.

And we always claimed that Islanders here were a little weird ....

Speaking of neighbor-versus-neighbor

This is from the Internet, so you have to take it with a grain of salt, but it's a good little story.

Seems a city councilman lived in a nice wooded area on a mountain that had a breathtaking view. Another guy bought a lot down the hill a bit and put up a big house - a really big house. The councilman had building officials check out the construction and, yes indeed, the new house was 18 inches too tall.

The house was chopped off, undoubtedly at some expense.

Then the new homeowner had some interesting vents placed on the house on the side that faces the councilman. The vents seem to depict a symbol that is none-too-subtle regarding his views on the councilman, as you can see from the accompanying picture.

What was that about Islanders being weird?

Sandscript factoid

Here's a smoker's alert. In order to keep Manatee County officials from passing some sort of beach-smoking ban, keep the cigarette butts off the beach!

Keep Manatee Beautiful has come up with a good way to deal with the problem. They've got these nifty little foil envelopes that are designed to hold cigarette butts when an ashtray isn't handy. We've got a few at TheIslander office, and you're welcome to take a few. Stop by and help yourself.

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