SARASOTA COUNTY (WFLA) – If you’ve visited the beaches along Siesta Key recently, you might have noticed some changes along the shoreline. Countless ‘no trespassing’ signs have started appearing outside condo complexes and resorts. With that, places for public beachgoers to lay down a towel and put up an umbrella have started to shrink.
“Property owners are posting these signs, enforcing their rights under state law to limit and control who walks on to their property,” said paralegal Michael Barfield.
The board president for a Siesta Key condo complex explained why many are starting to move this direction. Tony Arena with Whispering Sands explained his association is in the process of doing a survey. Once it is complete, the private beach area will be boxed off with flags.
“The main reason we are doing this relates to association liability,” said Arena.
He explained there was a situation recently where an intoxicated teen was unresponsive near their private beach. An ambulance responded and brought her to the hospital.
“It turned out nothing serious happened. However, if it was serious, there may have been an attempt at suing our association. In addition, they constantly litter, and our staff and residents spend a significant amount of time cleaning their mess,” said Arena.
Resort owners say they’re frustrated with a lack of public support.
“The county owns roughly 10% of our beaches, but they speak for 100% of our beaches,” said vacation rental owner Michael Holderness. “The problem is, there are no Parks and Rec rules, so it is very lawless and it is very unmanaged. The deputies’ hands are basically tied like if they were in your own backyard,” he explained.
Holderness is hoping the signage will send a message to county leaders.
“They didn’t put the signs up for their own health, they did it because there is a problem. Let’s address the problem and that is where we lack. The county commissioners need to get their heads out of the sand and come out here and see what is really going on and talk to owners and talk to people,” said the business owner.
He says the movement is not about privatizing the beach, it’s about making it safer for everyone and taking stress off the backs of private owners.
“We love our guests. We treat our guests like they should be treated. They spend a lot of money and they save their funds to come visit with us and stay with us and we care about them and this is just lawless and this line in the sand is what the county has caused,” said Holderness.
Barfield is hopeful the county will step up to help find a resolution.
“There are a number of things that the county can and should do to intervene in this proceeding and achieve a mutual resolution that is favorable to everybody,” said the paralegal. “The county has rules and lines in the sand as to what property owners can and cannot do and the county has restricted property owners from exercising their rights. For now, the property owners have awaked to that and they want to exercise their own rights and their own lines in the sand and that is not a good situation for the general public or the property owners or the county, so we do think that the county can and should be a participant in achieving a resolution,” he continued.
8 On Your Side reached out to officials with Sarasota County regarding the signage on the beach.
“Sarasota County is aware of the situation and is in the process of reviewing the ordinance that governs signage,” said a county spokesperson.
Locals along Siesta Key say visitors should expect to see more signage popping up along the beach over the next several days.