More than 3 months after Hurricane Ian, debris still piled up in Sarasota County neighborhoods

Article Courtesy of  Sarasota Herald-Tribune

By Anne Snabes

Published January 11, 2023


Since October, many tree branches, palm fronds and the stump of an olive tree have been piled in the traffic circle by George and Lori Melton’s Sarasota County home.

“After a while, you just get tired of looking at it,” George Melton said.


He said the debris has attracted wild animals to his neighborhood. One day, he was working in his garage when he saw a bobcat stroll by.

“I’ve never seen a bobcat down here,” he said, “ever.”

Hurricane Ian damaged many trees in the neighborhood, called Village Des Pins, but none of the debris piles left after residents' clean up from the storm have been picked up. The residents of Village Des Pins and its sister neighborhood, Pinetree Village, expected Sarasota County to pick up the debris, as it has in other neighborhoods.

But a county spokeswoman said that the neighborhoods are condominium communities and are thus not eligible for debris collection by the county, a status that also affects mobile home communities and businesses under federal guidelines for disaster aid. The county has to follow Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines, as the agency will reimburse the county for debris cleanup in most other neighborhoods.

Lori and George Melton and their Havanese dog Crusher stand in front of hurricane debris in front of their South Sarasota neighborhood of Village Des Pins


The situation shows the predicament that condominiums and mobile home communities face after major storms.

Debris from Hurricane Ian is still in the Village des Pins and Pinetree Village neighborhoods.

The piles of debris

Village Des Pins and Pinetree Village are composed of townhomes, with at least two households in each building. Pine trees are spread throughout the two communities, as well as palm trees and deciduous trees.

The vegetation was felled by Hurricane Ian, among the millions of cubic yards of debris left across Southwest Florida by the storm. Many trees were uprooted in the storm, said Alan Brownstone, the president of Pinetree Village’s homeowners association.

The two associations paid to have the trees cut and moved to the sides of their roads. But the piles remain there, about three months later, even though the county is nearly done with the collection process.

Neighborhood residents said the piles of debris have brought rodents, coyotes and bobcats to the area.

“It’s not just an eyesore, but it’s dangerous,” Lori Melton said of the storm debris.


Karen Petitte, the secretary of Village Des Pins’ homeowners association, said it’s frustrating to see all of the remaining debris.

Lots of hurricane debris is still in the Village Des Pins and Pinetree Village Neighborhoods.

“The people who own here are pretty tired of seeing the storm debris,” she said. Petitte added that those who rent properties in the neighborhood are “just sort of amazed” that the debris is still there so long after the storm.

Ineligible for county pickup

Communication misunderstandings seem to have been responsible for why the two neighborhoods thought the county would pick up their debris.

Salvatore Munno, the neighborhoods’ property manager, said he called Sarasota County in the weeks after Ian struck, and was told that the county was picking up debris from public roads first and private roads second. Village Des Pins and Pinetree Village have private roads.

By mid-December, the debris still hadn’t been picked up. Munno said he called the county again, and was told that the area would be serviced immediately. He said he didn’t hear back from the county after the call.

Sarasota County spokeswoman Brianne Grant said that Munno didn’t request a callback or an “escalation,” which is when the county further investigates a debris pickup issue.

Munno said he had expected the debris to be picked up by the county, as it had been in the neighborhoods after Hurricane Irma in 2017.

Condominiums aren't the only kind of property ineligible for the county's hurricane pickup process – neither are cemeteries, apartments, mobile home parks, golf courses or businesses.

Grant said that these properties can still apply for financial assistance from the Small Business Administration, which has an application deadline of Jan. 12. She noted that residents can also partner with their neighbors to hire a debris hauler, or communities can try working through their insurance.

Grant said that private communities, businesses, commercial contractors and tree services are not permitted to dump storm debris on the right-of-way. They must dispose of it at the Central County Landfill (4000 Knights Trail Road, Nokomis) or at an alternative permitted facility.

Petitte, the secretary of Village Des Pins’ homeowner association, said the situation is frustrating because she and her neighbors pay county taxes just as those in other residential areas where debris has been collected.

“I just don’t understand the rationale for excluding condominiums,” she said.