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Longboat Key—the new motel of the Gulf Coast?

GENE JALESKI
Guest Columnist
opinion@lbknews.com

What it is that makes Longboat Key No. 3 in the most recent Conde Nast list of best destinations? Do we want to become a weekend destination?

It appears from reading the Vision Plan minutes that Messrs. Jim Brown, Dave Brenner, George Symanski and Phillip Younger want to turn our exclusive community into one giant motel. If they succeed, who will be staying in all the empty houses around you? Tom Aposporos from the LLSA Chamber of Commerce believes they will be foreigners from Europe and who knows where.

I am not a xenophobe, but I do worry about one day selling my two properties on Longboat when our island is better known as an inexpensive vacation getaway for foreigners rather than the exclusive community we are today. Do we want bargain-hunting tourists on Longboat?

Do you believe that someone who takes a quickie junket to Longboat will eventually buy your home? Do you look forward to loads of children in the pool next door every weekend? Is that what we are about? Is that exclusive? Do you really want weekly or weekend vacationers in your neighborhood, next door to you, on a regular basis?

Yes, I here you say it is already happening all over the island, and the town appears to be unwilling or incapable of controlling all the illegal rentals we already suffer. When I was a commissioner, this was perhaps the most passionate and frequent complaint I heard.

I have been reading the minutes of Mr. Brenner’s Vision Plan select committee. To me it appears that Messrs. Brown, Brenner and Symanski are keenly intent on transforming Longboat into a tourist Mecca for the sole purpose of supporting a greatly expanded retail presence in our community. I thought it was the other way around, where commerce serves a community.

If you follow their somewhat odd dialectic, they seem to be saying that it is the taxpayers who support the merchants through legislation, and it is the taxpayers who are subordinated to the commercial sector of the community. Messrs. Brown, Brenner and Symanski are not looking at what is best for the residents. They appear to be fixated on what is best for business people. Yet it is the taxpayers who support the community.

The business community returns virtually no sales taxes to Longboat, nor do they pay a significant percentage of the ad valorem taxes, nor do they employ locals because there are no local hourly workers to speak of on Longboat. Yet Messrs. Brown, Brenner and Symanski want the government to force taxpayers to trade their own residential resale value for weekend tourism.

It also appears that these gentlemen are going to attempt to use the Vision Plan mechanism to circumvent having to go to the people for approval. Over and over again, these three gentlemen contend that the old Vision Plan was overwhelmingly approved by the people of Longboat Key. Ask yourself if you ever saw the old Vision Plan. Did anyone ask you if you approved the old Vision Plan? If the answer is no, then assume the same is true for your neighbors. However, if the pro-weekly-rentals folks have their way, you will not be asked about the new version either.

There is a lot more to be concerned about in the current Vision Plan effort. I recommend that you read some of the minutes and decide for yourself if you are comfortable with a plan that deals almost exclusively with the business interests of a few.

It’s your community and your home value. If you believe that you will do better with a tourist-oriented economy, then you will most likely disagree with me. If you believe Conde Nast was justified in naming Longboat Key the third best destination, then we most likely agree that we will do better keeping Longboat, Longboat.

Links to Vision Plan committee minutes:

http://www.longboatkey.org/Departments/Clerk/Public_Records/07-07-10_VisionPlanReveiwMinutes.pdf

http://www.longboatkey.org/Departments/Clerk/Public_Records/07-07-10_VisionPlanReveiwMinutes.pdf

http://www.longboatkey.org/Departments/Clerk/Public_Records/07-07-10_VisionPlanReveiwMinutes.pdf

One final note
There are retail establishments that are prospering on our island on a year-round basis. I live near the Mar Vista, which I understand is doing enviously well as are the other two restaurants owned by Ed Chiles. The Mar Vista is delightfully “Old Florida” and makes a lot of money being so. The Mar Vista and other successful establishments appear to be able to draw customers across the bridges onto our beautiful island.

I hope we find a way to attract visitors to fill our existing resort rooms, which remain 60 percent unoccupied 11 months of the year. Once we have accomplished that, then perhaps we will have a better picture of commerce on Longboat Key. Our existing shops and resort rooms might fare better if they are well maintained and modernized on a regular basis.

I look forward to the rebirth of Whitney Beach Plaza and wish Brian Kenney, the new owner, a very profitable future.

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6 Responses for “Longboat Key—the new motel of the Gulf Coast?”

  1. William Kary says:

    “A top destination and I want to boost our economy in as many ways as possible.” You really need to reread your article. “Green”, “Carbon Foot Print” go any where in your thought process or is the bigger concern the alleged cell phone radiation.

    Mr. Jaleski, certain thought processes have got us to where we are at today. The bus is now going a different direction and I assure you, without a shadow of doubt one is either on it or under it…

  2. Gene Jaleski says:

    Mr. Kary – sorry I took my information from the Observer. I should not rely on them as a paper of record. However, I was merely pointing out that we are a top destination and I want to boost our economy in as many ways as possible.

  3. William Kary says:

    By the way Mr. Jaleski, LBK was #2 on the list, I’m looking at it, but maybe you don’t subscribe? As ever you might want to get your facts correct..

  4. William Kary says:

    Terrorist and Tourist? Are you suggesting the Town bans Hijabs?

  5. Georgie McFarland says:

    Will Longboat become a tourist Mecca or attract tourist’s from Mecca as it did when one of the World Trade Bomber Pilots tried to learn how to fly here?

  6. Gene Jaleski says:

    When I wrote this article the Juliani-Kenney company had not yet purchased Whitney Plaza. I met with Brian Kenney in his beautifully decorated office at the Plaza. His plans for Whitney Plaza are wonderful and I believe our entire community wishes Brian and his company great success. For the north end it is very good news indeed. I for one will be a frequent supporter.

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