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Q.E.D. (Quod erat demonstrandum)

 

PETER O’CONNOR
Guest Columnist
opinion@lbknews.com

A few days before the June LBK Town Commission meeting I was preparing for that meeting. This involves finding and downloading the agenda and the supporting data for items that catch one’s eye. If you are even mildly computer literate, you can easily keep up via the town’s website at www.longboakey.org. Try it out.

While I noted some interesting items for this meeting, e.g. amendments to almost the entire Comprehensive Plan and land use regulations. These, I thought, might prove contentious. As the run up to this meeting passed, I learned of a new “dustup” as a Village group sought unsuccessfully to gain access to the agenda to present an alternate plan for the Whitney Beach Plaza area.

In case you’ve forgotten, the agenda is a carefully guarded prerogative of the town manager as stated in the LBK Town Charter. I planned to observe these doings carefully. We really do try to be prepared for these public meetings. What might happen elsewhere is beyond us. For example, scuttlebutt (usually reliable) had it early on that an overlay for Whitney Beach Plaza complete with a four storey, or story, hotel would be approved. How did anyone know what?

So, I headed to Town Hall early on Monday evening; those choice seats for the press sometimes go early. I notice an increased chill in the air within the chamber as it fills. It’s standing room only with more folks in the antechamber. I spot the usual cast of characters plus a large number of North End and Village residents. That’s good. I wrote in my notes: The price of political victory (you took their votes, now you have to listen to them). I see the LBKC represented complete with its two attorneys, and even the young lady who hands out the speaker forms to partisans. I suppose that’s whose interests were to be proven this evening; maybe not. (Q.E.D.)

Cooler heads had prevailed, obviously, and during the public to be heard segment the mayor noted that they would ‘allow’ a presentation that the commission had nothing to do with. Craig Walters, a resident, spoke of the ‘Village in the Park.’ He calls this a conceptual plan for redevelopment and revitalization of Whitney Beach commercial properties. Properties are those in the proposed overlay. This is to be low-density residential and commercial developments — similar to Pine Avenue in Anna Maria, with Bishops Bayou featured. Craig speaks of two-story structures max, and of public/private partnership. He introduces Ed Chiles, who says he is there to speak about Pine Avenue.

Chiles reviews his Pine Avenue project. He notes that he does not support any project. He favors mixed use.

Michael Miller speaks next. He is the landscape designer of Village in the Park. He produces a rendering. Miller says that he likes projects that “look like where you are.” This group was allowed some 30 minutes and succeeds in introducing an alternate scheme for this run-down area.

The meeting agenda continued. The State Legislature has exempted real estate practitioners from local business taxes. The commission complies locally.

The next two items are ordinances providing for referenda as requested by property owners. These two passed easily providing for measuring of voter sentiment on changes in density, as provided in our Town Charter. I was somewhat perplexed to hear Commissioner Zunz vote against these vote of the people items.

Items 9 and 10 deal with amendments to Chapter 158, Zoning Code (on first reading) and Comprehensive Plan amendments (on second Reading). These would be the two agenda items of interest to the Longboat Key Club. These amendments are the finale to the long process to ultimately approve their long-debated project at Islandside. One might call these ‘that which was to be proven or quod erat demonstrandum.’ Michael Welly and his staff were there to watch the final inning. John Patterson who represents the LBKC spoke in favor of Ord. 2012-08 changes in Zoning Code. He stressed that these changes all clarify or make consistent with the Comprehensive Plan. This important item was approved 6-1 with Lenobel voting no.

Comprehensive Plan amendments are the subject of Ord. 2012-06. This item degenerated into a long discussion of the Whitney Beach Overlay. That device had been removed from the ordinance before first Reading in May. We heard numerous speakers on both sides of the overlay issue; put it back in the ordinance and vote it in, or leave it out of the ordinance and thus out of the ordinance. This discussion was at times spirited, defensive, argumentative. These speakers did demonstrate the power of the people when mobilized on an issue of specific interest. The commission was clearly listening. David Brenner spoke in favor of compromise between the two groups’ ideas for the overlay; he may get it too.

The LBKC contingent had left before these discussions. They didn’t get their finality, yet. After more wrangling it was decided to put the early overlay language back in the Comp Plan amendment ordinance but delay decision on that legislation until later — June 21 at a special meeting. This might work. Time passes toward a deadline imposed by the state on Comprehensive Plan amendments. High drama.

After this planning, planning, planning concentration the commission approved at the end of the meeting the renewal of our medical director’s contract. This is a good outcome as Dr. Newman provides an essential service to this community. He is key to the success of our highly regarded Fire-Rescue Service.

These meetings grow tedious. The last two have shown the impact of the people. We have articulate folks here. They will become engaged when an issue affects them. Oh that they would be equally engaged over things as basic as good government.

Q.E.D.

 

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