The tragedy of commons
“The tragedy of commons is a dilemma arising from the situation in which multiple individuals, acting independently and rationally consulting their own self-interest, will ultimately deplete a shared limited resource, even when it is clear that it is not in any one’s long-term interest for this to happen.”
The Town Commission, who gained overwhelming control of power three years ago and has been augmenting their control through appointments to the commission, the Planning and Zoning Board, and a town manager on a short leash, have completed their appointed duties and altered both the Comprehensive Plan and the building codes. What the commission has done is pave the way for developers to do to us what they have done to many other Florida coastal communities.
During the past three years, if one examines the commission meeting records and legislation, the words resident, property owner and taxpayer are seldom seen. Words and actions centering around tourism, business and development abound. The evidence is clear, no matter how some commissioners try to spin it otherwise.
This commission has completed its self-proclaimed duties. Now it is time for property owners to unite to protect what is ours. We need not become victims of the developers, who will most assuredly descend on Longboat Key now that the commissioners have removed long-standing protections and barriers. We are already in the litigation phase of this process as evidenced by the IPOC vs. Key Club legal struggle. Anyone who has had any dealings with the town realizes that the property owner has become meaningless to the current town government. Lawyers, not residents, are the people who have the town government’s attention.
We are in the midst of an island-wide “tragedy of commons.” Individually we are sitting ducks for exploitation. If it is not you, it may very well be your neighbor. It is only through coordinated actions and pooled resources that we will be able to counter the recent commission activities surrounding our Comprehensive Plan and building codes. Very few residents or resident groups have the resources or the dedicated leadership of IPOC. The Longboat Key property owners may require a legal fund that is well-organized and funded by hundreds and perhaps thousands of property owners with the single shared interest of preserving the low-density, low-profile tranquility that has made Longboat Key a premier community for the past 30 years.
There are certain residents who accuse others of conspiracy theories and doomsday scenarios. It is the very people they are accusing who most want their projections to be found baseless. Unfortunately, there are too many sad tales of developer exploitation, in too many other unsuspecting communities, for many of us to be comfortable that what this commission has done will not profoundly affect our community.
We may soon have the words Blackpoint and Bay Isles become a large part of the Longboat Key dialog, now that they have rights to 1,600 residential units at Bay Isles. We may discover that the Key Club expansion was only a “red herring” after all.
There are some property owners who will welcome anything that is a new development. There may be many others who will flee the island. Given the recent history of resident activism, I doubt there will be many who will do much, if anything, to protect what is theirs.
We may have already become a community where form comes before function, and the flow of community wealth into the hands of a few developers is tacitly accepted as being the easier path. After all tomorrow is another tee-time.
Perhaps a community leader or property-owner group will emerge to become the new and truly representative PIC on Longboat Key.