The P&Z Board, the Longboat Commission and the Real World

Contributing Columnist

In todays high speed media world, it needs just a spark to light up the sky and let everyone see what is out there.

That happened on Longboat Key, this past week at a Planning and Zoning Board meeting when the Chair of the Board , BJ Webb demonstrated her complete lack of understanding of codes she was there to protect, when she asked if her colleague Walter Hackett would now no longer be able to add another bedroom to his house since it would increase the density of the Island and therefore require a referendum.

Bob Diamant, where are you when they need you?

She later compounded her clear lack of understanding by also showing her bias. She wanted to make clear that if anyone wanted to know the truth of any issue, they must read the Longboat Observer, not the “other paper”.

I am only focusing on Ms. Webb and her group of acolytes because it underscores how deeply the Brenner philosophy has been planted and the problem digging it out poses.

It wasn’t too many years ago when it could be said that the Longboat Key P&Z Board was the best qualified group in all of Florida if not the country.

With world renown architects like Bob Diamant and Richard Levin, ably backed a high minded, motivated, unbiased set of volunteers, the quality of work that came out of that committee was the saving of many of the developers who had not seen the flaws in their presentations.

When David Brenner succeeded in an email associate’s boasted desire “to take back the commission,” he not only was successful at that level but made sure that he rid the Planning Board of any of the previous “irreconcilables”. He knew who they were since he had been kicked off of the P&Z Board.

The legal decision that has been rendered has made the future P&Z Board actions of vital concern. Before the overreach of the LBK Club, modifications were being made without any legal challenge.

The one thing that people overlook is that violations of civil law are only violations when they are challenged legally. When Arvida wanted to change the zoning at Weston Pointe to allow residential units, they were asking for something that was illegal according to the law. However, it was a development that made sense, added value to the community and besides Arvida gave the Town the tennis facility in exchange. No one objected, no group sued, presto Weston Pointe.

When Shannon made their deal with the tennis players and the Islandside residents to allow them to build a 26 unit condo on the tennis court land, it was just as illegal but it wasn’t because no one objected.

It was only when hit with a 450 million dollar conference center that someone said “wait a minute!”

This was too much over the top for the residents of Islandside, so much that they chipped in possibly as much as one million dollars to fight it. Joe Lesser never counted on that. He had everyone in his pocket, he figured he could get a site plan approved that would entice one of the big boys in the industry like a Marriott if he could tie the plan up in a pink ribbon.

Lessor once was reputed to have described the locals with scorn as just a group of small towners and planned accordingly. He didn’t know Bob White but after the licking Loeb took on this recent sale, he knows now.

The problem now is that with the decision out in the open, no Town Commission can take the chance of violating it. This means that everything that has come before is now on the table and unfortunately as I pointed out in the opening of this report, Longboat Key doesn’t have the people in place who are qualified to draw up the codes and rules that will determine the future of the key.

Changes will have to be made. New commissioners will have to be elected, new PZ Board members will have to be found and most importantly, this new group must make it very clear to the Town Attorney that if he disagrees with anything they say, he will not be fired. Everyone watched as Bruce St. Denis walked the plank because he didn’t go along with what we now know was a disastrous course of action. If you need any additional verification, ask our previous Planning and Zoning Director. Monica Simpson.

To rewrite the codes, possibly change the charter and recreate the Master Plan is a long and ardous process. It will require the efforts of the best minds in the community. Many of these folks are part timers and have held back from becoming involved in activities they see as a full time effort. With the new methods of face to face communication, there should be ways to overcome this problem.

Longboat Key needs to call on all of their citizens to pitch in. There are some valuable people on the bench, it is time to get them in the game. The current varsity got you to the toilet bowl, Longboat Key should be in the Super Bowl.

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2 Responses for “The P&Z Board, the Longboat Commission and the Real World”

  1. Jim Armstrong says:

    Al, you are correct. The reason we find ourselves in this mess is apathy. Many on the current commission members won by default instead of being elected. We have only ourselves to blame..

  2. Georgie McFarland says:

    This guy from the Boondocks of Pa. only sees the 32 milion that is public record on the sale of the Key Club. What he doesn’t understand is that the Key Club Property has many ancillliary businesses that were also sold with no recorded value as they are not subject to public record.There is no public record for the “Blue SKY” that was part of this deal which probably added many more millions of dollars to this deal. Loeb did not lose a dime.

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